For the second straight day, it looked as if the starting pitching was going to be the cause of another sleepless night for Yankees’ fans, but once again the team’s slumbering hitters turned out to be the real cause of what has become a reoccurring August nightmare.
About the only chance the crowd had to cheer all night occurred in the first inning when Johnny Damon strolled to the plate at Yankee Stadium for the first time since game six of the World Series. The over 46,000 fans in attendance gave Damon a warm ovation, which prompted the former Yankee to doff his helmet in appreciation. Then, he proceeded to have a 10-pitch at bat before lining softly back to the mound. It was typical Damon as well as an ominous sign of what was to come for Javier Vazquez.
After his last start in Texas, and during the week leading up to this one, Vazquez had expressed concern about his diminished velocity. Yesterday, you could see that concern with just about every pitch. Although only a tick off from the 88.8mph that he has averaged all season, Vazquez seemed unwilling to throw his fastball anywhere but on the edge of the plate, leading to lots of long counts and foul balls. Following a lengthy first inning, thanks in large part to Damon’s pesky at bat, Vazquez allowed a two run home run to Ryan Raburn that seemed to scare him further out of the strike zone. In the inning, Vazquez loaded the bases on two walks and a single before pitching of the jam without further damage, but in the process expended 34 pitches. Already on pace for a short evening, two more maximum effort innings in the third and fourth sent Vazquez to an early shower with 106 pitches thrown, a new Yankee record for outings of four innings or less.
Most Pitches Thrown by a Yankees Starter in Four Innings or Less, Since 1920
|Javier Vazquez||8/16/2010||DET||L 1-3||4||5||2||4||6||106|
|Richard Dotson||5/24/1989||CAL||L 4-11||4||8||5||3||1||105|
|Jimmy Key||7/2/1994||SEA||L 6-12||4||10||6||3||2||105|
|Sterling Hitchcock||8/20/1995||CAL||L 5-10||4||8||8||4||4||104|
|Tim Leary||5/1/1991||OAK||L 4-7||3.2||6||3||7||5||104|
|Randy Keisler||4/17/2001||TOR||L 5-6||4||5||4||7||6||104|
|David Cone||7/23/1999||CLE||W 9-8||4||6||2||4||7||104|
Despite struggling on just about every pitch, Vazquez was able to keep the Yankees in the game. Matt Scherzer would have none of that though. For six innings, the Tigers’ hard throwing righty dominated the Yankees, surrendering only two walks and two singles to a lineup that slowly became depleted as the night wore on. After a fourth inning fly out, Alex Rodriguez left the game with tightness in his calf, and then in the bottom of the sixth, Nick Swisher’s balky right forearm forced him to depart for Austin Kearns.
Although whittled down, the lineup was able to mount a threat against the Tigers’ bullpen, but each time was turned away. In the seventh, a two out double by Curtis Granderson sent Jorge Posada to third and put the tying runs in scoring position, but Francisco Cervelli was next up, so the rally was basically over before it started. Instead of hitting for the anemic Cervelli, or at least trying a two-out bunt attempt, Girardi once again let Cervelli make a huge out in the ballgame, something he has become very proficient at doing (Cervelli’s WPA of -1.421 is the 22nd worst total in the league).
In the eighth inning, a two out single by Kearns and a walk to Mark Teixeira set the stage for another big hit from Marcus Thames, who was the Yankees last option on the bench. Thames put on a good at bat, but wound up rolling over on a 3-2 fastball that turned the Yankees aside once again.
When Miguel Cabrera took Joba Chamberlain over the wall in the top of the ninth, it seemed to be just salt in the wound, but the wildness of Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde proved otherwise. Pitching with a 3-0 lead to start the bottom half of the inning, Valverde promptly walked Cano on four pitches. Jorge Posada then inexplicably swung at the next two pitches and wound up hitting into a fielder’s choice. Curtis Granderson rekindled the Yankees’ hopes by singling to right and Valverde took it from there. The animated righty walked Cervelli and Gardner to plate the Yankees first run, and then fell behind Jeter 2-0. After finally throwing a strike, Jeter made a crucial mistake by offering at a borderline pitch, which considering Valverde’s bout of wildness had a great chance to be called a ball. The count eventually advanced to 3-2, but the rally went no further as the Yankee captain promptly grounded out weakly into his 17th double play of the year, despite an incredibly hard slide by Gardner in an attempt to break up the turn.
Justin Verlander goes tonight, so runs should be hard to come by once again. The Yankees will need C.C. Sabathia to continue to be their ace, but all around him things seem to be folding like a house of cards.