The roller coaster season of Javy Vazquez resumed today as he returned to the starting rotation for the second time in 2010. His most recent rotation sabbatical resulted in two relief appearances (4.1 and 4.2 innings) in which he allowed a total of four hits and two walks. Interestingly, those two appearances were each as long or longer than any of the last three starts prior to his banishment to the pen. Perhaps manager Joe Girardi liked this matchup for Vazquez’s return to the hill, as Javy was 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA and only three hits allowed in 11 innings versus the Jays this season. On the other hand, the wind was blowing out to right at 21 MPH at gametime, and “Homerun Javy” (27 allowed this season) has been a flyball pitcher his entire career. In fact, his 0.54 GB:FB rate this season is his career worst. The next worst season? 2004, when he pitched for … yes, the Yanks.
But the Yanks had hope as they faced Blue Jay starter Mark Rzepczynski. He came into the game with a 6.03 ERA, and had been torched for six runs and eight hits in three innings by the Bombers just two weeks ago.
Vazquez started strong with a seven-pitch top of the first, getting Jose Bautista on a swinging strikeout to end the inning. With one out in the second, Lyle Overbay launched a meatball slider into the jetstream to right, and the Jays took a 1-0 lead. After a walk to John Buck and an Adam Lind popout to short, John McDonald banged another misfired slider high off the left field foul pole, and all of a sudden it was 3-0.
Meanwhile, Rzepczynski sailed through the first two innings, save for a first inning leadoff single to Brett Gardner. Gardner swiped his 4oth base of the year (though replays showed him to be out), but he was stranded there.
Then the bottom of the third came, and Rzepczynski remembered who and what he was and whom he was facing. Eduardo Nunez grounded out to short, but Francisco Cervelli pulled a pitch to left, and hustled his way to a double thanks to a weak-armed Travis Snider. Gardner walked, and then Derek Jeter also pulled one into left for a double, scoring Cervelli. Mark Teixeira followed with a walk, and Robinson Cano, who had been in a 0-12 slide, bounced one up the middle, scoring Gardner and Jeter and tying the game at 3.
Meanwhile, Vazquez was continuing to find no command of his slider, instead relying on an 87-89 MPH fastball and a 72-75 MPH change. He managed to avert further damage in the third and fourth, despite two more walks and a single.
The Yanks took the lead in the bottom of the fourth. With one out and Nunez on first, Cervelli executed a nice hit-and-run, smacking another double. Gardner came up with 2nd and 3rd, and flared a ball just between Rzepczynski and Bautista (who was playing third today). Nunez had broken for home on contact, and luckily the ball fell in, making for an RBI groundout, with Cervelli taking third. Jeter walked, and Cervelli scored on a wild pitch to give the Yanks a 5-3 lead.
Vazquez came out for the fifth and got two more flyouts (he had one groundout all day). Then, passing the 80-pitch mark, he issued a walk to Bautista, and a single to left by Vernon Wells. With Overbay coming up, Girardi came out and replaced Vazquez with Dustin Moseley (Moseley had been warming up as early as the 3rd inning). Overbay had been 0-7 lifetime versus Moseley, but he laced a changeup down the rightfield corner, scoring both runners.
With the game now knotted at five, the bullpens took over. The Yanks, whose relievers had compiled a 1.50 ERA in the last 28 games, got yeoman work from Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain in the sixth and seventh respectively. The Jays rode Jesse Carlson for two innings, then turned to righty Jason Frasor in the bottom of the seventh. With two out, Cano lined a single up the middle, and up stepped Marcus Thames.
Its been four years since the righty Thames has hit over .250 or slugged over .475 versus righties. 2010 has seen a different Marcus. Maybe its playing for the Yanks. Maybe its working with Kevin Long. Maybe its knowing and accepting his role. Whatever the case may be, he’s compiled a .261/.354/.536 line with six bombs in 82 plate appearances against righties prior to today. He has come up huge in the absence of Alex Rodriguez, with six homers and 12 ribbies during A-Rod’s DL stint, to replace the right-handed thump in the lineup.
Frasor gave Thames a 83 MPH slider on 0-1, in the middle of the plate, and Thames crushed it off the Zales ad in the back of the visiting bullpen. Game, set, match as Mariano Rivera nailed down his 29th save in a 7-5 win.