Randy Johnson pitched a gem last night that was spoiled by a two-out, defense-assisted Adam Kennedy triple and another bad night for the Yankee offense.
With the score knotted at one due to a pair of first-inning runs off a Derek Jeter homer and a Vlad Guerrero RBI single, Juan Rivera lead off the bottom of the fifth with the Angels fourth single of the night. Johnson then struckout Tim Salmon and Jose Molina before yielding yet another single to Robb Quinlan, who started at first in place of the left-handed Casey Kotchman and had also singled in his first at-bat against Johnson.
Adam Kennedy followed and after taking ball one, pulled an extra-base hit down the right field line. Gary Sheffield fished it out of the corner and fired in to the cut-off man Cano standing just behind first as Quinlan rounded third. Cano bobbled the ball, however, losing his opportunity to make a play on Quinlan at the plate. Instead he fired to third to catch Kennedy stretching. Cano's throw was in plenty of time and Alex Rodriguez had the ball in his glove and on the bag ahead of Kennedy's slide, but when Kennedy's lead foot came in, it kicked the ball loose and the play was scored a triple.
It was the Angels only extra-base hit of the night and Johnson would complete the game allowing only one more baserunner on another Guerrero single, finishing with this line:
8 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 HR, 0 BB, 8 K, 71 percent of 97 pitches for strikes. Again, six of those seven hits were singles and all eight strikeouts were swinging.
It wasn't enough. After Jeter's homer, the Yankees could only strand a pair of walks against Ervin Santana until the sixth, when a throwing error by Chone Figgins put Jeter at first with one out. Gary Sheffield then singled to make it first and second for Alex Rodriguez. On a 1-2 pitch, Rodriguez lined a ball up the middle only to have it hit Santana in the back of the knee and drop to the ground for a 1-3 putout. Jason Giambi then worked an eleven-pitch walk to load the bases, fouling off five straight 3-2 pitches in the process and driving Santana from the game, but Hideki Matsui, who has been the hottest Yankee hitter thus far this season, popped out against lefty J.C. Romero to end the inning.
Rodriguez was robbed again in the eighth inning when, after a two-out ground rule double by Sheffield that was badly misplayed by Garret Anderson in left, Rodriguez scalded a ball in the second base hole only to have Kotchman, in the game as a defensive replacement for Quinlan, make a tremendous diving catch and flip to pitcher Scot Shields to retire the diving Rodriguez by the thinnest of hairs.
The Yankees threatened again in the ninth against Francisco Rodriguez following a one-out solo homer by Matsui that pulled them within one, but pinch-hitter Bernie Williams grounded weakly back to the mound to strand Bubba Crosby, who came in to run after a two-out Cano single and advanced on a wild pitch, at second. Final score: 3-2 Angels.
The Yanks look to save face tonight after scoring just three total runs in their first two games in Anaheim. Despite that miserable run total, there were some good indicator's last night: Gary Sheffield was 2 for 4 with a double, Alex Rodriguez had two RBI hits taken away due to misfortune and good defense, Giambi stung the ball a couple times and had that fantastic at-bat that chased Santana, Jeter and Matsui homered, Cano got two-out single with his team down one in the ninth. On top of all that, Damon's O-fer last night was his first of the season. This team is on the verge of busting out and tonight's opposing pitcher just might be the guy they do it against.
The Yankees faced Bartolo Colon four times last year, including the playoffs, and none of those outings ended well for the heavy-set hurler. In their first meeting, Colon failed to make it out of the fourth as Alex Rodriguez went 4 for 5 with three homers and ten RBIs and the Yankees won 12-4. Three months later in Anaheim, Colon gave up four solo homers, another to Rodriguez, a pair to Giambi, and one to Matsui, though the Angels pulled out a 6-5 win when Vlad Guerrero hit a grand slam off Tom Gordon. In Game 1 of the ALDS, Colon kept the Yankees in the park, but gave up three first inning runs and lost to the Yankees and today's Yankee starter Mike Mussina 4-2. Finally, in Game 5, Colon was unable to answer the bell for the second inning (though, curiously, the Angels would go on to win behind Ervin Santana on another two-out defense-assisted Adam Kennedy triple).
There's word that Colon is still not completely healthy. He needed 95 pitches to get through five innings in his first start, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk to the Mariners. Considering how well the Yankees hit him last year, even when he was in good health, I expect the key to this afternoon's game to be not the performance of the slumping offense, but whether or not Mike Mussina can repeat the excellent performance he had against the A's in his first start.