Yanks Barely Hang On To Edge Angels To End Skid

Enough is enough is enough
I can’t go on, I can’t go on, no more no
enough is enough is enough

                                                        –  “No More Tears” (Enough Is Enough) by Donna Summer

GAME 69

YANKEES 6, ANGELS 5

With the injuries and the losses seemingly about to bring this proud franchise to its knees the wounded, the wavering and the willing among the New York Yankees summoned just enough strength on Sunday to claim a victory to end their long and miserable West Coast road swing.

CC Sabathia held the Angels scoreless for eight innings, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells proved they do can do more than make outs with runners in scoring position and Mariano Rivera inched to the very edge of the precipice of blowing a save before striking out Albert Pujols with the bases loaded and two outs as New York escaped with a victory over Los Angeles.

In the grand scheme of things in a 162-game schedule this game may not mean a whole lot. But in the moment, both for manager Joe Girardi and his battered and beleaguered ball club,  this one at Angel Stadium was a very special victory.

Sabathia (7-5) served notice early that he was not going to lose without a fight by dazzling the potent Angels with eight innings of pure brilliance, allowing them four miserable little singles and two walks while he struck out six. He even used two double plays to wriggle out of any potential danger the Angels wanted to throw his way.

Even when Mike Trout laced a lined single off the 6-foot-7 left-hander with two out in the sixth inning, Sabathia waved off Girardi and head trainer Steve Donohue as if to say “I am going to win this game no matter how much I hurt.”

Meanwhile, the Yankees started off against right-hander Jered Weaver (1-3) as if it was going to be another one of those days where they flood the bases with runners all day and only to have their efforts to score dashed by weak popups or strikeouts.

Brett Gardner opened the game with a double and Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk. Both then advanced a base when Weaver’s attempted pickoff of Gardner eluded Erick Aybar for an error.

But the Yankees struggling 3-4-5 hitters ended the threat when Robinson Cano struck out, Hafner walked and Wells hit into a double play.

But the Yankees somehow put it all together in the third inning.

Chris Stewart walked, Gardner singled to advance Stewart to third and then Gardner swiped second base to set up yet another threat with runners at second and third and no outs.

Forgive the cynical Yankees fans for not being surprised when Suzuki struck out and Cano popped up to shallow left, leaving both Stewart and Gardner where they were.

But on a 1-2 count, Hafner stroked what might have been the biggest home run the Yankees have delivered since Aaron Boone’s solo shot off Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in 2003.

Hafner lit into a high breaking pitch and sent into the bleachers in left-center for what was only his third hit and his first home run since he hit his 10th on June 5 against his former Cleveland Indians. Further forgive the cynical Yankee fans for not believing what they they just witnessed.

But the inning continued when Wells singled and Lyle Overbay, pressed back into the lineup at first base in the absence of an injured Mark Teixeira, drove him home with a double off the wall in center. Jayson Nix then capped the rally with a lined single to left to score Overbay.

The Yankees had a 5-0 lead. Smelling salts and ammonia must have been used in great quantities all across the tri-state area for the team’s disbelieving fans.

The Yankees added a seemingly meaningless run at the time in the eighth inning off right-hander Jerome Williams when Cano led off with a double, moved to third on a Hafner groundout and scored on a deep fly ball off the bat of Wells.

But this is the 2013 Yankees, after all. So nothing is ever going to be that easy for them, right?

So fast-forward to the ninth with a determined Sabathia on the mound trying to close out his second complete-game victory of the season and a shutout of the Angels at that.

But Peter Bourjos singled and Trout doubled within just eight pitches and Sabathia left in favor of right-handed setup man David Robertson. Surely, this game would end soon or would it?

But Pujols lined a single so hard off Robertson’s back that it caromed all the way to Suzuki in right-field to score Bourjos and end Sabathia’s shutout.

After Robertson got the hot-hitting Yankee-killer Howie Kendrick to strike out swinging, he walked pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck to load the bases.

Exit Robertson and enter Rivera looking for his 24th save in 25 chances in what would be his last appearance at the “Big A.”

Rivera seemingly restored order by retiring Aybar on a bounce-out to Overbay at first that scored Trout but left two out.

