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June 4, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

The name of the Jeter Watch is now "Jeter Meter!", after Joe's suggestion in the comments. The exclamation point was my addition, as it just seemed to fit.

The Yankees can't play Baltimore again soon enough. Six games, six wins, and they've got them 13 more times this year. They're sure to lose eventually, and they didn't necessarily deserve to sweep both series', but games against the Orioles sure do feel wins in hand.

It took the Yankees a little while to take control of the game yesterday, in part because they had their bad lineup out there, giving Bernie and Posada the day off. I understand that you want to give the catcher and your aging, injury-prone centerfielder the day game after a night game off, but wouldn't it have been better to give Posada or Williams Wednesday off, and play them today?

Fortunately, the Yanks got a good start by Javier Vazquez, and A-Rod, Sheffield and Sierra all had two hits. But for a while there, it looked as though the Yankees would be beaten by the rookie Cabrera.

It was Baltimore's bullpen that did them in again, giving up three runs in the seventh with the score tied. The Yankees' bullpen did the job again, as Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera only gave up one baserunner combined in two innings of work.

What really won them the game was Javier Vazquez. Vazquez looked okay at first, giving up a double in the first, a homer in the second, and retiring the O's in order in the third, but he got into trouble in the fourth. Three straight Oriole singles loaded the bases with nobody out, and Vazquez hit Javy Lopez to force home the go-ahead run. But Vazquez got Surhoff to pop out to Flaherty, struck out Matos, and Jeter threw Bigbie out on a hard-hit grounder. Vazquez went on to retire 12 of the last 13 men he faced, keeping the Yankees within one until they tied it in the sixth on Ruben Sierra's double.

Vazquez has pitched well for the Yankees this season, but you've gotta be worried about his low strikeout rate and high home run rate. He's been incredibly fortunate that he's not giving up hits on balls in play--he's got a .223 BABIP. That's sure to go up, and if his K rate doesn't go up with it, the Yankees might not be getting very good outings out of Javy. We'll see.

With Boston idle, the Yankees tacked on another half game, and now host the Rangers, who took two of three for the Yankees two weekends ago. Texas cooled off after the Yankees left town, losing 2 of 3 to the White Sox and Blue Jays before sweeping the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday. With Boston going into Kansas City this weekend, the Yankees will have a tough time putting much more space between themselves and the Red Sox before interleague play starts.