Successful baseball teams usually find some interesting ways to win games. But the Yankees might have shaken their heads in disbelief about how they pushed across the go-ahead run in their 3-2 win over the Angels Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.
In a game that began as a pitchers' duel between two of the game's brightest young righthanders in Masahiro Tanaka and the Angels' Garrett Richards, the Yankees -- who had only three hits -- received plenty of help in the eighth.
After Michael Kohn sandwiched walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran around a strikeout of Derek Jeter to start the inning, lefthander Nick Maronde came in to face Brian McCann. And without McCann even making contact, the Yankees scored the go-ahead run.
"So many things happened, I don't even know," McCann said.
First, Maronde threw a 1-and-0 fastball down the middle for a called strike that catcher Chris Iannetta missed. He looked crossed up on the pitch, expecting a breaking ball. The ball bounced to the backstop, putting runners at second and third.
Then, on a 1-and-2 pitch, Maronde threw a breaking ball that bounced several feet in front of the plate. Iannetta couldn't block that one, either, understandably this time. The ball bounced toward the Yankees' dugout and Ellsbury scored to make it 3-2.
The Yankees thought the speedy Ellsbury got into Maronde's head, affecting his rhythm and comfort in a pressure situation. "It's a hassle watching him on the bases and knowing what he can do, making the pitcher hurry and putting pressure on the catcher,'' Joe Girardi said. "He affects the inning with his speed, no doubt about it.''
Said Mark Teixeira, "Anything to throw off your rhythm, your timing, it's disruptive to the pitcher."
McCann was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and third, but Alfonso Soriano hit into a double play. Nevertheless, the Yankees had all they needed for their 10th win in 14 games, as David Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
After striking out Ian Stewart, Robertson got ahead of Iannetta 0-and-2 but walked him to conclude a 10-pitch plate appearance. J.B. Shuck grounded to second and Raul Ibañez couldn't check his swing on a 1-and-2 curveball, striking out to end it.
Earlier, Tanaka struck out 11 in 61/3 innings, although he allowed four extra-base hits, and Richards routinely lit up the radar gun in the high 90s.
At the point that Tanaka departed with one out in the seventh, it was advantage Richards. The Angels were clinging to a 2-1 lead, thanks to a home run by David Freese on Tanaka's first pitch of the sixth, moments after the Yankees had tied it at 1-1.
But Teixeira ensured that the Angels' lead wouldn't last long. Leading off the seventh, he launched a home run into the second deck in right. "I haven't had a swing like that in quite a while," he said, "since before the [wrist] surgery, or before the injury, really, so it's a good sign."
Tanaka entered with only two walks in 291/3 innings but was unusually wild, walking four and hitting a batter. He was at his best when the Angels had runners on base, which was the case in each of his first six innings. "The guy really competes," Girardi said.
The Angels loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Tanaka got out of it with only one run scoring by getting Shuck to ground into a force at second and striking out Collin Cowgill.
The Yankees tied it at 1 in the fifth when Teixeira walked, reached third on a one-out double by Brian Roberts and scored on Ichiro Suzuki's groundout.
Richards entered with the fastest average fastball in the majors this season at 96 mph. But his fastball to Teixeira came in at 94, and that was enough of a difference for Teixeira to turn on it.