Improbable rally falls short
Trailing by seven, Angels have a wild six-run ninth but can’t finish the comeback.
NEW YORK — The white flag went up in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday night with the Angels trailing the New York Yankees by seven runs. Manager Mike Scioscia pulled the top three hitters in his lineup, the heavily worked Erick Aybar, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, essentially conceding the game.
Then some wild and wacky stuff started happening at Yankee Stadium, where a routine popup dropped between two infielders, a pair of New York relievers couldn’t find the strike zone, and a seldomused Angels reserve with an .034 average banged a double off the left-field wall.
The Angels paired the Yankees’ charity with some clutch hits to forge an improbable six-run rally in the ninth, moving to the brink of a historic comeback before setup man Dellin Betances struck out pinch-hitter Carlos Perez with two on to save a nail-biter of an 8-7 victory for the Yankees.
“Oh man, our bench was alive,” Scioscia said. “We got close. We made them use some pitching, which is a plus. That ninth inning was fun, but unfortunately, we couldn’t push another run across.”
Jered Weaver put the Angels in a huge hole, giving up seven runs and nine hits, including three home runs, in 52⁄ innings, and reliever Edgar Ibarra was touched for a run in the seventh.
The Yankees sent mopup man Esmil Rogers out for the ninth with an 8-1 lead. Manager Joe Girardi pulled five-time Gold Glove Awardwinning first baseman Mark Teixeira and second baseman Stephen Drew. Third baseman Chase Headley moved to first, and Jose Pirela entered at second.
Johnny Giavotella singled to center, and Taylor Featherston, who replaced Aybar at shortstop, doubled to left for his second hit in 30 at-bats this season.
Grant Green, who replaced Trout in the second spot, followed with a popup to the right side. A miscommunication between Headley and Pirela allowed the ball to drop for a run-scoring single that made it 8-2.
Efren Navarro, who replaced Pujols, walked to load the bases, and Kole Calhoun singled for a run that made it 8-3. Out went Rogers. In came Betances, the big right-hander who hadn’t given up an earned run in 291⁄ innings over 26 appearances this season.
David Freese hit a tworun single to center to make it 8-5, Matt Joyce walked to load the bases, and Chris Iannetta walked on a fullcount pitch to force in a run that made it 8-6. The bases were still loaded. There were no outs. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was up.
“You’re down, 8-1, against a big league pitcher, there’s a slim-to-none chance we can come back,” Giavotella said. “But we battled back, we had great at-bats and just kept moving the line. … When we had the bases loaded and Kirk was up, I was like, ‘Man, this is right at our fingertips.’ ”
But it was just out of reach. Nieuwenhuis struck out, and shortstop Didi Gregorius made a backhand, diving stop of Giavotella’s grounder, throwing to second for a forceout as Freese scored to make it 8-7.
Scioscia, thinking the .309-hitting Perez would have a better chance of putting the ball in play than Featherston, sent the backup catcher up to hit. Perez struck out to end the game.
Had the Angels come back and won, it would have matched the largest ninthinning deficit overcome in franchise history, when they rallied for eight runs in the ninth and beat the Detroit Tigers, 13-12, on Dick Schofield’s walk-off grand slam on Aug. 29, 1986.
“If the lineup came around again, you’d like to have those guys back in the game,” Scioscia said of Aybar, Trout and Pujols. “But down 8-1 in the eighth, we’d do it again. We needed to get them off their feet. Those guys went in there and got it started for us, and they almost finished it off.”
MARK TEIXEIRA hits a two-run homer in the third for the Yankees, who almost let an 8-1 lead get away.