Perhaps the most telling point of today’s game was when I glanced up at the big scoreboard in center in the top of the sixth and saw that the Yankees had just one hit. Against a guy making just his sixth career appearance at age 30. The team led thanks to a Hideki Matsui single in the first, but other than that it was typical Yankees: making a replacement level pitcher look like a Cy Young winner. Unfortunately for them, the pitching wouldn’t hold up all game.
CC Sabathia again didn’t look like the ace the Yakees signed over the off-season. He held the Angels scoreless through five, but his pitch count had built up by the sixth. A leadoff single by Howie Kendrick kicked off a series of events which would conclude with Torii Hunter scoring on a Kendry Morales ground out. It wasn’t all bad at that point, with the game tied at one. Matt Palmer was still on the mound, and it’s not like he’s actually good. The Yanks were bound to break through, right?
It looked like they would in the bottom of the sixth, as Derek Jeter led off with a ground rule double to center. Johnny Damon got him to third, but Mark Teixeira popped one straight up, as he is wont to do this season. Hideki couldn’t get the hit the Yanks needed, and they sent out CC Sabathia for the seventh. He had thrown 99 pitches to this point. For a guy like Sabathia, that seems like the smart move. It did not turn out that way.
After two straight singles and a sacrifice, the Angels had second and third with one out. Thankfully, Gary Matthews was at bat. He promptly struck out swinging, putting CC in a position to finish out the frame with the game still tied. On a 1-1 count Howie Kendrick hit one up the middle, and it looked like two runs would score. Robinson Cano ranged, though, and picked it, saving one run. That would prove for naught, as Torii Hunter doubled in the next at bat and plated the two runners. That would be CC’s day, though Jon Albaladejo allowed a single which scored the inherited runner. His final line: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, and a big L.
Perhaps if the bullpen had held the Angels in the final two frames the Yanks cold have made a game of it. Despite hordes of fans departing before the ninth the Yanks mustered a mini rally, plating three runs before Johnny Damon struck out in a pitch in the dirt. Once Matthews dropped a Derek Jeter fly ball it started to feel like April 19, 2007 — hell, or even last night — but it didn’t last long.
Still, if the Yankees can come back and win tomorrow’s game — where the O’Neill Theory will be put to another test — they’ll have taken three of four from the Angels, which is what everyone was hoping for coming in. If they can follow that up with three of four from Boston and Tampa, well, then they’ll be rolling. The starting pitching will have to hit a groove at some point, but I have full faith in that. But for now we can just hope that Hughes can build off his last start.
Personal note: Sadly, this was my first trip to the new Stadium. Got to take a lap around the whole place. The view from the bleachers was excellent. The higher vantage point makes it better than at the old Stadium, despite being pushed a bit further back. I also got a chance to meet up with Rebecca, who is as cool in real life as she is in our comments on her blog.