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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pyhrric Victory: Angels 10, Yankees 6

The Angels' four unearned runs in this game were the difference; the first came in the fifth inning, when Juan Rivera reached on a godawful throw by A-Rod that went well wide of the bag. Kendry Morales went yard to cash him and Bobby Abreu in as well, making it 6-4 and giving the Angels, who had suffered through yet another crappy pitching performance by Joe Saunders, their first real look at the game.

The second error was by far the most costly, and came as a consequence of Yankees manager Joe Girardi electing to pinch-hit Jorge Posada for shortstop Cody Ransom in the seventh. That immediate move worked — Posada walked — but when Girardi called for another pinch hitter, Hideki Matsui, the latter flied out to right (hard, and it took a good play by Abreu to catch it), it forced his hand with Jeter, who took the shortstop position. Jeter's defense has been a laughingstock for years (except among the most partisan Yankee fans, i.e. a large percentage of their fan base), and he promptly proved it on Mike Napoli's routine one-out pop to short.

Or, that's what it should have been. Joba Chamberlain faced his final batter of the game, getting Gary Matthews, Jr. to ground out to first, but then Mark Melancon came in to face Jeff Mathis (who walked on four pitches), and then Erick Aybar did something unexpected and wonderful that involved a ball flying over the short fence in right. Even more amazing, earlier in the at-bat he missed that same home run by only a few feet, so whatever was going on, he had Melancon pretty well sussed out.

So, the Angels fairly stomped on the Yankees, and the relief pitching was largely good, with the exception of Kevin Jepsen, who gave up a run on three hits and a walk while making only two outs. Even Justin Speier contributed an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief, and Brian Fuentes nailed down a save by facing the only batter of the ninth inning that Speier did not, Posada.

But the sad thing was Joe Saunders' godawful start. We came to the park with my parents, and a friend of theirs who was having a birthday. They sat far away from us in the low 400's somewhere, and after we ate our dinners at the Home Plate Club, we went our separate ways until walking back to the car. It was so bad after two innings I was seriously thinking about calling a cab and heading home. While I'm glad I didn't, I was reminded how the Angels now have three of their starting five — if indeed the Angels really do have five — in a really bad way, what with Lackey, Santana, and Saunders unable to make a start without blowing up every time. The time off will do all three some good.

The other bad thing to come of this game was Juan Rivera getting lifted in the eighth for Reggie Willits, for he has injured his adductor and is now considered day-to-day. The abyss seems to beckon these days, it really does.

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