- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Javier Vazquez's nickname should be The Rocket, because that's what the Twins hit off him Thursday night. Rocket after rocket exploded off Twins' bats until, mercifully, Vazquez exited in the sixth.
The result is that Vazquez, who was just starting to turn some skeptics' minds, shot back to the top of the "Most Disliked Yankees" rankings. He had nothing and the Twins hit everything in the Bombers' 8-2 loss.
The soft-spoken Vazquez took a line out of the old Art Howe playbook and said he battled. He said that is the biggest improvement from earlier in the year.
"Even though we got the loss, I battled out there," Vazquez said after allowing five runs (all earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. "My first few games of the season, I wasn't battling as well as I did today."
How does he define battling?
"I guess battling means staying aggressive," Vazquez said.
Vazquez barely touched 90 mph on the gun. Ideally, he wants to be between 90 and 93. With his velocity down, Vazquez needed to be more precise.
"Obviously, I have to locate better," Vazquez said. "Obviously, when you don't have your good fastball, you have less room for error, trying to locate better. That's what I'm trying to do."
That is what Vazquez had been doing. The progress that Vazquez recently had displayed seemed to vanish in the warm Minnesota air.
Was it really a week ago that he made the Mets look as if they were swinging with miniature bats? Was it really less than 10 days ago that Vazquez was striking out Kevin Youkilis in front of Yankees fans to end a Red Sox rally and win a game? Was it a little more than two weeks ago that he put together seven strong innings in Detroit? Yes. Yes. And yes.
And then there was Thursday night. Oh, no.
Vazquez had an excuse if he wanted to reach for it. He could've pointed to his bruised right index finger. It was a nasty contusion after he took a pitch off the finger while bunting against the Mets.
He and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that wasn't the problem. Girardi didn't think it was Vazquez's fastball, he thought it was his off-speed stuff.
"He left some breaking pitches up and they didn't miss them," Girardi said.
It is one thing not to have any velocity, it is another not to have control. With one out in the first, Vazquez walked Orlando Hudson after going up 1-2.
The pitch that sent Hudson to first was a 3-2, 88 mph fastball in the dirt.
The second inning was worse. In that inning alone, the Twins hit three doubles, hammering Vazquez all over the park. When Jason Kubel hit a solo bomb in the sixth, it was the first Twins home run in since May 19.
May 19 was the day after Vazquez bested Youkilis in the Bronx. On Thursday night, it seemed like a very long time ago.
GAME NOTES: The Yankees continue not to score, which led Girardi to say, "Right now, we are not getting it done." ... One bright spot: Mark Teixeira looked better at the plate, going 2-for-4. He raised his average to .216. ... Chan Ho Park had another shaky performance, getting just one out and allowing two earned runs in relief. ... Chad Gaudin gave up Kubel's second home run.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg