The Yankees continued their week of self-destructive play on Friday night as they fell to the Angels, 7-4. L.A.'s rookie southpaw, Joe Saunders pitched very well, mixing fastballs, changeups, and breaking pitches with poise and confidence. No rookie jitters for him, and why should there be? He plays for the Angels, who seemingly have no fear of the Bronx or the Bombers. (The Yanks are now 48-50 in the regular season against the Halos since 1996, never mind the playoffs.)
Still, the Yankees had their chances and, as DeNiro told Stallone in "Copland:" "You blewwwwwwwwwww it." Battling a stomach bug, Corey Lidle didn't have much and threw so many pitches that he was gone after four innings, having allowed three runs. Sidney Ponson's adventures with the leather put two men on in the fifth and then Orlando Cabrera grounded a double past Alex Rodriguez--the ball took a tough hop to Rodriguez's back hand but it looked as if the Yankee third baseman should have at least knocked it down. Two runs scored, 5-1, and once again the Angels were handling the Yanks. More than 54,000 were sitting on their hands.
The Bombers mounted a threat in the sixth. Derek Jeter reached on an infield hit and then Bobby Abreu lined a two-strike pitch into right for a single. Saunders got ahead of Rodriguez too but then left a pitch over the heart of the plate. Rodriguez lined it to center and it appeared as if it would drop in for another hit. But Chone Figgins raced in and made a lovely catch, robbing Rodriguez of a sure RBI and the Yankees of a big inning.
"He's unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "He's always making some type of heroic play against us."
[Yankee manager, Joe] Torre called that catch the play of the game, saying, "Who knows what that inning turns into? He stopped it right there."
(N.Y. Daily News)
Jason Giambi--whose dirty-blong mustache continues to fill out--followed and hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. O.K., the double play was a drag but what can you do if the other team makes a great play?
The next inning was far more troubling. Craig Wilson reached on an error and Melky Cabrera walked, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. Sal Fasano's foul ball dropped safely between the catcher and first baseman near the Yankee dugout and then Sal lined a double to right center. Ah-ha, just the kind of break the Yanks had been looking for. Nobody out, runner on second and the score was now 6-3. Nick Green, who started in place of Robinson Cano, looked at three pitches from the new pitcher, Scot Shields, and offered to bunt at two of them. "Vas dis?!" cried many a Yankee fan watching along. When Green finally got the bunt down, it wasn't down at all, it was popped up. Shields sprung off the mound and caught the ball. Yet Fasano was practically at third, the dope, and he was doubled off second with ease. End of rally, and end of game, so to speak.
Each team would add another run--Vlad and Alex both hit solo dingers--and Fransico Rodriguez got the last four outs (including three strikeouts) to secure the win for the Angels. It was the third time in four days that the Yankees have lost with less than their A-game. The Red Sox--prematurely given for dead by too many members of Red Sox Nation this week--finally won and now trail New York by just two games. It's a long way from over, folks. The Yanks picked a heck of a time to start playing this sloppily. Time for them to get their heads out of their asses today. With Jaret Wright on the hill today, all I can say is Heaven Help Us (and that famous temper of ours).