After a couple of ugly losses, the Yankees breezed to victory this afternoon on an impossibly beautiful Saturday in the Bronx. Jaret Wright was up to his usual tricks in the first, walking the speedy Chone Figgins on five pitches to start the game and the dangerous Vlad Guerrero on four pitches after a pair of foul outs by Maicer Izturis and Orlando Carbrera. The hot-hitting Juan Rivera then singled to right to plate Figgins, but Guerrero failed to respect Bobby Abreu's arm and was nailed trying to go first to third when Abreu fired a one-hop strike to Alex Rodriguez to end the inning (it was the first of two crucial baserunning gaffes by the Impaler, who was later picked off second by Jorge Posada to kill an Angel rally in the sixth). That play just might have been the key to the ball game, as Wright settled down from there, facing the minimum over the next three innings and pitching around a pair of walks in the fifth.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got all the runs they needed in the second inning on a pair of home runs by Robinson Cano, a three-run shot, and Johnny Damon, a two-out, two-run job. Cano's homer was an absolute blast, landing half way up in section 41 of the right field bleachers. I had been concerned about Cano's loss of power during the first half of the season. His slugging percentage was below .400 as late as June 4 at which point just 14 of his 63 hits had gone for extra bases. Since then, however, he's smacked another 14 pitches for extra bases over a span of just 35 hits and in his first five games since being activated from the DL six of his nine hits have gone for extra bags, including this afternoon's dinger, his second in four games which accounts for a full third of his 2006 home run total. As for Damon, his shot just cleared the right field wall and slipped into the old Yankee bullpen. It was Damon's 16th homer of the year, putting him on pace for 23 on the season. His current career high is 20. Ten of those 16 homers have come at Yankee Stadium, all of them going to the short porch in right.
The Angels picked up a run off Scott Proctor in the seventh when rookie Howie Kendrick doubled into the gap in left, Adam Kennedy singled him to third, and Jose Molina scored him with a sac fly to right that knuckled on Abreu, preventing him from setting his feet for a strong throw to the plate. But that was all they'd get. Farnsworth and Rivera followed Proctor with a pair of perfect innings, both requiring just ten pitches eight of which were strikes, and the Yankees evened the series with a 5-2 win.
The series will now be decided by a pair of fantastic pitching match-ups, emerging Yankee ace (at least at home) Chien-Ming Wang against rookie sensation Jered Weaver tomorrow afternoon, and all-or-nothing future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson against John Lackey, who at age 27 is suddenly the veteran ace of this exciting young Angels rotation, Monday night. If this weather holds up, and it should, we're in for a real treat.