Booed off the mound in his last start, Javier Vazquez hopes to win back the home crowd in the Bronx and help the AL East-leading New York Yankees stop a potentially disastrous slide as they complete their weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles.
Vazquez, New York’s most consistent starter during the season’s first four months, endured a rough August. After an 11-4 victory over Toronto on Aug. 6, the right-hander missed a start due to pink eye. He hasn’t been the same since.
During a three-game winless skid, Vazquez has been pounded for 16 runs and 20 hits over 15 innings. He hit rock bottom Tuesday against Cleveland, surrendering six runs and five hits over 1 1-3 innings in the Yankees’ record-setting 22-0 loss.
“I thought I had good stuff today coming into the game,” said Vazquez. “It’s one of the worst games ever in my seven-year career.”
The Yankees have been handcuffed by solid Orioles pitching in the first two games of the series, managing a combined one run and eight hits in a pair of losses. Sidney Ponson pitched a two-hitter Saturday as Baltimore cruised to a 7-0 victory.
Making matters worse, right-hander Kevin Brown, who broke his left hand punching a wall in frustration during Friday’s series-opening 3-1 loss, will undergo surgery Sunday and will miss up to three weeks and perhaps the rest of the season.
“We’re hopeful that we can get him back in a few weeks. That’s the optimistic side,” manager Joe Torre said. “He’s probably disappointed, because he wanted to tape it up and go. This is the smartest thing to do.”
The only good news for New York on Saturday was that Boston had its 10-game winning streak snapped by Texas, keeping the Yankees’ ever-slimming advantage in the East at 2 1/2 games—the smallest its been since early June. New York led by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 15.
Vazquez, who is 2-4 in eight starts following a New York loss this season, can go a long way toward winning back the Yankee Stadium crowd by pitching a solid game Sunday.
Rafael Palmeiro, Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts homered Saturday for the Orioles, who have won six in a row following a 12-game losing streak. Baltimore starters are 4-0 with a 0.61 ERA in the last four games.
The Orioles are trying to complete their first three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium since June 6-8, 1986.