Well that was close. The Yankees jumped out to another early lead last night, extended that lead to a comfortable level heading into the 9th inning, and almost gave it all away before getting the final 3 outs and pulling out a series-opening win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California.
Jered Weaver was the Angels' starter and he has an ugly history pitching in Yankee Stadium. He doesn't throw very hard anymore and he really wasn't fooling anybody last night. With 1 on and 2 out in the bottom of the 2nd, he threw a slow 2-strike curveball to Stephen Drew. It's the type of pitch Drew has been missing all season but he didn't miss this one, driving the ball just over the wall for a Short Porch Special home run and a 2-0 Yankee lead. The exact same situation was repeated the next inning, with Mark Teixeira hitting the home run this time, and the Yanks quickly went up 4-0.
That was plenty of room to work with for Nathan Eovaldi through 5 innings. Featuring a splitter that we haven't seen in heavy rotation recently, Eovaldi worked around some bad defense and extra baserunners by keeping the ball mostly in the infield and he looked like he was primed to turn in another good outing. Then he lost the plate in the 6th, walking 3 straight batters to load the bases with 1 out and ending his night prematurely. Chasen Shreve came on to escape the jam with only 1 run crossing the plate for Anaheim, but it was a disappointing end to what started out as a very promising night for Eovaldi.
No matter. The Yankee offense kept tacking on extra insurance runs in the middle and late innings. Alex Rodriguez had an RBI single in the 5th, Didi Gregorius hit a sac fly in the 6th, Drew hit ANOTHER home run (solo shot) in the 7th, and Chris Young poked a pinch hit ribbie single in the 8th. Heading into the 9th inning, it was all Yankees and Joe gave the ball to Esmil Rogers to wrap things up and get 3 outs against the bottom of the Anaheim order.
That proved to be the worst plan ever. In a matter of 6 pitches, Rogers gave up a single, double, single to get the Angels rally started. In fairness, the third hit was an infield popup that Jose Pirela and Chase Headley let fall between them, but Rogers was still terrible. He walked the next batter and then gave up a legit base hit to make it 8-3 and bring Joe out of the 'pen again. 5 batters faced, no outs recorded, bases left loaded. Hard to be worse than that in a low-leverage situation.
Dellin Betances got the call for the mid-inning fire and he wasn't much better than Rogers initially, going single, walk, walk to make it 8-6 Yankees. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Anaheim pulled within 1 on a run-scoring groundout, and Betances finally nailed it down with another strikeout. It was bullpen meltdown 101 and it almost cost the Yankees the game.
- Big night at the plate for A-Rod: 4-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 R. His RBI was his 1.997th of his career, moving him into 2nd place on the all-time MLB RBI list. He's also just 10 hits away from 3,000.
- Big night for the offense all-around. Everybody in the lineup had at least 1 hit except Didi, everybody got on base at least once, Brett Gardner had 2 hits and 2 R scored, and Drew had his 2 homers.
- Insert joke about how much more time Drew bought himself with the 2 dingers here.
- Betances finally got charged with his first ER of the season, pushing his ERA up to a massive 0.30. He also only struck out 2 batters. Bum.
- Speaking of which, Rogers. Good grief that was terrible. His ERA is up to 6.39 on the season now and I have to imagine his time in pinstripes is coming to an end very soon, perhaps as soon as today. If you can't get 3 outs against a team's bench players with a 7-run lead, you shouldn't be on a Major League roster.
- Although I would like to point out that Eovaldi should take some of the heat for this too. He was pitching well and could have pitched into the 7th if he doesn't completely lose his control and walk the yard in the 6th inning. If he gets a few more outs, Joe can probably get through the rest of the game with Shreve and Lindgren. Eovaldi's pitched 10 innings in his last 2 starts. That's not good enough.