Commentary

Vazquez, Cano are heroes in Toronto

The Yanks didn't play well vs. the Jays this weekend, but found a way to win Sunday

Updated: June 6, 2010, 7:37 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

TORONTO -- Joe Girardi was going nuts. His eyes were wide, and he had both his index fingers up, flailing them in front of plate umpire Bruce Dreckman.

Girardi's hat might have steamed right off his head, but he already had thrown it down in disgust in the dugout before he darted to the plate and told Dreckman what he could do with his wide strike zone and the fact that he had just called Nick Swisher out on a checked swing without checking with the third-base ump.

Girardi was livid, and he headed to his office to seethe some more after being tossed from the ballgame. The Toronto Blue Jays had already won the first two games of the series, and the Yankees were staring at turmoil.

The check-swing call on Swisher was the first out of the eighth inning. The Yankees were down a run, with men on second and third and slumping Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez -- who were 4-for-28 on the weekend -- due up next.

[+] EnlargeJavier Vazquez
Getty ImagesJavier Vazquez upped his record to 5-5 on Sunday.

"We could have gotten swept," Teixeira said.

But after an inexplicable decision by Jays manager Cito Gaston, a wild pitch, a big hit by someone not named Derek Jeter (finally), and an unorthodox -- to say the least -- pitching change, Girardi was able to celebrate Javier Vazquez's revitalization, which was capped Sunday by seven innings of two-run, one-hit ball.

"Sometimes I think I should get thrown out in the first [inning]," Girardi said with a chuckle after the Yankees escaped Canada with a 4-3 win Sunday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

The Yankees won a game despite the fact that if you take out Jeter's three hits with runners in scoring position, the Yankees were 1-for-27 in RISP situations on the weekend. The one non-Jeter RISP hit was a big one, though (and will be detailed in a moment).

First, there was Gaston's decision to walk Teixeira and load the bases for A-Rod. Even besides the fact that Rodriguez is 5-for-5 with three homers and 18 RBIs after Teixeira is intentionally walked in front of him to load the bases, the move made no sense because Teixeira has looked lost at the plate to the point that he said he couldn't see the pitches Saturday. Apparently, Gaston didn't see them, either.

Before A-Rod, who also looked meek this weekend, got his chance, Jays reliever Jason Frasor handed the Yankees a tie score by throwing a wild pitch. Rodriguez then struck out, which you could argue justified Gaston's decision.

But then Gaston had another seemingly obvious call with first base open and lethal Robinson Cano up with two outs. Gaston could have created a force-out at all bases and avoided facing the Yankees' best hitter. Instead, he let Frasor pitch to Cano.

Cano, who was 0-for-10 in the first two games of the series, came through with a two-run single that gave the Yankees the lead.

That didn't end the drama. After Joba Chamberlain gave up a run in the eighth, bench coach Tony Pena, acting as manager, called down to the bullpen and relayed to Rivera that he was being brought in for a four-out save.

The Yankees were without thrown-out Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland, who is on a personal leave. So Pena and interim pitching coach Mike Harkey were in charge. On his walk to the mound, Pena changed his mind and signaled for lefty Damaso Marte. Why?

"My gut," Pena said.

Rivera was already running in from the right-field bullpen. When he arrived, Gaston complained that Pena had called for Marte. Rivera was sent back to the bullpen.

"You guys had your laugh," said Rivera after he was quizzed about the unusual sight.

Marte ended up making Adam Lind look silly, striking him out on four pitches.

What Rivera and Girardi wanted to focus on after the game was Vazquez. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Vernon Wells smashed a two-run homer -- the only hit Vazquez allowed on the day. Vazquez won back-to-back starts for the first time this season and continued to dominate at Rogers Centre, where he is 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA in six career starts.

"It was the best changeup he had all year," Girardi said.

The Yankees scurried quickly out of the Rogers Centre road clubhouse after the game, looking forward to enjoying their day off Monday before playing three games in Baltimore, then hosting the Houston Astros next weekend. The Yanks have two series ahead against subpar clubs that should help them right their hitting wrongs.

As Rivera tried to explain and downplay the confusion with Marte and Pena in the eighth, Jeter walked by and said, "He didn't know what was going on."

At the plate, only Jeter and, for an at-bat, Cano knew what was going on. But the Yankees escaped Toronto with a calmed-down manager and a victory, thanks mostly to -- Who would have thought it a month ago? -- Javier Vazquez.

GAME NOTES: Sunday's game was the first time all season the Yankees have won a game when trailing after seven innings. They are now 1-18 in those situations. … Girardi was ejected for the second time this season. … Starting Tuesday, the pitching matchups in Baltimore: Phil Hughes (7-1, 2.54) vs. Kevin Millwood (0-6, 4.29), CC Sabathia (5-2, 4.14) vs. Chris Tillman (0-1, 7.71) and A.J. Burnett (6-6, 3.72) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (3-6, 3.71).

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com »

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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