Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Javier Vazquez Makes Yankees Win Over Orioles

New York Yankee righthander baseball player Javier Vazquez was public enemy Number 1 in his own house. He was treated better while walking the streets of New York than he was at Yankee Stadium. Javier Vazquez said fans told him they supported him and his resume spoke for itself.

On Tuesday night, the embattled veteran was finally shown the love at Yankee Stadium as he had his fastball blazing (he was in the low 90s) and his offspeed pitches dancing in a gem of a performance that sent a sigh of relief throughout the Yankees organization.

In his first start at home since a May 1 implosion against the White Sox, Javier Vazquez (4-5) was brilliant, allowing four hits while striking out a season-high tying seven and walking just one over seven innings in a 3-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He also pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning.

I don't even remember the last time I started here It feels like a while. Obviously, I want to pitch good here. Everybody knows that. I'm working on that. I think it was important to throw a good game here, I feel better. I feel like my mechanics are there. I'm throwing much better pitches than I was early in the year. I have better command. My location was much better. It doesn't matter how hard I throw it. That (location) is the key for me.'' said Javier Vazquez.

Javier Vazquez rebounded from a shaky start last week in Minnesota by striking out seven, allowing four hits and one run, and pitching out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh. In the bottom half, the Yankees scored two unearned runs to make him the pitcher of record, and Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera ensured his win by pitching two spotless innings.

Obviously, I want to pitch good here,” Javier Vazquez said. “That’s something that everybody knows. I’m working on that.”

In his last outing, Javier Vazquez took a giant step backwards when he was rocked by the Twins, giving up eight hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings. He needed a strong outing on Tuesday night to solidify his place in the rotation, and he delivered.

New York Yankees all-star baseball player Javier Vazquez was rolling along until he gave up a a solo homer to Corey Patterson (he struck him out the first two times at bat) in the sixth inning to tie the score, 1-1. Then, he ran into trouble in the seventh. The Orioles loaded the bases with one out on two hits and an intentional walk.

But Javier Vazquez struck out Adam Jones swinging and got Julio Lugo to hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning. The Yankees scored two unearned runs on a throwing error by third baseman Miguel Tejada with two outs on a ground ball by Alex Rodriquez to take the lead for good.

I wanted to stay (in the game) and I'm glad Joe let me finish that inning.'' said Javier Vazquez. “That was huge. ... I think (the strikeout of Jones) was the key pitch there. He's a dangerous hitter and I threw a pretty good pitch (an 87-mph fastball).''

Yankees manager Joe Girardi insists he saw this type of performance coming. After a rough start to the season -- losing four of his first five decisions, Javier Vazquez held the Tigers to two runs over seven innings on May 12, earned a victory against the Red Sox in relief on May 17 and shut out the Mets over six innings on May 21 before his meltdown against the Twins.

He was great (Tuesday night), Four hits, he attacked the zone all night, I thought he used his fastball very effectively. This is kind of what we thought we were going to get from him. Everybody is going to run into bumps in the road. But we've been really encouraged by the way he has been throwing the baseball. He has strikeout stuff. He has groundball stuff. There's a lot of things that Javier can do. He has three different off-speed pitches, he can sink it. He can four-seam it. I thought he used everything effectively, but he was really good with his fastball.'' said New York Yankee Manager Joe Girardi

Monday, May 31, 2010

LA Lakers and Boston Celtics: A Victory For TV Ratings?

With 32 of a possible 63 titles between them, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are the most successful franchises in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. They’re also a boon to television ratings. When the Lakers and Celtics meet for another championship in this year’s NBA Finals starting in two days, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC may emerge a winner.

This is best matchup ABC could have possibly hoped for,” Brad Adgate, research director at Horizon Media, a New York- based advertising company, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a classic rivalry -- cross-country, major markets and two teams loaded with history.”

Jeff Lindsey, a spokesman for ABC, didn’t immediately return an e-mail last night seeking comment.

The Lakers won their 15th NBA championship last season, while the Celtics won their 17th title two years ago.

Boston’s six-game win over the Lakers after the 2007-08 season yielded the highest television ratings for the NBA Finals in the past five years. It was the most recent championship- round meeting in one of sports’ most celebrated rivalries, which featured Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the 1980s.

The 1987 championship series, the third showdown in four years between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, was watched in 16.7 percent of U.S. homes, according to Nielsen Media Research. It was the highest-rated NBA finals that didn’t include Michael Jordan since Nielsen began keeping records in 1974.

These teams have national followings and leaguewide followings,” said Phil de Picciotto, president of Athletes &; Personalities at the Los Angeles-based marketing and representation firm Octagon. “Anybody who’s a basketball fan appreciates what the Lakers and Celtics stand for.”

Made A Living On Lakers And Boston Celtics

Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson, who used to sit alongside Boston President Red Auerbach during the NBA Finals, said his network “made a living” on the Celtics and Lakers. Pilson expects more ratings success this season.

There’s every indicator from size of markets, to quality of the matchup, to the athletes themselves, to the history and tradition,” said Pilson, president of Pilson Communications, Inc., in Chappaqua, New York. “This definitely is a great matchup for the NBA and the networks.”

