|Javier Vazquez dominated Nats in 3-0 shutout. (photo by C.Nichols)|
Javier Vazquez was once a very good pitcher. Lately, he’s been on a bit of a roll, resurrecting some of the skill that once made him one of the toughest pitchers in the league. Last night, he continued that roll, dominating the Washington Nationals, shutting them out on five hits, delivering a 3-0 victory to his Florida Marlins.
Over his last 10 games, dating back to July 27 against these same Nats, Vazquez has once again been one of the best starters in the league, pitching to a 4-2 record with a 1.70 ERA, allowing combined 60 hits and walks in 69 innings pitched. In his last four starts (4-0), covering 29 innnings, he’s allowed one earned run and struck out 27.
Vazquez was in control all game, needing just 104 pitches to throw the complete game shut out, striking out seven and not walking a batter. All five hits allowed were harmless singles, and the Nats got runners into scoring position in just two innings. Both times they did, however, the Nats helped Vazquez out.
In the second, Rick Ankiel hit a one-out single and took third on a Danny Espinosa base hit into the left-center field gap. But center fielder Bryan Peterson cut the ball off from going to the wall, and fired a strike to second base to nail Espinosa trying to the extra base for the second out of the inning. Chris Marrero then flew out to end the threat.
The Nats got back-to-back singles by Ryan Zimmerman and Laynce Nix to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning, and manager Davey Johnson sent in Brian Bixler to pinch-run for Nix. Vazquez then struck out Ankiel and Espinosa. Marrero looked at two balls, but on the second ball, Bixler strayed too far off first and was pegged by catcher John Buck.
“As a base runner, you just have to be aware,” Johnson said of Bixler’s gaffe. “You can’t get off there too far. You want to be moving toward second, but you’ve got to be scuffling back [after the pitch].”
Vazquez did not put another runner on base in the final two innings. “Obviously, he was hitting his spots,” Johnson said of Vazquez. “He threw a lot of fastballs. I don’t know the count, but he got away with pitching up a lot. With a guy like that, you gotta get on his fastball.
“He pitched basically that whole game with his fastball, from my point of view. He got up [in the strike zone] when he wanted to and he stayed down when he wanted to. By and large, he got most of his outs with his fastball.”
Vazquez’ effort made a loser out of John Lannan (9-13, 3.68). Lannan was credited with a “quality” start, limiting the Marlins to three earned runs over six innings. But he pitched in trouble all evening, putting 11 runners on base — eight hits and three walks. In contrast to Vazquez, who needed 104 pitches over nine innings, Lannan needed 96 to get through six.
Washington is now 4-9 this season against their chief nemesis, and courtesy of the Mets win over Atlanta, are back in a tie with New York for third place in the N.L,. East, with a 71-78 record.
THE GOOD: Craig Stammen gave the Nats two solid innings of hitless relief, striking out three.
THE BAD: Roger Bernadina got the start in left. He made a really nice sliding catch early on that would have eluded Michael Morse, saving at least one run, but he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, hitting second in the order.
THE UGLY: The base running. Espinosa tried to do too much in trying to take that extra base in the second as he was out easily with the play in front of him. I don’t know what Bixler was thinking. He had a man in front of him at second and he was half-way there when Buck threw down to first. When you only manage five hits — and cant draw a walk — off the starting pitcher, you just can’t give away outs on the bases. But this team has been doing that all season long.
THE STATS: 5 hits, zero BBs, 7 ks. 0-for-3 w/RISP, 3 LOB, zero GIDP. E: Desmond (23)
NEXT GAME: Saturday against the Marlins at 7:05 pm. Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 1.13) faces Chris Volstad (5-12, 5.31).