ANAHEIM, Calif. — A bullpen Joe Girardi described as “pretty fried” before the game got burned by its newest addition.
Ronald Herrera, a 22-year-old righty called up from Double-A Trenton earlier in the day and making his big-league debut, handled the first two batters he faced, needing two pitches to do so.
Up came Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar, and down just as quickly they went.
But a five-pitch walk to Luis Valbuena followed and then a hanging curveball to Andrelton Simmons, which the star shortstop didn’t miss.
He sent it deep into the warm California night for a back-breaking two-run homer that sent the Yankees to a 7-5 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 43,851 at Angels Stadium, a game also noteworthy for Michael Pineda being unable to hold a 4-0 first-inning lead.
“I was trying to get a strike there,” said Herrera, who found out about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday he was headed for the majors. “A little surprised that he swung at it and made such good contact.”
Girardi said of Herrera “it’s really what I had,” as he intended to stay away from Chad Green, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder.
“We knew the kid was going to pitch at some point today, we just didn’t know exactly when,” Girardi said.
It was a disappointing series loss for the Yankees (38-25), who before the game received word CC Sabathia, their hottest pitcher of late, had suffered a Grade 2 left hamstring strain in Tuesday’s loss and therefore would likely be lost for a minimum of four weeks and probably longer.
“I think it will be a lot less,” said Sabathia, who said he was “surprised” the MRI showed the Grade 2 strain.
The game had a crazy ending as it appeared Kole Calhoun ended things with a catch against the wall in right on an Aaron Hicks drive. But the Yankees challenged and a review overturned the out call. It showed the ball hitting the wall before going in Calhoun’s glove, so there came the rarely seen sight of a postgame congratulatory hand-shaking line, in this case the Angels’, being ushered off the field as play continued.
The Yankees could not take advantage of the break as Aaron Judge grounded to second to officially end it, allowing David Hernandez to record his first save.
“That’s a situation I want to be in,” said Judge, who went 1-for-4 and was thrown out at the plate on an ill-advised send in the fifth inning. “Runner on second, game on the line, it’s what you dream of.”
The Bombers have lost two straight since reaching their high-water mark of 15 games over .500 on Monday.
Now, in no way could the defeat be hung solely on Herrera.
After Gary Sanchez’s three-run homer in the first inning gave the Yankees, who got hits from their starting nine in accumulating 14 hits, a 4-0 lead, Pineda could not hold it.
He allowed one in the bottom of the first — and it could have been more as Hicks reached over the wall and brought back what would have been a grand slam by Luis Valbuena — two in the second and two in the third to surrender the lead.
Chase Headley’s RBI single in the sixth did tie it at 5 but it was an otherwise quiet night at the plate for the Yankees, who stranded seven.
Pineda did do well in lasting six innings and saving the bullpen to some degree. The righthander, 7-3 with a 3.39 ERA coming in, allowed five runs, 10 hits, matching his season-high, and one walk. With an inconsistent fastball and without his wipeout slider, Pineda struck out just two.
“Today was a really tough night for me,” Pineda said.
His offense could not capitalize on Angels starter Matt Shoemaker lasting just three innings, departing with two on and none out in the fourth after hurting himself covering first on an infield single by Didi Gregorius.
Righthander Parker Bridwell, a 25-year-old brought up from Triple-A Salt Lake Wednesday afternoon, got out of that jam and a couple of others. He allowed one run and seven hits over 3 2/3 innings.
Righty Blake Parker struck out two over 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The night had started so well for the Yankees.
Gardner led off with a single. After Hicks struck out, Judge, the night’s DH, lined a full-count splitter to left, putting runners at the corners for Matt Holliday. As Holliday swung and missed at a 1-and-2 pitch, Judge stole second. Holliday, starting at first base Wednesday, lifted a sacrifice fly to the track in center, 1-0. Sanchez then launched a 1-and-0 slider an estimated 441 feet to left-center, making it 4-0.
It gave Sanchez five homers and 16 RBIs in his last seven games and his seven homers in June are the most in baseball.
“He wasn’t down in the zone tonight for whatever reason,” Girardi said of Pineda. “I thought he actually battled really good, because it looked like he was going to get knocked out about the third inning and he ended up giving us six innings. But his location just wasn’t too good tonight.”