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Vazquez outstanding in seven-inning stint as Yanks beat A's

Javier Vazquez works against the Oakland Athletics during

Javier Vazquez works against the Oakland Athletics during the second inning. Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot

OAKLAND, Calif. - Javier Vazquez didn't benefit from a sudden onslaught of offense, but even a little support was an improvement of late.

Vazquez came in having lost two of his previous three starts, but in both losses, the Yankees were shut out.

The righthander had one of his best outings of the season Monday night and received just enough help from the Yankees' bats in a 3-1 victory over the A's in front of 27,405 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Vazquez (7-7) allowed one run, three hits and two walks in seven innings. Aided by some outstanding defense, he retired the final nine batters he faced.

An overpowering Joba Chamberlain pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out two, and Mariano Rivera - who incurred his second blown save of the season Sunday - set down the A's in order in the ninth in recording his 19th save.

"I thought he threw the ball extremely well," manager Joe Girardi said of Vazquez. "I thought he mixed his pitches, had a good fastball tonight and he located. He gave us distance. He was really good."

The Yankees (51-31) took the lead for good in the second inning, putting together a two-out rally against Ben Sheets (3-8). After Alex Rodriguez grounded out and Robinson Cano lined out - centerfielder Coco Crisp made a sliding catch - Nick Swisher doubled down the rightfield line. A passed ball moved Swisher to third and Curtis Granderson followed with his fourth triple of the season, a ground smash into the corner in right.

Francisco Cervelli, who has cooled a bit with runners in scoring position but still entered the game hitting .362 in such situations, sent a single up the middle to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

"Those two-out hits were big," said Mark Teixeira, whose sixth-inning blast to centerfield, his 14th home run of the season, accounted for the Yankees' final run. Teixeira, coming off a 9-for-21 (.429) homestand, tore into a 3-and-1 pitch.

The A's trimmed their deficit to 2-1 in the third. No. 9 hitter Cliff Pennington hit his fifth triple of the season, a ball that banged off the scoreboard in right-center, just out of reach of Colin Curtis. Crisp's sacrifice fly to right made it 2-1.

Vazquez stranded two in the fourth, a notable inning because of the scare thrown into Girardi.

The Yankees entered the series lacking catching depth, as Jorge Posada is day-to-day after taking a foul ball off his left ring finger Sunday. With two on and two outs in the fourth and Gabe Gross at the plate, Cervelli took a foul ball off an unprotected area near his left rib cage area. Girardi, who said Posada would play only in an "emergency" situation, and trainer Steve Donohue came out to look at Cervelli, who stayed in the game.

Cervelli is likely to get the start Tuesday night, though Girardi didn't rule out playing Posada. After the game, he said of his finger: "It felt better today than I thought it would."

After walking Mark Ellis to lead off the fifth, Vazquez retired the last nine hitters he faced, though he received his share of standout defense.

In the sixth, Rodriguez saved what would have been a hit off the bat of Kurt Suzuki with a diving stop and throw across the diamond. In the seventh, Granderson ran full speed in from center on Gross' blooper, saving a hit with a sliding catch. Ellis hit Vazquez's 110th and final pitch to right, a dying liner that Curtis dived for and caught.

"That [the defense] was unbelievable, the seventh inning especially," Vazquez said. "Those were great catches. Those were huge, could have been two men on base right there. Alex made that play out there. We played great defense."

Notes and quotes: For the first time in his 79 starts this season, Derek Jeter didn't hit leadoff. Brett Gardner led off and Jeter batted second. Girardi said it was to break up the lefties in the lineup with Posada out and that it wasn't something he was looking to do more of, though he left the door open. "Probably more until Posada's [back], but we'll look at it, obviously," Girardi said. Entering the game, Gardner had a .401 on-base percentage to Jeter's .348.

While Girardi and Rodriguez had no issues with the A's marketing department selling "Get Off My Mound" T-shirts - a play off the A-Rod/Dallas Braden incident in April - the pitcher isn't as amused. Before the game, he said, among other things, that the shirts demonstrated a "lack of tact."

That forced the A's to come up with a statement that was distributed to the press during the game. "We regret that Dallas has expressed concern in regards to the 'Get Off My Mound' T-shirts that are being sold throughout the stadium," the statement read. "The organization created these shirts in response to numerous fan requests and made them to generate interest in this series. The shirts represent the competitive nature of the team, which Dallas epitomizes, and were intended as a fun way to engage the fans. We will speak privately with Dallas about this to clarify our position and make sure we have a clear line of communications going forward.''

A-Rod joked that he wanted a share of the proceeds and laughed when Cano briefly wore one of the shirts.

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