ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, this was not great. While the New York Yankees didn’t lose much of their advantage in the wild card lead, they did lose some ground in the AL East race. One can’t afford to lose a game, let alone a series, to the Los Angeles Angels at this point, if you’re going to catch the Tampa Bay Rays. One huge positive though was their ace, who will now likely have to pitch them into the ALDS.
These games are how you lose a division. It’s difficult to fathom how the Yankees dropped this 8-7 decision to the Angels. The Angels, without Mike Trout, pitching a bullpen game and a team that recently lost to the Baltimore Orioles, managed to scrap this one out.
After being staked to a 2-0 advantage in the first frame, Corey Kluber initially looked sharp in his return. Kluber no-hit the Halos for the first 3.1 frames until the wheels fell off. Los Angeles dropped five runs on Kluber in the fourth frame, with the big blow being a Jack Mayfield grand slam.
On a macro level, I supposed you have to let Kluber work through it and build himself up. On a micro level, you’re trying to win the AL East. If he still has to build up, maybe do that in Scranton or throw those last 15 pitches in the bullpen like a spring training start. I mean, this also would’ve been a perfect spot for Luis Gil to get the nod too.
Luckily for the Yankees, the Angels bullpen is atrocious. During the fifth frame, RBI singles by DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton evened the game at five apiece.
Alas, instead of going to the good part of the pen, manager Aaron Boone opted to go with the man Kluber replaced in the rotation, Andrew Heaney. Like clockwork, the first batter Heaney faced, Shohei Ohtani, went yard to right. No shame in that but oh so predictable. The Angels would add to that advantage in the sixth inning after a Juan Lagares RBI triple.
Yet, the pendulum would swing back as Stanton smoked a Junior Guerrera 2-0 slider into the rock pile for a two-run tater and equalizer.
However, the Angels would have the last laugh. After Brandon Marsh singled off Wandy Peralta, with two down, Clay Holmes yielded a go-ahead RBI single to Lagares to left on a hanging slider. Astonishingly, the 6-9 hitters on the Angels collected six hits and drove in six of the eight runs on the evening.
It was almost a mirror image from the first game in the Yankees 6-4 loss to the Angels, except they didn’t hit nearly enough. How they banged into five double plays and went 1-for-10 with RISP is beyond me.
New York actually claimed the lead in this one as Rizzo took Jaime Barria above the home run line in right for a solo shot in the fourth frame.
Jameson Taillon more or less followed Kluber’s outing. He tossed three clean frames and everything fell apart in the fourth inning. Jared Walsh delivered the big blow with a three-run homer to right.
While Gary Sanchez pulled the Bronx Bombers closer with a homer to left in the fifth frame, Taillon couldn’t find an out pitch in the fifth inning.
Taillon allowed a two-run single to Phil Gosselin, as well as a “Little League” play delayed double steal, as Ohtani stole home for the Halos sixth run. The outing was almost shades of Nathan Eovaldi in 2015-16, fading after not pitching a full season for a few years.
The Yankees added a couple more runs in the eighth inning on a Judge RBI single and a Stanton sac-fly but that was all for the scoring.
Gerrit Cole needed to be a stopper. A CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, El Duque, Jimmy Key, etc. He was all that and more in the Yankees’ 4-1 victory.
Not only was Cole dominant but he was free-flowing in his return to SoCal. Ohtani and Gosselin were among his three strikeout victims. Cole struck out the side twice and even pushed himself into the seventh inning, where he continued to work his wizardry on the Halos. The only real blip was a David Fletcher RBI double to center in the sixth inning.
When all was said and done, Cole tied David Cone’s 1998 mark with his ninth 10+ strikeout outing and posted the third (Michael Pineda vs. Baltimore in 2015 and Masahiro Tanaka vs. Toronto in 2017) start ever by a Yankee pitcher with 15+ Ks and zero bases on balls. He placed the team on his back and provided a huge sigh of relief in delivering a gem of a start.