If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I despise the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim in equal measure, so instead of rehashing my usual litany of invectives against Gary DiScarcina and Garret Anderson and Mike Scoscia, I’ll instead focus on the game at hand, the opening frame of a three-game set in Anaheim.
CC Sabathia was on the mound for the Yankees, which means that expectations weren’t too high, but old CC pitched fairly well. Sure, he coughed up a run in the bottom of the first, but it wasn’t anything too awful. Johnny Giavotella, or Johnny G, as the Angels announcers love to call him, singled to lead off the game, then came all the way around to score on a two-out double from the resurgent Albert Pujols. Nothing to worry about yet, right?
The Yankee hitters got that run back in the top of the third, but it could’ve been more than that. DiDi Gregorius walked with one out and moved to second on a single from Brett Gardner, which brought up Chris Young. Young hit a rocket to left center, a ball that would easily have scored both runners for a 2-1 Yankee lead, but Mike Trout raced deep into the gap, reached across his body at the warning track and made the grab for the second out of the inning, sending the runners scampering back to their bases. Alex Rodríguez came up next and punched a ball to right field to tie the game and salvage something of the inning, but Trout’s play still stung.
In the bottom of the third, Trout would sting the Yankees again, this time with his bat, as he slugged a homer just ten feet or so beyond the spot where he had robbed Young in the top of the inning. I can never look at Mike Trout without imagining him in pinstripes, patrolling center field and thrilling a generation of fans who weren’t lucky enough to have followed Mattingly and Jeter before him. If only.
The game stayed at two to one until it looked like the Yankees might tie it up in the top of the fifth. Gardner, the reigning American League Player of the Week, stood at second base after a quirky double down the right field line, and Chris Young stood at the plate. Once again he launched a blast deep into the left center field gap. This ball was fifteen or twenty feet to the left of where the last one had died, but Trout was still coming and coming and coming. Once again he leapt at the last second, and once again he broke Young’s heart, this time with a catch that was even more impressive than the first. Young stared out at Trout for a second, then waved his hand in disgust before heading back to the dugout. After the game he suggested that baseball’s rules be changed to give a team half a run on plays like that, just to make the hitter feel a little better. In the space of three innings, Trout had stolen two runs with his glove and added one with his bat. That’s what greatness does.
If Sabathia had skipped over the odd innings on Monday night, he’d have thrown a shutout, but just as there are no half runs, there are no skipsies in baseball. And so came the bottom of the fifth (an RBI double from Kole Calhoun) and the bottom of the seventh (a towering homer from C.J. Cron) and suddenly the Yankees were down 4-1.
Their best opportunity to get back in the game had come back in the top of the seventh when Brian McCann led off with a walk and Gregorius pounded the Baltimorest chop you’ve ever seen off the front of the plate for an infield single to put two runners on with nobody out. I know that Brett Gardner is about ready to burst into flames, and I know that the Angels were creeping in at the corners, but I just couldn’t figure out why Joe Girardi didn’t send Gardy up there to bunt. It was only 3-1 at the time, and I sure would’ve liked to have seen Young and Rodríguez get shots to drive in the tying runs, but Girardi didn’t see it that way. Instead Gardner popped out to left, Young bounced into a fielder’s choice, and A-Rod grounded out to short. The Yankees felt dead in that moment; Cron’s home run in the bottom half just made sure. Nothing of interest happened after that, but tomorrow is another day.
[Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]