Vazquez bounces back in Yanks loss
Veteran's best start of the year undone by lack of offense
DETROIT -- The Yankees saw all the positive signs they could have wanted from Javier Vazquez, who exhibited renewed confidence in his fastball, the ability to throw first-pitch strikes and new promise for the rest of his season.
The same could not be said for their offense. The Bombers were handcuffed by Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello over seven innings, suffering a 2-0 defeat in the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday at Comerica Park.
"We lost the game and it's a tough loss, but in my case, it was a step forward," Vazquez said. "I thought I threw the ball in the early innings and the middle innings much better than I did earlier."
Vazquez hadn't started since May 1 and entered his sixth start of the season with a 9.78 ERA, but his work in two vigorous side sessions with pitching coach Dave Eiland seemed to pay dividends. He held Detroit to two runs on five hits over seven innings, walking two and striking out seven.
"He sure looked good today, we know that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Any time that you can go seven innings and only give up two runs, this club has a real good chance of winning. They outpitched us a little bit."
Dropping their third straight game, the Yankees never broke through against Porcello, who scattered four hits while walking three and striking out two.
Showcasing his sinker, Porcello escaped when the Yankees had opportunities early. He left the bases loaded in the second and pinned two aboard in the fourth, both times retiring Ramiro Pena to escape the inning.
"[Vazquez] gave us a chance to win," Girardi said. "He went out and competed for us. He gave us every opportunity to win. We just didn't score runs."
Porcello got lucky, too -- in the seventh, Nick Swisher lined a ball up the middle that struck Porcello near the right shoulder but caromed right to shortstop Adam Everett for an unconventional 1-6-3 putout.
"Baseball's a strange game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "They go into the game today with two pitchers that are struggling, and both of them pitched their tails off. They looked like they've been pitching great all year. That's why it's an amazing game. They both stepped up."
Ryan Perry pitched the eighth and Jose Valverde worked around a ninth-inning walk for his 10th save. New York's Derek Jeter continued to hit into hard fortunes, going 0-for-4 and dropping to 2-for-21 on this road trip.
"That's how the game goes sometimes," Jeter said. "You hit balls good and they catch it. Other times, you swing bad and get hits. You take the good with the bad."
Vazquez said that the time away had helped him mentally clear his mind, as well as continue tweaking the mechanics that seemed to abandon him after Spring Training.
"I've got to keep working step by step and keep working hard," Vazquez said. "I felt much better than the other games. Obviously the pace was better and I was throwing strikes and being aggressive."
Working quickly, Vazquez blanked the Tigers through the first five frames before Austin Jackson opened the sixth with a single.
Johnny Damon slashed a hit to right field, putting runners at the corners for Magglio Ordonez's run-scoring fielder's choice grounder to Jeter at shortstop. After a Miguel Cabrera hit, Brennan Boesch followed with a single that brought home the second Detroit run.
"They hit some balls, but that's part of the game, I guess," Vazquez said. "You're going to have that. I still thought I made good pitches, I was down in the zone and those were a few ground balls that passed by."
"He just made pitches, changed speeds," said Detroit's Gerald Laird. "He obviously doesn't have the fastball he used to have, and I think he knows that, but he changed speeds -- cutters away, sinkers in, curveball, changeup. He pitched good today, and he kept guys off-balance, and that's what he's got to do. He's a professional. He knows how to pitch, and he definitely pitched well."
Girardi said that Vazquez's effort represented a "step forward," and Jeter offered that Vazquez appeared to be "pitching extremely well."
"He went out there, threw strikes and was ahead of guys," Jeter said. "He had the one inning where they scored two runs, but you're not going to win too many games if you don't score. It's just unfortunate we couldn't score for him."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.