It’s funny: as much as I hate the Angels, I’ve never found much to dislike about their individual players. If we're being honest, they're a pretty inoffensive group*; I mean, John Lackey tends to breathe through his mouth all the time, which is a pet peeve of mine, and Chone Figgins has been slightly overrated, sure... but I think that’s about it, really. I just loathe them as an entity, the entire organization, the whole idea of them. Individual Red Sox have irked me far more – Schilling, Pedro back in the day, Carl “The Bible Never Says Anything About Dinosaurs” Everett, etc – but ultimately I respect the Sox, and clearly baseball is richer for their existence...whereas I firmly believe the Angels should be legally abolished.
Now more than ever, of course, as I stayed up late with a summer cold to watch all three hours and 45 minutes of an indescribably frustrating Yankee loss: Angels 7, Yankees 6. The highs were high but the lows were low, and the lows ganged up on the highs and beat them to a bloody pulp. New York hitters wasted several opportunities, but seems to me it was the Yankee pitching that was most at fault, and particularly the bullpen.
Phil Hughes, coming home for the first time as a Yankee, was slightly better than his box score indicates (because Luis Vizcaino was significantly worse than his), but he certainly struggled off and on tonight, especially with his control: 5 walks and 4 hits in 6.1 innings of work. He was not helped by Robinson Cano, who made what proved to be a harmless error on a routine-ish grounder in the first, followed by a costly -- if unofficial -- mistake when he let a ball hit hard to his right slip under his glove in the second. Larry Bowa looked... displeased. Three runs would score in the inning, but to be fair, Hughes was hardly blameless: after Cano’s flub, he walked two in a row and gave up a bases-clearing double, to Jeff Mathis of all people, on the hang-iest of hanging curves.
It was 3-0 Angels, but the Yankees raged against the dying of the light: Hughes settled down and pitched well for the next four innings, and the offense began to stir, especially after the removal of Angels starter Dustin Moseley. In the fourth, Hideki Matsui tripled and scored on a Jorge Posada groundout; in the sixth, Alex Rodriguez went deep for the 40th time this season, scoring Bobby Abreu and breaking an extremely brief tie with Prince Fielder for ML home run leader. 4-3 Yankees. As a bonus, Rodriguez did this off a pitcher with the top-notch name of Bootcheck.
Things went south in the bottom of the seventh, however. Hughes started the inning and promptly allowed a hit and a walk, so Joe Torre went to the bullpen… but unfortunately, though he tried to call for July Luis Vizcaino, he accidentally summoned May Luis Vizcaino, who promptly allowed both inherited runners to score, plus one to grow on. 6-4 Angels.
But! In the 8th, after A-Rod singled, Jorge Posada knocked a Justin Speier pitch over the right field fence to tie the game. (Had they skipped this part, the game would have ended 45 minutes earlier, thousands of New Yorkers would have been spared a dangerous rise in blood pressure, Mariano would have been fresh for tomorrow, I would have gotten some sleep, and Sean Henn wouldn’t have ended his night on the verge of tears*. But nice hitting, anyway).
Kyle Farnsworth came on in the bottom of the inning, and I don’t see why two solid recent outings should cancel out the dozens and dozens of mediocre to horrendous outings that preceded them. He promptly reverted to his most infuriating pitching style, falling behind Gary Matthews and Casey Kotchman and allowing a double and a walk, respectively. Maicer Izturis then smashed a line drive right to Wilson Betemit, who made a better play than he had any right to and was able to throw out Matthews at home plate. Spiritually, that ball was a run-scoring double. Reggie Willets (of “his family literally lives in a batting cage” fame) then struck out on a veeeeery questionable check swing call. Honestly, I’ve rarely seen a worse-pitched scoreless inning; yes, Farns got out of it without allowing a run, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.
Torre then did something many statistically inclined fans have been wishing he’d try for a long time: he brought in Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of a tie road game. It doesn’t get much higher-leverage than that, and Mo came through, pitching around some lucky hits. Unfortunately, he only went the one inning; and in the 10th, Torre brought in Sean Henn... who allowed a double to Kendrick, followed by a walk-off game winner to someone named Ryan Budde. Poor Henn looked to be taking it hard after the game, and I want to be clear that you really can’t pin this loss on just him, but I do just need to point out here that this was the SECOND-EVER HIT OF BUDDE’S CAREER.
I’m going to bed.
*I'm not as down on Torre as many of you, but I will say that when a third of your bullpen has left games openly weeping**, that's probably a sign there's room for improvement in that area, no?
**Or set their equipment on fire in front of the dugout.