The teams met in the NBA Finals six times in the 1960s, featuring Hall of Famers such as Bill Russell and Bob Cousy for Boston and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor for Los Angeles. Wilt Chamberlain played for the Lakers in the 1969 Finals.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Series

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s career scoring leader with 38,387 points, helped lead the Lakers to NBA Finals victories against the Celtics in 1985 and 1987. Los Angeles is the second-largest media market in the U.S. behind New York, and Boston is seventh.

The Lakers are led by former Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kobe Bryant, who has averaged 29.4 points in 16 games this postseason. The Celtics are paced by a quartet of All-Stars in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.

Boston and L.A. -- wake up the echoes,” Pilson said in a telephone interview. “This is classic. The only thing that could spoil this matchup right now are blowout games or a four- game sweep. But it seems unlikely.”

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers won three of four regular-season basketball matchups against the Celtics. Los Angeles will host Game 1 of the best-of-seven championship series on June 3 at the Staples Center. Game 2 will also be played in Los Angeles, on June 6, before the series shifts to Boston for the next three games.

Phil Jackson Seeking Revenge

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who has 10 NBA titles, said the loss to the Celtics two years ago still stings. During the offseason, after Los Angeles beat the Orlando Magic for the NBA title, Phil Jackson said he ran into Pierce at his daughter’s housing complex in Los Angeles and made it known he wanted a championship rematch.

I said, ‘Get it back, we want to meet you in the finals,’” Phil Jackson said after beating Phoenix in the Western Conference finals. “So here it is almost a year later. We have this opportunity, both of us, to renew this rivalry.”

Since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960, they’ve faced the Celtics 10 times in the NBA Finals. Nine of those championship series were decided in more than five games, with four going to a seventh game.

You’ve got great star power and great tradition,” said Horizon Media’s Adgate. “The only other thing that ABC could possibly hope for is that the series goes seven games.”

Eri Yoshida: The Knuckle Princess From Japan

Since landing on American terrain earlier this year, nothing about baseball has fazed 18-year-old Japanese pitching sensation Eri Yoshida much. It's off the field that has been the real challenge. Eri Yoshida has coped with the language barrier, has by all accounts become "one of the guys" in the clubhouse with her Chico Outlaws teammates, and has held her own against some former big-league hitters.

But judging by the awkward gaze she flashed at the gobs of lasagna on her plate in an instructional league clubhouse earlier this year, American eats might just take some getting used to. The moment the lasagna was served was captured on a YouTube video.

"It's cheap, and quantity is much more than we get in Japan," Eri Yoshida said of American food through a translator after making her U.S. debut on Saturday.

But if she has her way, the 5-foot-1, 115-pound Eri Yoshida will be seeing a lot more lasagna. Heralded as the "Knuckle Princess" by the Japanese media, Yoshida became the first female to pitch professionally in two countries when she debuted for the Outlaws in the independent Golden League against the Tijuana Cimmarones

Baseball princess Eri Yoshida made her debut for the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden League on Saturday night, the first appearance by a woman in American professional baseball since Ila Borders in 2000.

Eri Yoshida allowed four runs in three innings against Los Cimarrones de Tijuana, and she was hit hard at times; one 70-mile-per-hour fastball was crushed for a two-run homer. But she retired 7 of the first 10 batters she faced before tiring. And in her one plate appearance, she drove in a run by bouncing a bases-loaded single to right field

Eri Yoshida got off to a much better debut than Borders did in her first game in 1997, when she failed to retire any of the three batters she faced for the Saint Paul Saints of the Northern League. Borders pitched four years in independent leagues, ending her career in 2000.

After former San Francisco Giants infielder Ivan Ochoa led off the game for the Tijuana Cimarrones by bunting for a single, drawing jeers from the crowd, Eri Yoshida settled down and kept Tijuana off-balance with a sidearm knuckleball that usually registers in the 50 mph range.

It is a world away — and halfway around the globe — from where Eri Yoshida grew up, in Kawasaki, an urban city on the outskirts of Tokyo. Spurred by the interest in Eri Yoshida, the Outlaws are streaming all of their home games live on the Internet this season. About 25 media outlets were credentialed for the game.

While this might seem like a gimmick, it appeared to work as the Outlaws drew 4,400 fans to the game. Eri Yoshida learned to throw the knuckleball as a young girl by watching Wakefield. She taught herself the pitch and never had any formal coaching for how to throw the knuckler until meeting her idol during spring training in Florida earlier this year.

Mike Marshall said he has no doubt Eri Yoshida has the makeup to handle this historic challenge. He said the biggest factor in determining how far she will be able to take it will be how much stronger she gets in the next few years.

"There's going to be a draft here in a couple weeks and there's probably only a handful of 18-year-old high school kids who are going to get drafted who could come here and play. Men, Look at the rosters. You have Double-A, Triple-A, big-league guys. This isn't affiliated rookie ball; this isn't affiliated A-ball. This is way up there. These are 25- to 35-year-old men she's playing against." Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall said.

Despite the disparity in age, experience, gender and cultural upbringing, Eri Yoshida is fitting in well with her new team. Manager Garry Templeton, an admitted skeptic when he first saw her pitch this winter, said the players missed her when she didn't make a season-opening road trip to Mexico.

He said Eri Yoshida has been taken to kangaroo court, where she was fined a dollar, like all newcomers to the court. The only special treatment she gets is separate locker room facilities to change in and her own hotel room on the road.

"They're protective of her," Garry Templeton said. "She blends in well. She's just a ballplayer. They see her as a ballplayer, not as a girl."