Minnesota (90-68) at New York (99-59)

Partly Cloudy Currently: New York, NY
Temp: 85° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Thu Sep 30, 2004
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Javier Vazquez will get one final opportunity to show manager Joe Torre that he’s ready to get it done in the postseason. He can also lock down the New York Yankees’ seventh straight AL East title.

Vazquez will try to help the Yankees clinch another division crown as they wrap up a three-game series with the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium.

Vazquez, New York’s most consistent starter during the first four months of the season, has struggled mightily of late, managing just one win in his last eight starts. The right-hander, acquired from Montreal this past offseason, had a prime opportunity to establish himself in Torre’s postseason rotation Saturday in Boston, but was unimpressive yet again.

Vazquez was reached for five runs and seven hits over 4 2-3 innings, yielding his team-high 31st homer as the Yankees suffered a 12-5 loss to their division rivals. Since raising hopes by tossing seven scoreless innings in Kansas City on Sept. 15, Vazquez has surrendered nine runs and 16 hits over 11 innings in his last two starts—both New York losses.

“Vazquez concerns me. No question. I know he’s a lot better than this,” Torre said. “We have to stop this thing because I want him to be a part of this. He’s got too much going for himself.”

Vazquez can go a long way toward gaining Torre’s trust with a strong performance against the Twins—a potential first-round playoff opponent.

Even more importantly, he can help Torre set up his rotation for the postseason by ending Boston’s hopes of catching New York for the East title. The Red Sox suffered a 9-4 loss in Tampa Bay on Wednesday while the Yankees swept a doubleheader from the Twins, knocking New York’s magic number down to one.

Though they have clinched at least a tie for the division crown, the Yankees must finish in front of the Red Sox as they lost the tiebreaking season series to Boston 11-8. New York also has four shots remaining to win 100 games for the third straight season—something the storied franchise has never done.

Vazquez, however, did not fare well in Minnesota during his first career outing against the Twins, yielding six runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss on Aug. 17—the start that began his current slide.

Twins right-hander Brad Radke outpitched Vazquez that day at the Metrodome and will be on the hill again as Minnesota tries to avert the sweep.

Radke, penciled in as the Twins’ Game 2 starter behind Cy Young candidate Johan Santana, lost a pitchers’ duel with Andy Pettitte in the second game of last year’s ALDS in the Bronx as the Yankees went on to win the series in four games.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Radke Min vs. J. Vázquez Mia
11-8 Record 14-10
3.48 ERA 4.91
143 K 150
26 BB 60
1.16 WHIP 1.29