However, neither the “baseball gods’ or the Halos were quite through toying with the fragile psyche of the Yankees  –  not to mention their fans who just cleared their heads from the salts and ammonia from the five-run outburst in the third inning.

In quick succession, Alberto Callaspo floated a single into right to score two runs, pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe plopped a bloop single to left to put two runners on with two out and Bourjos followed with a feather-soft looper to left to score Callaspo.

Yep, the Angels managed three hits off the great Rivera but none of them could have broken a pane of glass and they came off the bat as if the ball were struck with wet newspapers.

Trout then got Girardi and the Yankees reaching for the Rolaids when he drew a walk to load the bases. The paid crowd of 41,204 did not know if they were witnessing a cruel close to Rivera’s career in Anaheim and a proud team about to commit “collective baseball suicide” by blowing a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth.

That left Rivera to face the Angels legendary Pujols.

It was as if Rivera had said to himself, “Enough fooling around.” There was no mystery in what pitch Pujols would be getting and he got three of them.

First, a 94-mile-per-hour cutter for a called strike. Then a 94-mph cutter Pujols could only foul off. Then as the crowd stood, the runners took their leads and Girardi and his team swallowed their hearts, Rivera delivered his final 94-mph missive plate-ward and Pujols swung hard for horsehide and only came up with California air for strike three.

As Stewart raced out to congratulate Rivera, the 43-year-old future Hall of Fame closer did not smile. He knew it was a victory but he would have to admit it was more of an escape.

But this Yankee team will take it.

Despite the fact they had lost five games in a row. Despite the fact they had lost 13 of their previous 20 games. Despite the fact the lineup looks like the Yankees are playing a split-squad game in Dundin, FL, in March, the Yankees are still 38-31 on the season.

They are in third place in the American League East behind the first-place Boston Red Sox and the second-place Baltimore Orioles. But they are a mere two games behind the Red Sox in the loss column.

The Angels are in even worse shape. They are 30-39 and are 11 games out in fourth place in the A.L. West.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was nice to see Sabathia basically take the team on his back and carry them to victory despite what happened in the ninth. The team ace is supposed to stop the bleeding and that is exactly what Sabathia did on Sunday. If the Yankees could ask anything more of the 32-year-old left-hander it would be for him to string together about four or five more just like them.
  • Hafner’s home run was a big hit for him just as much as it was for the Yankees. Hafner, 36, began May hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. But he hit just .179 in May and was hitting an anemic .111 in June. His demise may not be over but the Yankees still need him to provide power and production in the middle of the lineup. He is now hitting .221 and he is lot better hitter than that.
  • The unsung hero of this team has been Nix. All Nix did on Sunday was deliver three of the Yankees’ nine hits, he drove in a run with a two-out hit and he started a nifty 5-4 double play off the bat of Aybar in the fifth inning that erased a situation of two runners on with no outs. Nix is hitting .259 with a homer and 19 RBIs. But his numbers don’t tell the whole story of how he gets clutch hits, is solid in the field and he plays the game wisely.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I do not care that the Yankees’ three best pitchers (Sabathia, Robertson and Rivera) nearly blew a lead in the ninth and that Reid Brignac was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a double play to lower his season average to .182. This win was needed and it erases a lot of very bad play on this road trip.

BOMBER BANTER

There was some good news and some and potential bad news about Teixeira’s sore right wrist. An MRI taken in New York indicated only inflammation and no tear in the sheath that he sustained in March. Teixeira was given a cortisone injection and he will be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff in New York on Tuesday. There is a good possibility that Teixeira will have to be placed on the 15-day disabled list but Girardi is happy to know he does not need season-ending surgery on the wrist at this time. Teixeira was removed in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game when he complained about soreness in the wrist. Overbay will play first base until Teixiera returns to the lineup.

ON DECK

The Yankees will lick their wounds, literally, with a day off on Monday before opening a two-game series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (3-5, 4.89 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Hughes has been up and down all season and his start on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics was a downer. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings and he gave up three runs on four hits and five walks. Hughes has never faced the Dodgers.

Hughes will be opposed by left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-2, 2.85 ERA). Ryu was roughed up against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, yielding three runs on 11 hits in six innings. Ryu has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.

 

 

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