ANAHEIM, Calif. -- David Phelps more than did his job, giving a sputtering rotation a much-needed boost.
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It continued what it had started 3,000 miles away during a disappointing eight-game homestand, failing spectacularly in a 4-1 loss to the Angels on Monday night in front of 39,701 at Angel Stadium.
The Yankees (16-15) lost the game in the bottom of the eighth when Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton and Preston Claiborne combined to allow six walks, the final five in a row after two were out, and forced home three runs. The Angels (16-15) didn't have a hit in the inning and finished with only four.
But even before that, front and center was the top of the eighth against a tiring Jered Weaver when the Yankees loaded the bases with none out but could not snap a 1-1 tie.
The inning featured an explosive argument between Joe Girardi and plate umpire Laz Diaz regarding a called strike to Brett Gardner.
With the bases loaded after singles by Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Ichiro Suzuki, Weaver's 1-and-0 pitch to Gardner looked borderline. Diaz -- whose inconsistent strike zone included called high and low strikes and irritated both teams much of the night -- punched his arm forward, signaling a strike and upsetting Gardner. "I thought it was low,'' he said afterward, "but I'm not going to make excuses.''
Said Girardi, "It's the biggest pitch of the night to that point.''
Girardi yelled at Diaz from the bench and was promptly and emphatically tossed by Diaz. Girardi sprinted from the dugout and engaged in a nose-to-nose, expletive-filled argument, including a cap spike, with Diaz, a former Marine Corps reservist who gave as good as he got.
Girardi said that earlier in the game, Diaz "gave me the Mutombo'' finger wag when he complained about a pitch, part of what set him off in the eighth. "I'm not a kid. I don't need to be scolded,'' he said.
Three pitches later, the inning was over. Gardner struck out and Derek Jeter, 2-for-3 with a double to that point, hit the ball hard but grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
In the bottom of the eighth, with Collin Cowgill (who had walked) at second with two outs, Kelley intentionally walked Albert Pujols and then walked Raul Ibañez and Howie Kendrick to make it 2-1. Thornton walked John McDonald to force home another run and Claiborne walked Chris Iannetta to make it 4-1.
As Kelley departed the mound, he, like Girardi, was ejected by Diaz. Kelley declined to comment on Diaz, who Girardi said baited the pitcher as he walked off the mound.
"I made a lot of bad pitches," Kelley conceded.
The Yankees had an issue with Diaz in a game here in 2012 when, as punishment for arguing balls and strikes, he would not allow catcher Russell Martin to throw new baseballs back to his pitchers after foul balls.
"Nobody came to see Laz, I can tell you that," Girardi said Monday night.
"It happens from time to time," Jeter said of Girardi's complaints about Diaz. "There's games throughout the course of the year when one particular team is not happy with the strike zone. But we had our opportunities. Not many, but we had opportunities."
Phelps, making his first start of the season, was terrific, allowing one run and three hits in 51/3 innings. "I thought he pitched great," catcher Brian McCann said. "He had everything going tonight. He made one big pitch after another."
Weaver allowed one run and six hits in eight innings.
Kendrick, who brought a .351 career average (71-for-202) against the Yankees into the game, led off the fifth with a triple into the rightfield corner, a ball Ichiro misplayed as it hit the wall. Ian Stewart's grounder made it 1-0.
The Angels put runners on first and third with one out in the sixth, but Adam Warren picked up a foul pop and a grounder to escape the jam.
The Yankees tied it when Jeter led off the seventh with his fourth double of the season and scored on Mark Teixeira's line-drive single to right. It was Jeter's 1,882nd career run scored, tying him with Tris Speaker for 11th all-time.