With their ace relievers Scot Shields and Fransico Rodriguezunavailable for yesterday's game, the Yanks just had to find a way to take the final game of their long road trip. Having lost the first three to the Angels, Mike Mussina responded with an excellent performance. He was matched by Jarrod Washburn, who changed speeds well and allowed just one hit through six innings. Chone Figgins murdered the Yanks all weekend and got the Angels on the board quickly in the first inning (walk, stolen base, ground out, ground out=run scored). Figgins would follow with three more hits. Dag.
The score didn't change until the seventh. With one out, Alex Rodriguez hit a hard ground ball down the third base line. Figgins not only snagged it--preventing a sure double--but he made an impressive throw to first that almost nipped the hustling Rodriguez. It was a closer play than I expected it to be. Hideki Matsui who was 0-2 on the afternoon (on three pitches), followed and plastered a home run to right center field. Washburn stayed in the game and the Yanks scored another run later in the inning when he failed to cover first base properly.
The Angels chased Mussina in the bottom of the seventh and had runners on first and second (Kennedy and Figgens) with just one man out. Tanyon Sturtze was in the game for New York and the Angels put on the hit-and-run with Daren Erstad at the plate. Erstad slapped a ground ball directly down the third base line. Alex Rodriguez, moving to the bag as the runners were moving, fielded the ball, stepped on the bag and side-armed the ball to first for the double play. It was a bit of good fortune the Yankees sorely needed.
The Angels threatened again in the eighth against Flash Gordon. Vlad Guerrero singled to start the inning and then Garret Anderson popped a short fly ball into right field. Gary Sheffield charged in but it was evident that he was not going to get to it when Robinson Cano made a nifty over-the-shoulder catch for the first out. He must be learning something from Jeter, who made a nice play himself in the fourth inning. But Gordon then walked Steve Finley on four pitches and his afternoon was over.
I was starting to feel quesy. Here we go again with these guys. The Angels have not only played well against the Yankees over the past few seasons, they display a kind of confidence that borders on arrogance. It makes for frustrating viewing as a Yankee fan. The Angels energetic displays of excitement aren't simply irritating, but come across as amateur at times. I kept yelling at the TV, "This isn't the College World Series guys, act like you've been there for cryin' out loud." This is a team who won a championship a few years ago? Maybe it's just the bitterness talking, but these guys have no qualms about 'spressing themselves on the field against New York.
Anyhow, Rivera got Maicer Izturis to hit a ground ball right back to the mound. Rivera then smoothly started the 1-6-3 double play and that was all the excitement left in the game. The Yanks added a run in the ninth on Tino Martinez's RBI double, and Rivera retired the Angels one-two-three in the bottom of the inning to give the Bombers a 4-1 win. Although they finished the road trip 6-5, one game short of what I would have liked, it could have been worse, and the Yanks are still just one-and-a-half back of the Red Sox as they return home to face the Twins and then the Angels. In fact, considering the state their pitching is in, 6-5 was pretty darn good.
You Don't Say?
Randy Johnsonbarked at reporters yesterday for hounding him with health-related questions all season. It comes as no surprise that the Big Unit would eventually get testy with the New York media. Nothing much to see hear, move along.
Oh, and Jason Giambi qualified for the league lead in OBP going into yesterday's game. He walked and was hit twice and leads the AL with a .437 mark.