Monday, August 14, 2006

Yanks Drop Series to Halo's, Division Lead Cut to 1

After a third straight hit and second roller through the infield in the first inning, Jorge Posada walked to the mound and put his arm around Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang.

While Wang's final line -- a career-high 13 hits and five earned runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings -- is unsightly, 12 of those hits were singles. For the most part, Wang looked OK.

But he wasn't as good as Angels rookie Jered Weaver on this day. The Yankees mustered just three hits until there were two outs in the ninth, when Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back solo homers to summon closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Posada flied out to end the comeback try as the Yankees lost, 5-3, on Sunday afternoon and saw their lead in the American League East shrink to one game. The Yankees have lost four of their past six games after winning 10 of their previous 12.

The Yankees are now 2-5 against the Angels this season and 1-2 in the four-game series heading into the finale Monday.

Wang lost his first game since July 3, but he's had back-to-back rough outings. He gave up four earned runs in five innings against the White Sox in his previous start for a no-decision.

Manager Joe Torre said he was surprised when Wang, who had a 1.74 ERA in his first time through the lineup entering the game, allowed three runs in the first inning. But that doesn't mean Torre's worried.

Wang said he felt he pitched better Sunday than in his last start. The lone extra-base hit was a leadoff solo homer by Chone Figgins on Wang's second pitch of the game, a sinker that didn't sink enough.

But the Angels didn't stop there. They followed with a bouncer to Rodriguez that he said he could have made the play on, but it got past the third baseman. It was ruled a single, the first of five in the inning.

Rodriguez could have gotten the second out of the inning when Juan Rivera rounded too far past first base, but in an effort to keep Vladimir Guerrero from scoring from third, A-Rod waited too long to throw the ball to first, allowing Rivera to scamper back.

But despite the misplays and ground-ball hits, the damage could have been much worse. The first out came when Guerrero hit a chopper in front of the plate. Wang flipped the ball home to get an out, and Posada applied the tag with the ball rolling around in his catcher's mask.

The Angels followed with three more singles to load the bases before Wang induced his specialty, a ground-ball double play, to end the inning with the Angels ahead 3-0.

Weaver improved to 8-0 in his rookie season with six brilliant innings. Despite a fastball that only hits the high 80s, Weaver struck out eight batters and allowed just three hits and one run.

The Yankees have struggled to figure out rookie starters all season. First-year hurlers now have a combined 3.73 ERA and 7-5 record against the Yanks this year.

The only three hits Weaver allowed were a homer by Craig Wilson in the fifth, an opposite-shift tap by Giambi and a single up the middle by Jeter. Even after Weaver exited, the Yankees didn't get another hit until A-Rod's homer with two outs in the ninth.

Wang, who missed 52 games from July 13 through Sept. 6 last season with shoulder inflammation, said he feels fine physically. Wang entered the game having pitched the sixth-most innings in the American League.

Wang was lifted in the sixth after giving up his third single of the inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Ron Villone struck out Orlando Cabrera swinging and got a flyout from Guerrero to end the threat and keep the Yankees behind 5-1.

But the Angels' bullpen was solid once again, despite the back-to-back homers.

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BallHype: hype it up! Posted by Steve Kenul at 7:30 AM


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