O's error tips duel in Yankees' favor
Deserving Vazquez earns win after Tejada's late miscue
NEW YORK -- Javier Vazquez laughed and said that he actually couldn't remember the last time he'd started a game at Yankee Stadium. You couldn't blame him, but with something positive to reflect on, he'll probably try to hold onto something from this night.
Vazquez took another step toward resembling the pitcher the Yankees want him to be on Tuesday, hurling seven sharp innings and hanging in long enough to be the beneficiary of a key two-run error as New York posted a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
For Miguel Tejada's wild seventh-inning throw to help his cause, Vazquez had to first work out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top half of the inning. He did, and for a change, the reception waiting for Vazquez behind the dugout was entirely on his side.
"Obviously, I want to pitch good here," Vazquez said. "That's something that everybody knows. I'm working on that, and it feels great to throw a good game here at home. I think it was important."
Vazquez had not started a game in New York since May 1, when he was battered by the White Sox for five runs in three innings. He did pick up a win with a four-pitch relief appearance in the Bronx on May 17, which offered a small confidence boost, but pitching well in a start proved much more satisfying.
"He looks like he's happy that he's contributing, that he's part of this," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's throwing the ball like he's capable of, and as a player, that's all you want -- to play up to your capabilities. You can live with the results when you're doing it."
Girardi said that Vazquez's start -- consisting of four hits, one walk and seven strikeouts -- offered encouragement, and that it was "kind of what we thought we were going to get from him" when the Yankees pulled the trigger on a deal to bring the right-hander back to New York after he enjoyed a career year in 2009 with the Braves.
Matched in a stiff battle against Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, who surrendered only Curtis Granderson's fifth-inning solo home run before the unearned runs crossed the plate in the seventh, Vazquez handled the Orioles by spotting his fastball well.
The right-hander blanked Baltimore into the sixth, when he and Francisco Cervelli couldn't agree on a pitch to Corey Patterson. After three shake-offs, the call Vazquez made was the wrong one, as Patterson belted a game-tying homer into the second deck in right field.
"It's something that you work on," Vazquez said. "'Cervi' did a great job out there today, and he's called great games with me so far. That's something that's going to happen, and it's part of the game."
Tejada then belted a deep drive to center field that briefly hushed the crowd, which thought that the Orioles might be poised to take the lead. But Granderson raced back to the warning track and, as it turned out, had room to put it away.
"I saw Grandy going back, and I was like, 'Come on,'" Vazquez said. "I thought he hit it good, but he didn't get it all."
Baltimore threatened but couldn't deal the final blow in the seventh. Ty Wigginton reached on a fielder's-choice grounder and Luke Scott doubled, setting up a free pass to Matt Wieters to load the bases. Vazquez knew what he needed; Adam Jones went down swinging at a well-placed two-seamer, and Julio Lugo rolled to shortstop.
"You look at Javy, and he got off to a rough start, but he has bounced back very well from that," Girardi said. "Look at three of the [past] four starts he had, and he's been very, very good."
As solid as Matusz was, the Yankees needed a little luck to pull out the win. Their only clean mark against the left-hander came when Granderson teed off on a 3-2 pitch for his third home run, lining it into the right-field seats.
"I was just trying to go ahead and battle there," Granderson said. "With a full count, I'm trying to put the ball in play there and just get something going. The ball happened to end up going out of the ballpark."
New York had missed a prime opportunity in the sixth inning, as Matusz worked out of a first-and-third, none-out jam, getting Marcus Thames and Cervelli to pop up before catching Granderson looking at a called third strike.
"A lot of guys came into the dugout talking about how he was giving us good pitches to hit but we just couldn't seem to put good wood on him," Granderson said of Matusz. "I think that's one of the things he does really well. He's going to be a great pitcher for them. So far, he's done really well against us."
The Yankees' next chance came in the seventh, which Matusz started by allowing a one-out hit to Derek Jeter. He lost Nick Swisher to a walk before retiring his final batter, Juan Miranda, on a grounder for the second out of the inning.
Alex Rodriguez greeted reliever David Hernandez with a sharp grounder that Tejada fielded, but the third baseman made a bad throw that Wigginton was unable to scoop, allowing Jeter and Swisher to score as the ball rolled toward right field.
"You know what?" Wigginton said. "I mean, we can sit here and say whatever, but I believe good teams make their breaks. Right now, we're not making our breaks."
The Yankees might have been fortunate, but there was no debating that Vazquez deserved it. By adding a little extra currency to the home goodwill bank, Vazquez is hoping that he can keep the cheers cascading from the three decks in the Bronx for the rest of the season.
"It can't get any worse than my first few starts," Vazquez said. "It's a process. I'm working hard on every aspect of the game. ... It feels great. It always feels good when you throw good, especially at home. The fans here, when you throw a good game, they're going to support you."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.