Friday, May 26, 2023

Yankees' Vasquez Has Strong Debut, But Musgrove & San Diego Sluggers Seal Win Late


Randy Vasquez's first pitch in the Major Leagues to Fernando Tatis, Jr. Photo by Jason Schott.

The San Diego Padres, led by a great start from Joe Musgrove and a pair of two-run home runs from Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis, Jr., took the series opener from the Yankees at a sold-out Yankee Stadium, 5-1, on Friday night.

Randy Vasquez got the start for the Yankees, and it was his Major League debut. Vasquez was signed as a non-drafted free agent on May 21, 2018, so he was making his debut a little over five years to the day he joined the Yankees organization.

The 24-year old Vasquez was named the No. 9 prospect in the Yankees organization, as well as having the "Best Curveball" by Baseball America after last season, which was spent at Double-A Somerset, where he posted a 3.90 ERA (earned run average), as he struck out 120 in 115 1/3 innings pitched, but went 2-7 in 25 starts.

This season, he made nine starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he went 1-5 with a 4.85 ERA, as he allowed 23 earned runs in 42 2/3 innings pitched, with 50 strikeouts. He allowed three-runs-or-less in seven of his nine outings, and one-run-or-less in three of them, and two starts were scoreless.

In his pregame press conference, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked about his expectations for Vasquez, and he said, “Hopefully he goes out and dazzles. He’s got a lot of ability, he walks out there with weapons, and, you know, hopefully - obviously, it’s a tough challenge, Padres a team that can swing the bat and are patient, so look, I mean, if he’s filling up the strike zone, he should have success. Hopefully, he can go get settled in and get us off to a good start tonight.”

On the experience Vazquez had in spring training, Boone said, “It was good to him to pitch lot, to pitch in some games. I remember game in Clearwater (against the Philadelphia Phillies) where he pitched, and, you know, at that time, it’s a big environment, you know, filled, and going to against main guys and things like that. Those are important steps in a guy’s development and I thought he acquitted himself well in spring training, and get some valuable, hopefully valuable experience in his development. He’s had some success in Triple-A now, and just excited for him to hopefully just, as much as anything, just get settled in and get himself comfortable on the mound and have fun on the biggest stage against the best.”

About an hour before the game, Boone was suspended due to having been ejected in two of the Yankees' prior four games, so bench coach Carlos Mendoza was at the helm for the night.

Vasquez opened up the game by working around a pair of walks to Jake Cronenworth and Xander Bogaerts by striking out ex-Yankee Rougned Odor to end the first inning.

As Boone had hoped, Vasquez settled in, allowing just a single apiece over the second and third innings, and a hit-by-pitch by Brandon Dixon, in which he leaned into a curveball, in the fourth. By this point, he racked up six strikeouts.

In the fifth, he struck out Austin Nola  and got Fernando Tatis, Jr., to bounce one to short before he walked Cronenworth for the second time on the night (he also singled in the third).

Then, Juan Soto, who bounced one to second and struck out earlier in the game, gave Vasquez the bum's rush as he blasted one into the second deck in right field for a two-run shot, and the Padres were up 2-0. This was Soto's 10th home run of the season, and he now has 24 RBI.

Bogaerts singled and Odor walked, and that was all for Vasquez. Ron Marinaccio came on to close out the fifth, and got ex-Yankee Matt Carpenter to fly out to center field.

Vasquez's final line was: 4 2/3 innings pitched, 4 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 3 walks, 6 strikeouts. (he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game)

Mendoza said of Vasquez's performance in his postgame remarks, "Randy threw the ball well, you know First outing in the big leagues, Yankee Stadium, Friday night crowd, you know, against a pretty good lineup. I thought his body language and mound presence was good, the way he controlled his cutter in the beginning, but he used all his pitches, that 3-2 cutter to Soto obviously hurt him, but overall I thought he did a nice job."

With Marinaccio still on in the sixth, San Diego added to their lead, as Austin Nola walked with one out and then Tatis, Jr., launched one into the second deck in left field for a two-run homer to make it 4-0. It was his eighth of the season, to go along with 17 RBI. Earlier in the inning, Dixon leaned into another curveball for a hit-by-pitch to open the frame, but he was picked off for the second out, while Nola was at the plate.

Meanwhile, Musgrove - a nemesis of fans across town since he beat the Mets in the clinching game in last year's Wild Card Series - was cruising, as he scattered just two hits and struck out six over the first five innings.

Joe Musgrove striking out Aaron Judge in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees rallied in the sixth, as Gleyber Torres singled with one out, followed by a double from Aaron Judge that went into the left-field corner. Anthony Rizzo then hit one to first base for an RBI groundout to bring in Torres and make it 4-1 San Diego, and DJ LeMahieu flew out to right to end the inning.

In the seventh, Willie Calhoun and Anthony Volpe got one-out singles, and that chased Musgrove from the game. Steven Wilson came out of the bullpen, and he struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and then got Jake Bauers (pinch-hitter for Ben Rortvedt) to pop out to third base.

Musgrove's final line was: 6 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 1 run (earned), 0 walks, 6 strikeouts, as he got the win and improved to 2-2 and lowered his ERA from 6.75 to 5.64. His ERA is still up there because he missed the first few weeks of the season, making his season debut on April 22, and this was just his sixth start.

The Padres tacked one on in the ninth when Soto doubled and scored on a single from Odor to make it 5-1. That run took away the save situation, but San Diego closer Josh Hader still came on for the bottom of the ninth, as he struck out the side.

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