No drama; just quiet efficiency from Javier Vazquez and the Yankees…
During the last road trip, the Yankees struggled in the games following their cross-country jaunts…both to and from. Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays on a 10th inning walk-off run-scoring single by Marcus Thames before heading to California. With no off-day, they played the Oakland A’s on Monday night and picked up another win, 3-1. This time, they led from beginning to end, and everyone did exactly what they were supposed to.
Javier Vazquez has definitely rebounded from his disastrous start and has quietly been the Yankees most effective starter for the past month. He pitched 7 innings, and only gave up 3 hits and 1 run (he walked 2 and struck out 2). Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera retired all three batters they faced in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. No runners in scoring position. No wild pitches. No balks. No hit batters. No bloop singles. It was exactly what you would want from a pitching staff. It was nice seeing a pitcher other than a Yankee with a hand to the face for a change (I like to call this the CC Sabathia pose…okay, “like” might not be the right word)…
The Yankees had scored early with two runs in the 2nd innings thanks to a run-scoring triple by Curtis Granderson and a run-scoring single by Francisco Cervelli. The A’s answered with a run in the 3rd when Coco Crisp hit a sacrifice fly to score Cliff Pennington, who had tripled. It would be the final time in the game for the A’s to get a runner past second base. Mark Teixeira added an insurance run with a homer in the 6th inning. Only two batters in the Yankees lineup were hitless (Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez).
Monica M. Davey/EPA
Game time was only 2 hours, 35 minutes. Very un-Yankee like!
For all the wins this year, I’d say that this one had the least amount of stress that I’ve experienced and that includes any blowouts. On one hand, I have very excited that Javier Vazquez has turned it around. I was starting to buy into the talk that he wasn’t anything more than a National League pitcher. Of course, I do have the fear that he could revert to the awful early season form. The downside, if that happens, is that the timing of his improvement probably nixes any chance that the Yankees would pursue Seattle’s Cliff Lee. The team has greater needs, but Lee would be a nice addition given the strong potential for Andy Pettitte’s off-season retirement and Vazquez’s impending free agency.
Speaking of Pettitte, congratulations to him for making the American League All-Star Team as a replacement for Boston’s injured starter Clay Buchholz. The AL All-Stars are definitely taking a very Yankee-like appearance, however, I do feel that the starter in the All-Star Game should be Boston’s Jon Lester.
Since I’ve made the segue to the Red Sox, it’s time for another installment of my “forced” spotlight on a member of the Boston Red Sox (thanks to a wager loss to my friend Julia of Julia’s Rants). For today’s profile, I’ll go with the closer…
#58 Jonathan Papelbon
One of the few Red Sox stars not actually on the Disabled List, Pap has been with the Sox since 2005 (becoming the closer in 2006). Originally, he was projected to be a starter, but a shoulder injury caused the Red Sox to re-think their strategy and as a result, Papelbon has become one of the AL’s premier closers.
He was born in Baton Rouge, LA on November 23, 1980. After a highly successful high school career in Jacksonville, FL, he went to Mississippi State where he was the team’s closer for three years. He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2003 but did not sign in order to stay in college for one more year in a subsequently failed attempt to reach the College World Series. The next year, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.
Despite the relief appearances when he was called up in 2005, the team’s plan, as previously mentioned, was to put Papelbon into the rotation in 2006. The closer at the time, Keith Foulke, was unable to capture his pre-injury form, and Pap took over as the guy at the back end of the pitching staff.
Pap’s accomplishments include throwing the game-ending strikeout to win the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies. Since 2006, he has had at least 35 saves each season with a high of 41 in 2008. He has 170 saves for his career. In 301 games, he sports an ERA of 2.03 in 332 innings pitched with 376 strikeouts. He is the franchise leader in saves, and as hard as it is to believe, the first Red Sox closer to record two 30-save seasons.
He holds several records:
· Most consecutive scoreless innings to start a post-season career (26 innings).
· Most saves by a rookie closer (35 saves).
Papelbon has two younger twin brothers in baseball. Josh is in the Red Sox organization (AA Portland), while Jeremy is with the Cubs (AA Tennessee).
Hey Julia, how many more of these do I have to go? Geesh! 😉