New York Yankees' Starlin Castro tosses his bat after striking out during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Back in the 1800’s, Horace Greeley was credited with the saying, “Go West, young man“. Apparently, the politician/newspaper magnate never saw a Yankees’ western road swing. The Yankees would be better off listening to LL Cool J, who famously rapped, “I’m going back to Cali, yea y’all, I don’t think so“. The ladies love cool James and LL loves the Yankees.
The Yankees’ latest trip to the Golden State was especially cruel, losing six straight after winning the opener against the Angels. Anaheim – you may call yourself Los Angeles, but you are in Anaheim – has been an especially rotten 21st-century host to the Yankees.
It’s bad enough when you lose a game to any team, but when you blow a lead and the game close to 1 a.m. on the East Coast, the ensuing rant contains words that should not be said in front of young children. This most recent trip was typical of what Yankees fans have witnessed out West.
The one win on the trip came about when Aaron Judge salvaged a blown 3-1 lead to the Angels with a game-winning two-run home run. The next night, the Halos won in 11 innings after Tyler Clippard surrendered a game-tying home run to light-hitting Eric Young Jr. in the 8th inning. The series finale saw Michael Pineda get rocked after he was handed a 4-0 lead.
Anaheim isn’t the only place where weird things happen out West for the Yankees. A number of years ago, the Yankees were continuously tortured at the Seattle Kingdome. Last week’s road trip ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s, who had entered the series 11 games under .500. It wasn’t the first time things went awry for the Yankees in the Bay area either. In 2007, with the Yankees up 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Mariano Rivera surrendered a two-out, two-strike, three-run home run to Marco Scutaro to lose 5-4.
But, whether it’s known as Anaheim Stadium, the Big A, Edison International Field, or Angel Stadium, the Yankees have a history of stumbling in Anaheim. Since 2000, the Yankees record is 34-43 in the regular season when they have been the visitors at Angel Stadium. The Yankees have dropped 15 of 24 series there, with the two teams splitting a four-game series.
Even Rivera couldn’t avoid the Anaheim headaches. Back in 2001, the Yankees led the Angels 6-4 in the 8th inning. Rivera entered the game with a runner on second and gave up a single to cut the lead to one run. The Angels tied the game against him in the 9th and beat Mike Stanton in the 10th.
Remember the wonderful 1998 season? The Yankees won an unreal 114 regular season game. They won six of seven over the Rangers and Indians to advance to the World Series, where they swept the Padres. But, things weren’t so peachy back at the start of the regular season. The Yankees lost two straight games in Anaheim and one in Oakland to start the season 0-3. After losing the first four of five games of the year, owner George Steinbrenner was already speaking in threatening tones.
Let’s hop ahead seven years. Sorry, Frank Sinatra, but 2005 was not “…a very good year”. The Yankees won the AL East on the next to last day of the season, beating Boston in a tie-breaker. Okay, that was a pretty good part of the year. In July, however, the Yankees dropped three of four to the Halos in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Cal-ee-for-nee-ya”.
Later that year, the two teams met in the first round of the playoffs. The Yankees trailed in the series 2-1 but won Game 4 to set up a fifth and deciding game in Anaheim. The Yankees took an early 2-0 lead but fell 5-3 and were eliminated from the postseason.
Three years earlier, in 2002, the Angels went through the Yankees in the Division Series and won their first World Series title. The Yankees entered the series as the four-time defending AL pennant winners. New York won Game 1 and was up 5-4 in Game 2. Then the Angels proved that they could overcome leads at Yankee Stadium, too.
Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon hit back-to-back home runs off of Orlando Hernandez to start off the 8th inning and to put the Angels ahead for good. Game 4 was at the “House of Horrors” back on the West Coast and it lived up to my unofficial nickname for it. The Yankees built a 6-1 lead in the early going, but Mike Mussina couldn’t get past the 4th inning.
The Yankees clung to a 6-5 lead until the 7th when Scot Spiezio singled off Mike Stanton to tie the game. The Angels added two more runs in the 8th, including another Salmon home run, and the Angels won 9-6.
The Yankees grabbed a 2-1 lead in Game 5 but disaster struck in the 5th inning. David Wells surrendered a game-tying home run to Shawn Wooten. With one out, the Angels then reeled off five straight singles to take a 4-2 lead. Ramiro Mendoza gave up a couple more hits before the eight-run inning mercifully ended. In losing, the Yankees didn’t make it past the Division Series for the first time since 1997.
The Yankees exacted some big-time revenge in 2009 when they topped the Angels in the ALCS, but they did lose two of three in Anaheim. And, of course, both games were one-run defeats.
For now, the good news is (postseason aside) the Yankees don’t return to Anaheim until 2018. And, not everything about the Angels and Anaheim is bad. Is it tampering to say I hope one day, while he’s still in his prime, Mike Trout becomes a Yankee?