Vazquez, Cano help Yankees avoid sweep in Toronto
TORONTO - The best outing of Javier Vazquez's season looked as if it were going to be wasted. Because of the strangest eighth inning of the Yankees' season, it wasn't.
Vazquez no-hit the Blue Jays for 52/3 innings yesterday before Vernon Wells ripped a hanging 0-and-2 slider into the seats in left, a two-run shot that broke a scoreless tie and put the Yankees in jeopardy of being swept.
But a wild four-run eighth - which included Joe Girardi's ejection in the top of the inning and the bizarre sight of Mariano Rivera being summoned from the bullpen and then sent back to it in the bottom half - helped the Yankees escape Rogers Centre with a 4-3 win.
Joba Chamberlain allowed a run in the eighth but Rivera worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 13th save, capping an efficient stretch in which Chamberlain, Damaso Marte and Rivera picked up six outs on 10 pitches.
Vazquez (5-5, 5.63), with his best changeup of the year, struck out nine and allowed only Wells' hit in seven innings. It was an impressive feat against the Blue Jays, who have hit 97 homers.
"The last few starts, I've been feeling much better with my command and the way my pitches are moving," Vazquez said. "I feel good I could do it against an offense like the Blue Jays'."
Girardi called Vazquez a "true professional" for being able to carry on after a miserable April and being skipped twice. In his last five starts, he has had four outstanding outings in which he has allowed 11 hits in 27 innings.
"It shows me he's back on track," Girardi said. "That this is the guy we thought we were getting. He's throwing the ball the way he's capable of."
Vazquez was angry with himself about the pitch to Wells, and going into the top of the eighth, it looked as if he would absorb a tough loss. At that point, the Yankees had scored three runs in 30 innings in the series.
Jays starter Brandon Morrow threw seven shutout innings, striking out eight, and the Yankees were more than happy to see him depart after he hit Francisco Cervelli on the left shoulder with a 1-and-2 fastball to start the eighth.
"No disrespect, but he was throwing the ball so well, we probably would have rather faced anybody else," said Derek Jeter, whose RBI double down the rightfield line off Scott Downs made it 2-1 moments after lefthander Downs hit Brett Gardner on the right wrist to put runners on first and second.
With Gardner on third, Jeter on second and none out, Cito Gaston brought in righthander Jason Frasor to turn Nick Swisher around. Swisher appeared to check his swing on a 1-and-2 splitter in the dirt but was called out by umpire Bruce Dreckman, whose strike zone irritated the Yankees much of the afternoon.
Girardi threw his cap before getting between Swisher and Dreckman, knowing he'd be tossed for the second time this season. "I was really frustrated by that call because that's a big call in that game," Girardi said.
Gaston then made the decision that has haunted plenty of managers, intentionally walking Mark Teixeira (who is 3-for-24 in June, struck out five times Saturday and is 0-for-6 against Frasor) to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. In such situations the past two seasons, A-Rod was 5-for-5 with three homers, including two grand slams this year, and 18 RBIs.
Frasor got ahead 0-and-2 but then threw a splitter in the dirt that ricocheted off Jose Molina for a wild pitch, allowing Gardner to score the tying run. Frasor struck out Rodriguez looking, but Robinson Cano (three hits) lined a two-run single to leftfield to make it 4-2.
Cano, who hit .207 with runners in scoring position last year, is at .355 in those situations this year and is hitting .363 overall.
"There's frustration when we're not scoring runs, just like anyone else," Girardi said. "For them to gut it up and win this game - big game."