Javier Vazquez wasn’t great Tuesday night but for a pitcher who came in 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA and was already hearing plenty of "he can't hack it in New York" verbiage, he at least got something to build on.
“The first two games were tough, I can’t hide that,” Vazquez said. “But it’s early in the season, there’s still a lot games to be played so it’s good to get that first win.”
Vazquez (1-2, 8.27) hasn’t solved the fastball issues that have bothered him early on but his secondary pitches were the best they’ve been since the middle of spring training.
“My breaking pitches were crisper than the first couple games,” he said. “My fastball, I’m still having a little trouble locating, but all around it felt a lot better.”
Vazquez’s fastball velocity is still a little bit of a concern – he didn’t hit 90 with it until the second inning – but it did increase as the game went on.
“My mechanics are still a little off, especially on the fastball, I’m trying to rush a little bit, but it was an improvement from my first couple starts,” Vazquez said.
Said Joe Girardi: “We think he’s going in the right direction. I like the way he finished up. He made the mistake to Suzuki but he got ahead of him and I liked the way he threw the ball.”
Vazquez walked the second batter he faced but it didn’t hurt him and he pulled one of the best escape acts any Yankee pitcher has had in the second inning when he had runners at second and third with none out, but didn’t allow a run to score. Kurt Suzuki’s bad base running led to the first out and Vazquez’s act of self preservation on Travis Buck’s screaming liner, which the pitcher turned into a double play, ended the inning and, the pitcher said, helped settle him down.
“To get out of it with no runs scored was a little breather there,” Vazquez said.
He was kicking himself for his 107th and final pitch, an 0-and-2 delivery that Suzuki hit out for a two-run homer that made it 6-3.
“That pitch there, that was just a bad pitch,” he said.
His teammates were pleased to see Vazquez get his first victory.
“We’ve been pulling for him to get a nice win and hopefully get some rhythm going from here,” Alex Rodriguez said.
A-Rod added later, as he did when things didn’t go well for Vazquez in Tampa: “Javy’s
going to be fine.”
*** Joba Chamberlain, showing a 96-mph fastball, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out three and taking another step toward securing the eighth-inning setup role. He came on with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh and struck out Kevin Kouzmanoff swinging on an 89-mph slider. He is making the adjustment, quickly it appears, back into bullpen mode. Chamberlain has a 2.35 ERA in seven games, comprising 7.2 innings, with 10 strikeouts compared to three walks.
“It’s getting better,” Chamberlain said. “It’s been a good balance. There’s obviously going to be twists and turns throughout the year trying to adjust to your body and how you’re feeling but, knock on wood, so far it’s going well.”
“He’s throwing the ball well,” Girardi said. “I’ve been very pleased with what he’s doing.”
*** Nick Swisher snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a two-run single in the first.
“That’s a big spot,” Swisher said. “To be able to get two RBI off of that and go up 3-0 in the first…when you come up in situations like that you definitely want to step up."
*** The Yankees worked 10 walks, including three by Robinson Cano.
“That’s important, that’s what we’re looking for him to do,” said Rodriguez, who has been mentoring Cano. “Be disciplined and be assertive in the strike zone. If they pitch to him, drop the hammer, if they’re not, just pass the baton. That’s something Kevin Long’s been talking about, starting last year.”
*** Plate umpire Ed Rapuano, who left the game in the sixth inning shortly after taking a foul tip to his mask, was taken to Summit Hospital nearby for a CT scan. He was described as being “alert” on the ambulance ride to the hospital.
And with that, back at it Wednesday night as Phil Hughes (1-0, 3.60) takes on Ben Sheets (1-0, 2.65).