For most of the early season, the Yankees had been winning every game except the ones started by Javier Vazquez. Now, Vazquez has recorded the last two Yankee wins. As John Sterling would say (over and over again), you just can’t predict baseball.
The story of the game for the Yankees was the precision pitching of Vazquez. With the exception of his strange refusal to throw strikes to Alex Cora, whom he walked twice, Vazquez cut through the Mets lineup like a knife through butter. Over one stretch of retiring eight consecutive batters from the first inning until the end of the third, Vazquez only needed to throw 23 pitches. The combination of throwing first pitch strikes and having the aggressive Mets hitters swing early in the count allowed Vazquez to coast through 4 1/3 innings before surrendering his first hit on a blooper into shallow center by Angel Pagan. In total, Vazquez only needed 70 pitches, 46 of which were strikes, to get through six innings.
The reason Vazquez was only able to last six innings in the game was because the Yankees had fallen beneath their injury quota and someone needed to pick up the slack. While bunting in the top of the seventh, Vazquez pinched his finger against the bat and wound up having to leave the game. Before falling victim to that misfortune, the Yankees benefitted from a bit of good luck earlier in the inning when a throwing error by second baseman Cora set the stage for a two run double by Kevin Russo, who was making his first major league start. Russo eventually advanced to third on Vazquez fateful bunt, but was stranded when Derek Jeter grounded out weakly to short and Mark Teixeira flew out to center following a Brett Gardner walk
The Yankees needed a little bit of help from the Mets defense because they were unable to cash in on several scoring opportunities throughout the course of the game. In both the third and fourth innings, the Yankees put runners on second and third with one out, but each time Mets’ starter Hisanori Takahashi responded with a strikeout (Jeter and Swisher being the respective victims) before closing the door on the inning. Aside from those two jams, Takahashi was almost as effective as Vazquez. The more disciplined Yankee lineup forced Takahasi to throw 100 pitches (73 strikes) in his six innings, but the Mets’ lefty, who was making his first major league start, left the game unscathed when he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Yankee bullpen was forced into duty because of the injury to Vazquez. Girardi did his usual mixing and matching with David Robertson and Damaso Marte before eventually settling on Joba Chamberlain to pitch out of a first and second jam with only one out. The reason the Mets were able to advance their first runner to second base was because Francisco Cervelli returned Cora’s favor by committing a throwing error of his own on a dribbler in front of the plate by Ike Davis. Despite pitching behind in the count, Chamberlain pitched out of trouble by freezing David Wright on a 3-2 fastball and then getting Angel Pagan to swing at a 3-2 slider in the dirt.
Joba also pitched a spotless eighth before turning things over to Mariano Rivera, who had surrendered the go ahead run in games lost by the Yankees during his last two appearances. Rivera retired the first two batters in the inning with ease, but then gave the Yankees another scare when he surrendered back to back doubles by Jason Bay and Davis. With the tying run now on second, the stage was set for the beleaguered Wright to get the critics off his back. Perhaps not wanting to fall behind in the count and face the possibility of another strikeout, Wright swung at Mariano’s first pitch fastball, but could only muster a groundball to Cano.
With both teams entering the game badly in need of a win, it would be hard for the Yankees to argue with their part of the outcome, especially considering how well Vazquez pitched before leaving with what turned out to be a bruised right index finger (x-rays taken during the game were negative). However, there has to be some concern about the offense, which has seemed to be pressing with men on base. After all, the Yankees only two runs were really set up by the Mets poor defense. In addition, a third straight shaky outing by Mariano Rivera has to be of mild concern….not out of fear that Mo might be losing it (he had been too good over the first month of the season), but because he has not been sharp since returning from the discomfort in his side.
From the Mets perspective, the mounting losses probably make it hard to accept moral victories, but they may well have found a viable starter in Takahasi, whose wide array of pitches could be very effective in the National League. Still, time may be running out for Jerry Manuel, so the pressure now undoubtedly swings back to the Mets as they seek to avoid what could be an uncomfortable weekend.
- The announced crowd of 41,382 was the largest in CitiField’s brief history.
- Kevin Russo’s third inning single was his first major league hit and his seventh inning double plated his first major league RBIs.
- The Yankees are now 134-95 all-time in interleague play, the best record of any team.