Make it six straight wins for the streakin’ Yankees. They rallied from behind on Sunday afternoon to take the series finale 6-2 from the Angels. The Bronx Bombers have now swept two straight series and three of their last four. They’ve also won ten of their last 13 games. I enjoy this. This is fun.
A Bad Start
Three batters into the game, the Angels had a 2-0 lead. CC Sabathia struck out Erick Aybar before serving up back-to-back solo homers to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the first inning. The pitch Trout hit wasn’t awful — it was middle of the plate but down at the knees, he just golfed it — but the pitch to Pujols was a total hanger. Cement mixer slider right in Albert’s wheelhouse. The quick two-run deficit was kind of a letdown.
Thankfully, the bad start was nothing more than that. A bad start. David Freese followed the back-to-back homers with a double, then Sabathia settled down and retired 16 of the next 19 batters he faced. The three base-runners were two infield singles (Aybar and Pujols) and a walk (Freese). The Angels didn’t square Sabathia up after the first. The infield single by Pujols and the walk to Freese put two on with one out in the sixth, though CC snuffed out the rally by coaxing a double play ball from Kole Calhoun.
The ground ball was Sabathia’s 87th and final pitch of the afternoon. After getting the out, Sabathia started barking at home plate umpire Dan Bellino because he didn’t agree with a ball/strike call earlier in the inning. Bellino was calling the low strike all afternoon, but he didn’t give one to Sabathia in a big spot that inning, and Sabathia didn’t like it. Sabathia got tossed, Joe Girardi ran out of the dugout to protect his pitcher, and he got tossed too. CC was really fired up. He was right up in Bellino’s face. I would not want to be confronted by an angry CC Sabathia, that’s for sure.
Anyway, Sabathia’s afternoon ended after six innings of two-run ball. No damage after the back-to-back home runs in the first inning. Five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts. That’s not the Sabathia of old but that’s a winnable start. I’d take it from the big guy every fifth day no questions asked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher get ejected after an inning-ending double play ball though.
Come From Behind
The early two-run deficit stunk but was hardly insurmountable. The Yankees started the comeback in the third inning thanks to Jose Pirela’s leadoff double. It was a rocket off the wall in left that bounced right to Matt Joyce, so Pirela had to hustle into second. Pirela aggressively tagged up on John Ryan Murphy’s fly ball to center and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ ground ball to second base. Good ol’ small ball, aside from the leadoff rocket off the wall.
The comeback continued in the fifth inning with another leadoff extra base hit, this one a solo homer by the slumping Chris Young. Young came into the game with six hits in his last 55 at-bats (.109) dating back to May 23rd. Yikes. April was fun though. The homer was his first since May 2nd against the Red Sox, which I don’t even remember. Either way, the homer tied the game and gave the Yankees new life.
Now here’s a fun fact: Brett Gardner has pulled six fly balls to right field this season. Six! Most of his balls in play to right are ground balls (69.4%) or soft line drives (20.4%). And yet, four of those six fly balls have left the yard for home runs. The fourth of those four homers came a few batters after Young’s homer in the fifth inning, when Gardner unloaded on a 2-0 pitch from C.J. Wilson — I’m not even sure it was a strike, might have been off the plate inside — and yanked it just inside the foul pole for a three-run go-ahead homer. Murphy and Gregorius set the rally up with one-out singles. The Yankees went from down 2-1 to up 5-2 that inning.
The Yankees caught a big break in the third inning after Gregorius and Chase Headley threw balls away. The Angels had runners on the corners with one out, Freese lifted a would-be sac fly to deep right field, but Carlos Beltran made a great throw to get Trout trying to tag up and advance to second. (Didi deserves props for a great tag.) Trout was tagged out for the third out before Aybar touched the plate, so the run didn’t score. Underrated big play in the game.
The bullpen didn’t make things interesting for the second straight day. Justin Wilson did walk the first batter he faced in the seventh, but erased the runner with a double play ball before getting the third out. Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth and Andrew Miller struck out the side in a perfect ninth. The Angels didn’t have a hit to the outfield after Freese’s double in the first.
Pirela had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with the double off the wall and his first career homer in the seventh. The solo shot into the visitor’s bullpen gave the Yankees an always-appreciated insurance run to make it 6-2. I can’t ever remember seeing a player that happy after hitting his first homer. The smile still hasn’t come off Pirela’s face. Neat moment.
The Yankees scored six runs even though Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Beltran (the 3-4-5 hitters) went a combined 0-for-9 with a walk and three strikeouts. Gardner had the three-run homer and the 6-7-8-9 hitters (Young, Pirela, Murphy, Gregorius) went a combined 5-for-12 (.417) with a double and two dingers. The bottom of the order has been contributing of late. Nice to see.
And finally, Sabathia’s sixth strikeout of the day (Johnny Giavotella in the fifth) was the 2,500th punchout of his career. He’s the 31st pitcher in history to reach that round number milestone and only the ninth left-hander, so congrats to the big man.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages you should check out. Here’s the win probability graph:
The Yankees have an off-day Monday, so we can all focus on Day One of the 2015 Draft instead. The Nationals are coming to town for a two-game series starting Tuesday night, and holy smokes are we in for a great pitching matchup in the opener: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Max Scherzer. Hell yeah.