Yankees hold on for 6-5 win over Angels
It was a gorgeous day at Yankee Stadium Thursday. It also was an odd day.
The wind was blowing out to rightfield, creating a wind tunnel the likes of which had rarely been seen since the days of cheap home runs when the stadium opened in 2009. The Yankees and Angels took advantage with fly balls that became home runs.
The Angels, a team that rarely makes mistakes, made a huge defensive one. Both managers agreed it cost Los Angeles the game as much as the Robinson Cano grand slam it preceded.
Struggling Mariano Rivera was so upset with his performance after recording his 30th save that he said he didn't do his job because he allowed a three-run home run on the first pitch he threw.
In the end, the Yankees' 6-5 victory had plots and subplots galore. But the key moment of the whole afternoon took about a millisecond.
That sneeze-and-you-missed-it moment was Cano's tie-breaking grand slam in the seventh inning. It went out on a line and hit off the facing of the second deck. It wasn't wind-aided because it traveled so fast, it created its own wind.
"You could have a brick wall up,'' Nick Swisher said, "and that ball would have gone through it.''
Cano's 20th home run and fifth career grand slam came off lefthander Scott Downs and snapped a 2-2 tie. It came two pitches after Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis booted a slow grounder hit by Mark Teixeira for an error.
"This is probably one of the few games all year where not making a play defensively cost us,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It came out of the blue because [Izturis] has the best hands in the infield.''
Said Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "It's a big lift for us because obviously this is one of the teams we're competing against for a playoff spot. The extra out cost them the game. They don't make many mistakes. Robbie Cano really took advantage of it.''
The Yankees took that 6-2 lead into the ninth. Because it wasn't a save situation, Girardi started the inning with Cory Wade, but he called on Rivera after a pair of one-out hits put runners on second and third.
Rivera was coming off two subpar outings -- a blown save Sunday night in Boston and a loss Tuesday night in which he allowed a tiebreaking two-run home run to Bobby Abreu.
The back-to-back missteps spawned a series of "What's Wrong With Mariano?'' questions -- questions that could have been put to rest with a clean outing.
Instead, Rivera's first pitch was hit over the rightfield fence by pinch hitter Russell Branyan for a three-run home run. Rivera stood on the mound, a perplexed look on his face, as Branyan circled the bases and Yankees fans squirmed in their seats.
But wait a minute. Even Scioscia agreed that Branyan's drive, like Curtis Granderson's two-run shot in the sixth inning, was more high than far before it "got up in that jet stream. That thing just flies out of here when it does that. It's not a forgiving park.''
Rivera wasn't in a forgiving mood, either, even after he retired the next two batters for his 30th save.
"I can care less about that stuff,'' Rivera said. "I can care less. It's more that I do my job. That's what I want. Lately, I haven't done it. The saves and that stuff, it's OK, but it won't make me, it won't break me. You know what I mean? But games like this, they get me upset because I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing.''
(And that's from the guy whose team won. See what we mean by odd?)
In the end, most Yankees were able to enjoy the series-winning victory. Bartolo Colon allowed two runs in six innings. Rafael Soriano (2-1) got the win with his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance since coming off the DL. Cano and Derek Jeter had three hits each. Granderson's home run was his 32nd of the season and fourth in three days.
The Yankees moved to within one game of the idle Red Sox in the AL East and expanded their wild-card lead to eight games over the Angels and 81/2 games over the Rays, who come to the Bronx Friday night for the start of a three-game series.
"It's big for us to play well against everyone at this point in the season,'' Jeter said. "We need to continue to play well.''