PHOENIX — Felipe Vazquez had never seen Ray Searage so upset. Vazquez, standing on the mound at Chase Field, snickered while talking to Francisco Cervelli during a mound visit earlier in the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon. Not this time, though.
Not with two on, no one out and the Pirates clinging to a three-run lead.
"He went from joking around to, ‘Oh (shoot), this guy is mad,’ " Searage told DKPittsburghSports.com. " 'You’re damn right I’m mad! These guys worked their asses off to get the lead, and you’re the one who’s supposed to hold it! Get outs! You don’t have to strike out everybody! Get outs!' "
Four batters later, Jon Jay laced a line drive over Colin Moran's head for a two-out, two-run double. Then, with the bases loaded, Vazquez struck out Jake Lamb to clinch a 5-4 win, as the Pirates avoided a series sweep. It took 36 pitches and three mound visits but Vazquez earned his 12th save of the season.
Vazquez, mired in a four-week-long slump, had blown four of his six previous save opportunities, one of which was the result of the Cardinals discovering he was tipping his pitches. Vazquez thinks he and Searage found a solution to that problem. But another familiar one popped up in what's been a disappointing second season as the Pirates' closer.
"I have to do the work," Vazquez said Tuesday afternoon. "I’ve been tipping my pitches, and I have to go back to who I was last year. That’s my focus. I want to be the same guy I was last year."