The Yankees pounded out 19 hits on Tuesday, 12 hits on Wednesday and I was worried the hittin’ shoes would be all worn out for Thursday’s afternooner, which I’d be attending with the extended family. The Yankees kept on hitting – 15 more hits today – but they stopped at third most of the time and wound up in a familiar spot, the losing end of a Phil Hughes start.
Next time, leave the cycle at home boys, and back up the score truck.
My father has fed a steady stream of criticism to Hughes through the TV this season, so I’m sure he was overjoyed when his Father’s Day gift turned out to feature the much maligned starter. We took bets on his outing: six innings / two runs; seven innings / three runs; four innings / four runs. Overall, we were an optimistic group and came close to nailing the actual line, six innings and three runs.
Hughes got touched for a run on a couple of singles in first, but he struck out Mike Trout on a slider with teeth so you almost had to forgive him. The Yankees were all over C.J. Wilson with hits in every inning and multiple base runners in most of them. But they turned a triple and three singles into only the tying run in the third as Vernon Wells rapped into rally-killing 5-4-3 double play with the sacks packed.
The Angels reclaimed the lead with a quickness in the fourth. It was the bottom of the order, and I don’t know if Hughes let up or if it was just one of those things, but they punched him up for a big double (Erick Aybar), a long sac fly and a 2-out homer (Chris Nelson) that really let the air out of the crowd.
But this is not the limp-bat lineup we’d have written off a few weeks ago. This team had plenty of offense left and, to their credit, the crowd perked up each inning rising to a crescendo in the bottom of the seventh. Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez both took big hacks at tying the game. All the kids in my row were really hollering, making up chants and cheers for the hitters. But neither big hack resulted in the much wished for big fly. And this time the air was out for good.
Mike Trout hit a 2003-ALCS-Game-7 double to lead off the top of the 8th and my seats for today’s game (third base side, upper deck) gave me the same vantage point as when Posada hit his double all those years ago. I could see right away that the ball was falling in and instead of watching Cano track into short center, I focused on Trout sniffing the double from about halfway up the first base line. He turned on the jets and, well, damn. That’s the best player in baseball for you.
Trout appeared to be stuck there at second, but with two outs, Girardi got cute, walked a .236 hitter intentionally and set-up the end game. Logan battled the no-stick catcher Hank Conger and lost him to an unintentional walk. Then Chris Nelson wacked him for a grand slam. Nelson had two RBI in ten games for the Yanks earlier this season. He had five RBI and quite possibly won the game this afternoon.
You know, it’s not everyday that you get to see Phil Hughes and Joba Chmaberlain get beat around by the same team – it’s every fifth day. Wocka, Wocka. Hughes wasn’t terrible though, especially for the new-look lineup. The Yanks had one more rally in them in the ninth, but they were too far behind and the final score of 8-4 is both unfair to the Yankees and the Angels in a weird way.
It’s not the 1995 Cleveland Indians or anything, but as currently constituted, this a fairly dangerous lineup and a well-rounded team. It almost looks like a contender if they were starting today.
But they’re not, and that’s why we had a blast at this game. For pennant fever, we watched the scoreboard for Pittsburgh-St. Louis updates (we’ll be in Pittsburgh on Saturday for the D-backs) and for sheer baseball excellence, we watched Mike Trout. And oh-by-the-way, the Yankees have some great players too, as Cano (Henry’s favorite), Arod, Granderson, Soriano and Gardner reminded us with 11 hits and three walks.
Much like Henry and this ice cream cone, the battle was lost but it was a hell of a ride.