Figgins, K-Rod help take 2 of 1st 3 at Stadium
The weekend started and ended ugly for the Yankees in their 4 games series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The series finale is this evening with Randy Johnson looking to salvage a split of the series. John Lackey gets the nod for the Angels.
The games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon were similar and followed a trend that has haunted the Yankee teams of recent years. Throw a kid out there, especially one that doesn't throw hard, and the Yankees won't touch him. Friday night's Yankee tamer was Joe Saunders who was making just his 6th big league start. Corey Lidle, battling a stomach virus, was as shaky as his insides. He surrendered a solo shot to Garret Anderson in the 2nd and a 2-run blast to Maicer Itzuris in the 3rd.
Lidle was pulled after 4 innings and replaced by the man who is literally weighing down the bullpen, Sidney Ponson. Trailing 3-1, Ponson threw some fuel on the fire, probably to start a barbecue, and within moments the Yankees trailed 6-1. Bringing in Ponson was Joe Torre's 1st mistake. His 2nd was letting Nick Green hit for himself after Sal Fasano's 2-run double cut the lead in half in the 7th. It was fine to give Robinson Cano a day off with a day game on Saturday, but since he pinch-hit in the 9th there was no reason he couldn't pinch-hit in the 7th. Green hit into a double play with help from the slow-footed Fasano and the Yankees were done for the night as Francisco Rodriguez picked up the final 4 outs. Yankee killer Chone Figgins - 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 stolen base.
Saturday's game was a lot brighter as was the sunshine. Jaret Wright did his usual Houdini act for 5+ innings and came out to protect his sore back. The Yankees only scored in one inning, but it was enough as the bullpen did the job. Robinson Cano smacked a 3-run home run deep into the right-center bleachers in the 2nd. Later in the inning Johnny Damon belted his 16th with a man aboard for a 5-1 lead. Four Yankee pitchers held the Angels to 4 hits with Mariano Rivera picking up his 30th save. Figgins - 0-3 with a walk and run scored. A-Rod also managed to pick up his 20th error.
The start of Sunday's game was a portend of things to come. Chone Figgins led off the ball game with a solo home run off of Chien-Ming Wang. The Wanger struggled for the 2nd straight start. E-Rod helped out though. Howie Kendrick followed Figgins home run with a bouncer to the left side between short and third. Rodriguez got there, but misplayed it. It was generously scored a hit and the Angels took advantage as Juan Rivera and Adam Kennedy singled in runs for a 3-0 1st inning lead.
Jered Weaver worked his rookie magic against the Yankees - though he came with a stud rep just as Florida's Anibel Sanchez had. Weaver limited the Yankees to hit 3 hits over 6 innings, struck out 8, and improved to 8-0 with a 2.14 ERA.
Craig Wilson's solo home run cut the lead to 3-1, but Rivera and Kendrick added RBI singles for a 5-1 lead. Rodriguez and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back 2-out home runs in the 9th to cut the margin to 5-3, but K-Rod retired Jorge Posada on a fly to left for his 30th save. Figgins - 3-4 1 RBI, 3 runs scored, 1 stolen base.
With the Red Sox sweep of the Orioles, the Yankees lead in the AL East is down to 1 game.
Jorge Posada's collar on Sunday left him in an 0-23 skid. His average has dropped from .289 to .262.
Octavio Dotel threw a scoreless inning of relief for Triple-A Columbus on Sunday as he continues his rehab. Hideki Matsui was told by doctors on Friday to shut it down for 10 days to rest his surgically repaired left wrist. Gary Sheffield worked out at 1st base on Sunday with assistance from gold glover Don Mattingly.
Philip Hughes tossed 5 more shut out innings on Sunday as he continues to progress as the system's stud prospect.