Written for Baseball Digest Online
Moses parting the Red Sea
Jesus turns water into wine
US hockey beats Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics
The Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim
While that last miracle may not be up to the caliber of the previous ones, the Yankees did indeed finally beat the Angels on their home turf last night, 6-5. Of course the victory wasn’t stress free as the Yankees blew a 5-0 lead before winning it on an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly in the 9th inning. The Yankees also clinched a playoff berth last night when the Texas Rangers lost to the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees also increased their lead in the AL East to six games ahead of the Boston Red Sox when the Sox lost to the Kansas City Royals for the second straight night.
The Yankees borrowed from the Angels’ aggressive play book to pull out the triumph. Brett Gardner singled off Matt Palmer and stole 2nd base, his 23rd successful theft in 28 attempts. A walk to Derek Jeter allowed Joe Girardi to play small ball, and it worked effectively when Johnny Damon bunted the runners over. A-Rod, who earlier had his his 580th career homer, hit a fly to center field off lefty Darren Oliver to bring home Gardner with the go ahead run.
Mariano Rivera, whose 36-game consecutive save chance streak ended in Seattle on Friday, walked Kendry Morales to start the 9th. But the Yankees closer then struck out Juan Rivera and Jorge Posada threw out would be base stealer Reggie Willits at 2nd base for a “strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out” double play. Rivera then retired Erick Aybar on a ground out to Robinson Cano for his 41st save.
It appeared that the Yankees might actually be in for cake walk when they jumped out to a 5-0 lead on home runs by Rodriguez, Posada, and Hideki Matsui. Chad Gaudin had relatively breezed through the first four innings in his best performance as a Yankee to date. But in the 5th he surrendered a solo home run to Yankees killer Chone Figgins, and two hits, a walk, and a run later he was out of the game in favor of Al Aceves.
Aceves was on the hill for the first time in eight days and it showed an inning later. Three singles in four at-bats, the last by Gary Matthews Jr., cut the Yankees lead to 5-3. Aceves than walked former teammate Bobby Abreu with the bases loaded to force in a run and Vlad Guerrero appeared to produce the go ahead hit when he ripped a ball down the 3rd base line. But Rodriguez dove to his right, snared the baseball and threw Guerrero out to save two, and possibly three runs.
The Yankees defense saved them in the 6th, but it came back to bite them in the 8th. A Cano error allowed Howie Kendrick to reach 1st base safely and then Jorge Posada threw a one-hopper into center field when Kendrick stole 2nd base. Just like that, the Angels had the tying run on 3rd with nobody out. Hughes retired Figgins on a pop up, but Maecir Izturis singled to right to the game at five apiece.
With the Yankees already 0-5 with runners in scoring position Rodriguez put the Yankees on the board in the 3rd when he followed Mark Teixeira’s single with his 27th home run of the season off of Halos’ starter Ervin Santana. Two batters later, Posada went deep with Hideki Matsui aboard for a 4-0 lead. Then it was Matsui’s turn in the 5th. Godzilla smoked his 28th home run of the season, with the total being evenly split before and after the All-Star break.
Derek Jeter picked up his 200th hit when he singled in the 4th inning. He now has seven 200-hit seasons, one shy of the team record held by, you guessed it, Lou Gehrig.
Alex Rodriguez is now three home runs by Mark McGwire for 8th place on the career home run list.
The Yankees will try to take the series tonight when they send A.J. Burnett to the mound against left-hander Scott Kazmir.