It looked good early on for the Yankees today; Randy Johnson was throwing the ball well again. And after five straight fastballs, Derek Jeter slapped a breaking ball from Chris Bootcheck into right field in the bottom of the first. I just had a feeling that the Yankees would have a good day. They wiykd hit the ball hard off of Bootcheck, but couldn’t get a big, clutch hit off of him. Chone Figgins made a wonderful diving catch in the bottom of the second to rob Bernie Williams of an RBI extra-base hit, Hideki Matsui was also robbed of an RBI single in the fourth by Orlando Cabrera, and Garet Andreson made a nice running catch to snag a double from Alex Rodriguez (who scorched the ball) in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Johnson wasn’t really as sharp as he had been against the Twins. He labored in the fourth inning, distracted by Cabrera who had singled and stolen his second base of the afternoon. Johnson fanned both Vlad Guerrero and Anderson but then walked Juan Rivera and fell behind Benji Molina 2-0. Molina fouled two pitches off, getting good hacks at both of them, before Johnson left a fastball over the plate. Molina deposited it over the left field wall for a three-run homer. Jose Molina led-off the fifth with a solo dinger of his own (flat slider) and the Yanks were behind the Angels yet again.
Jason Giambi hit two solo homers, both line drives into the right field seats, to continue his hot hitting. The Angels went ahead 6-2 in the top of the eighth but then the Yanks rallied against Brenden Donnelly and Scot Shields to tie the game. Shields, like Rodriguez yesterday, was gassed. His control was awful. But the biggest play of the inning came when Daren Erstad–a defensive replacement–let a sure-fire double play zip through the wickets.
Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and allowed a two-out bloop single to Erstad but then got Kennedy swinging to end the inning. Joel Peralta relieved Shields and pitched well. Rodriguez reached on a throwing error by Kennedy and Giambi worked a two out walked. Then Andy Phillips came to bat. Peralta throws an excellent breaking ball you figured that was all Phillips–a dead-red fastball hitter–was going to see. Sure enough he saw four of ‘em. The last one he slapped down the third base line. It looked as if it would head to the corner for a game-winning hit. But Maicer Izturis made a gorgeous diving stop, picked himself up and gunned Phillips out at first.
Chone Figggins who has been a constant thorn in the Yankees’ side lofted a 1-2 pitch from Rivera to lead off the tenth for a double. But the ball bounced around in the corner, got away from Sheffield and Figgins hustled into third (it was scored a triple). Rivera brushed Cabrera back with the first pitch. Cabrera leaned back and dropped the bat, a dramatic touch. He then lined a shot to right. But Andy Phillips jumped high in the air and snagged it for the first out of the inning.
Rivera threw two pitches up-and-in to Vlad and fell behind the Angels’ slugger 3-0. It looked as if he would walk but Vlad slapped the next pitch, up-and-over-the-plate but not high enough, behind second base for a single to center. He was doubled off first on Anderson’s line out, but the Angels had the lead.
The Yanks had runners on the corners in the bottom of the inning with two out and Sheffield at the plate. (Bernie Williams led-off the inning with a single off of Kennedy’s glove, and he hustled into second as Figgins was late getting to the ball; Tony Womack came in to pinch-run.) Previously, Cano had whiffed, the fourth time he made an out with two runners on in the game. Sheff tapped a ground ball to short which inexplicably took a bad hop on Cabrera allowing the tying run to score. A freak play if you have ever seen one, it was scored a single. The Angels made a few fantastic plays and several horrible ones as well, but this could hardly be blamed on Cabrera. However, Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the inning and the game moved on.
Flash Gordon pitched a one-two-three eleventh aided by a slick play from Cano at second. Cano made a few difficult plays look easy. He sure is smooth out there. Godzilla Matsui fell behind Gregg 1-2, got a great swing on a fastball and fouled it off. He barely stayed alive on a foul tip dropped by Molina, before lininga triple off the center field wall. The Angels intentionally walked Giambi and brought five men to the infield. Andy Phillips saw nothing but fastballs from Gregg and went down swining. Womack was next and the Angels pitched out, anticipating the squeeze, three times. Finally, on the 3-2 pitch, Womack grounded a single a few feet to Cabrera’s left for the game winner. Yanks 8, Angels 7.
Phew. How ’bout that? In a see-saw game that featured some maddening ball-and-strike calls from home plate ump Gary Darling, the Yankees held on and finally beat off an exhausted Angels team. The Bombers remain two-and-a-half behind Boston who won again this afternoon at Fenway.