Vazquez frustrated by Halos, rocky start
Yanks righty allows five runs in 3 2/3 innings; ERA at 9.00
ANAHEIM -- The Yankees would be justified in their concern that Javier Vazquez's shaky opening to the season can't be chalked up to just a few lousy outings. No one seems more worried about that than the pitcher himself.
Vazquez could not make it out of the fourth inning as he served up five runs in an 8-4 Angels victory on Sunday at Angel Stadium, continuing his struggles as the difficulties he is experiencing may require more than simple mechanical tweaks.
"I'm not doing a good job out there," Vazquez said. "It's kind of embarrassing right now, the way I'm throwing the ball. I'm not getting the job done."
After hurling a serviceable 5 1/3 innings in his last start to beat the Athletics, the Yankees arrived in Anaheim with hopes that Vazquez could continue to improve upon the progress he made in that effort.
But that was soon dashed, as the Yankees suffered a series loss for the first time this season. Vazquez left for the airport, heading across the country and searching for any answers along the way.
"Really, I wish I knew," Vazquez said. "I'm trying to do the best I can out there."
"He started really good and a couple of pitches were up in the fourth," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "That's it. They're great hitters. When you try to be too fine, a lot of things can happen."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Vazquez is not getting enough sink on his pitches, coming across his body and leaving offerings up. Vazquez's primary concern is that his bread-and-butter pitch, his fastball, is missing in action.
"My fastball is not where I want it to be, control-wise," he said. "I feel like I can throw my offspeed pitches, but I'm not locating my fastball at all."
Bobby Abreu teed off on a flat slider in the third inning, belting his 10th career homer off Vazquez, before that troublesome fourth inning chased Vazquez.
Howard Kendrick notched a run-scoring single to left and Marcus Thames couldn't come up with a Brandon Wood liner -- one that had a lot of "top spin," according to Girardi -- that fell into left field for a two-run double.
"That was a tough play," Vazquez said. "They hit it hard. [Thames] tried to do the best he could, but I don't think the game was there. I didn't make my pitches."
A Maicer Izturis RBI groundout wrapped up scoring against Vazquez, who owns a 9.00 ERA through 20 innings.
Vazquez walked three and struck out three in the 78-pitch outing, talking later about how "frustrating" his four starts have been thus far. It's not an unfamiliar feeling.
He has tried not to talk much about his previous tour of duty in pinstripes, wanting to separate that ill-fated second half from what the Yankees acquired him to do in 2010. Yet 2004 never seems far from anyone's mind.
Hours before Vazquez took the mound, the television in the Yankees' clubhouse was tuned to MLB Network and happened to flash a few clips from the Red Sox's American League Championship Series victory, when Vazquez served up a curse-reversing grand slam to Johnny Damon in the deciding game.
Girardi said that he does not want to lend credence to the claims that might swirl when the Yankees return home for Vazquez's next start, that he might just be one of those pitchers who can't click in New York.
"I don't want to believe it," Girardi said. "This is a guy that has had success and has pitched at a very high level. So I don't want to believe it."
Kendry Morales crushed a three-run homer off left-hander Damaso Marte in the seventh inning -- his second of the series -- to blow the game open, sending a 3-0 offering into the rock formation beyond the wall in left-center field.
The homer came after Girardi had debated walking Morales to load the bases, with Cervelli even putting up four fingers to call an intentional ball on the first pitch before Girardi reversed course.
"He got to 3-0 and I could have put up four [fingers] again," Girardi said. "I probably should have put up four there. ... I screwed up, in a sense. I could have done it. Your first instinct sometimes is your best instinct."
New York got to left-hander Scott Kazmir for four runs in 5 1/3 innings, including staking Vazquez to a 3-0 lead.
In the three-run third, Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch and Jorge Posada immediately followed with a two-run homer to center field. Thames doubled, moved up on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Derek Jeter's fielder's choice.
Cano cut the deficit to one run in the sixth inning with his third home run off Kazmir this season, a solo blast to right, and finished the series against the Angels 6-for-11. Kazmir allowed three hits, walking four and striking out three.
Girardi said that he does not have any concerns that Vazquez might be masking an injury, but through four starts, it is apparent that Vazquez has been the weakest link in New York's rotation thus far.
"Physically, he says he's fine," Girardi said. "He has told us physically that he's fine. Maybe getting him on every fifth day will help. I'm not sure. At times he gets under the ball and that's what we have to correct."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.