I’ll tell you a secret. I hate the Angels. I hate them about a hundred times more than the Red Sox, a thousand more times than the Rays. I hate the way Mike Scioscia cocks his head and squints his eyes in confusion whenever a call goes against him. I hate the scrappiness, I hate the hustle, I hate the font of the numbers on the backs of their jerseys.
After a disappointing loss on Monday night, the Yankees returned to the scene of the crime on Tuesday and looked to bounce back into the win column. The problem, though, was that the Angels were sending Dan Haren to the mound. Haren has been unhittable recently, most notably in his last start against Seattle when he authored a 3-0 shutout that featured 14 strikeouts and zero walks, only the third time in the past dozen years that pitcher done that (a shutout with 14 Ks and zero walks). Opposing Haren would be the ageless wonder, Andy Pettitte.
I touched on this yesterday, but it cannot be understated. The Angels, as nauseating as they are, are an exciting team to watch, and it all starts with their youngest player, Mike Trout. On Monday night he flexed his muscles by bashing his fifth home run of the season, but on Tuesday he showed some of his other skills, namely speed and defense. With two outs and no one on in the bottom of the second inning, Nick Swisher launched a rocket to left center, but that’s Trout territory. He ran down the drive, leaping and snaring it just as it may or may not have left the park.
And how often does it happen? A guy makes a great player in the field, and two innings later he comes to the plate with a runner on second. Trout rifled a ball past third and down the line. The speedy Peter Bourjos coasted in easily on what seemed like a certain double from Trout. But Trout is probably in Brett Gardner’s class as a runner, and slid into third with a triple — on a ball hit into the left field corner. The whole world is crushing on Bryce Harper right now, and justifiably so, but check the numbers. Trout is outplaying the kid with the faux hawk.
The Angels push the envelope at all turns, so Trout went on contact and ran into an out at home on a grounder to Eric Chávez, but Albert Pújols erased that mistake seconds later when he smashed a no-doubter into the Yankee bullpen far beyond the left field fence for a 3-0 Angels lead. Pettitte would later call it “just a stupid pitch by me.” It seems the reports of Sir Albert’s demise were, indeed, highly exaggerated.
The Yankee hitters continued to struggle, and again they continued to fail with the bases loaded. In the half inning before the Angels scored those three runs, the Yanks had had a golden opportunity when they loaded the bases with two outs and Robinson Canó at the plate. A base hit there would’ve given Pettitte a cushion, pushed Haren a bit, and opened a lead, but instead Canó watched strike three dart across the outside corner. Fifteen minutes later it was the Angels who were giving the cushion, doing the pushing, and opening the lead.
Raúl Ibáñez doubled with one out in the fourth, and Nick Swisher quickly cashed him in with a hard single to right, bringing the Yankees to within two runs and breathing a little hope into the situation.
Following Swisher’s base hit, the next fifteen Yankees and Angels to come to the plate were all retired without the ball ever leaving the infield. Pettitte and Haren combined to gather nine groundouts, four strikeouts, a popup and a line out. The sixteenth hitter, however, was the Angels Mark Trumbo. Trumbo broke the string in the bottom of the sixth with a mammoth 433-foot blast into the rocks in center field, widening the Anaheim* lead to 4-1.
The Yankees put two runners on in the seventh, then two more in the eighth, but couldn’t make anything out of either opportunity. Then, more to taunt the Yankees than anything else, the Angels manufactured another run in the bottom of the eighth: single, ground out, single. It was all so easy, and in a game that had been close all night long, the Yankees were suddenly a grand slam behind.
The Yankees mounted a rally in the ninth as they often do, starting with a walks to Russell Martin and Derek Jeter. Granderson flicked a line drive to left, and it looked like a sure base hit, but again, left field is Trout territory, so it turned into an out. Angel reliever Ernesto Frieri plunked Alex Rodríguez, and suddenly the bases were loaded and Canó was walking to the plate as the potential tying run.
But if you’ve been paying attention lately, you know that the Yankees don’t get hits with the bases loaded. Canó struck out swinging. As the Angels announcer is fond of saying at the end of each victory, “Light that baby up.” Angels 5, Yankees 1. Lord help me.
*I know they’re not the Anaheim Angels, but they’re not the Los Angeles Angels, either. They don’t play in Los Angeles. They don’t play anywhere near Los Angeles.
[Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images]