For half the game, everything went well. The Yankees put up four runs and Chad Gaudin was cruising. Even two outs into the bottom of the fifth, the Yanks looked poised to win their first game in Anaheim this season. But from that point on almost nothing went the Yankees’ way. Gaudin couldn’t finish the fifth, Aceves almost blew the lead in the sixth, and a pair of errors cost the Yankees the lead in the eighth. But a short rally in the ninth put them back on top again, and Mariano Rivera closed the door.
The game started off as a few have recently: the Yanks put a few men on in the first, but failed to score. Ervin Santana kept dropping breaking balls and off-speed pitches, and the Yanks just couldn’t get a feel for him. It was more of the same in the second. Robinson Cano doubled to lead off, but Santana struck out two Yanks to strand him. But then came the third.
Santana, while getting swings and misses on breaking balls out of the zone, was nonetheless missing the zone. A-Rod took advantage of this, working a 3-0 count following a Teixeira single. Then came the BP fastball, and there it went, way out to dead center. It gave the Yanks their first lead of the series, and Posada would add to that with a two-run homer two batters later. Hideki Matsui struck in the fifth, and the Yanks offense had put them on top 5-0.
On the other side of the ball, Chad Gaudin had it going. It took him only nine pitches to retire the Angels in the first, and while the second was a bit longer he still allowed just one hit. A hit, a walk, and six outs later, the Yanks had a decent lead heading into the second half of the game. And that’s when Gaudin broke down.
It wasn’t the first time Gaudin lost it before the end of the fifth. Girardi pulled him with two outs in the fifth in Oakland, Gaudin’s first start in pinstripes, with the bases loaded. On that night he allowed no runs, and Al Aceves came on to finish the inning without damage. The latter was true again this time. Aceves came in and got Torii Hunter swinging to end the frame, but not before Gaudin allowed a homer, a double, a walk, and a single, putting the Angels on the board for the first time.
Aceves then had his own set of troubles in the sixth. Four of the first five hitters in the inning singled, allowing one run to score and loading the bases with one out. Maicer Izturis popped out, but Aceves couldn’t sneak one past the patient Abreu. Bobby didn’t even take the bat off his shoulder, and the Yanks lead was cut to one. Only a diving stop by and perfect throw to first from Alex Rodriguez saved the lead.
That would be the end of the Yanks’ pitching problems for the evening, though Phil Hughes did escape a mini-jam in the seventh, and pitched pretty well in eighth. It was the defense that failed the team. Howie Kendrick smoked an outside pitch, but right at Robinson Cano. The ball just got away from him, a play that unfolded so fast that the replay couldn’t really capture it. That was the first error.
On an 0-1 count, Kendrick took off for second. Jorge pulled the throw a bit and it went into center field, moving Kendrick to third with none out. There seemed little chance the Yanks could escape without blowing the lead. Hughes got Figgins to pop out weakly, but Izturis punched one into right to tie the game. Just three innings after the Yankees were flying high, they found themselves back at the drawing board.
Thankfully, the drawing board is often a productive place for the Yanks. Brett Gardner started off the ninth with a single, and then he was off to the races. While he was safe by the call, replay showed that he strayed a bit off the bag with the tag on him. Oh well. After the bottom of the eighth, the Yanks needed a break. Jeter ended up walking, and then Johnny Damon bunted the runners over.
Not wanting to face Mark Teixeira with runners on second and third, Mike Scioscia walked him to get to A-Rod. That didn’t work, as Alex lined one into center, just deep enough to score Gardner. That put the game in Mo’s hands, and while Juan Rivera’s at bat was tense, it ended with a great release: a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play. One pitch later and the Yanks were celebrating a playoff berth, though they had locked that up a bit earlier when Texas lost to Oakland.
The Yankees got swept at Fenway in the first half and came back to go two out of three in the second half. They got swept in Anaheim before the All-Star Break, and now have a chance to go two out of three with a win today. A.J. Burnett starts against Scott Kazmir. It’s an afternoon affair, an odd 3:30 start.