For that, the teams can thank two of baseball’s best bullpens.
The Angels make their first visit of the season to New York when they take on the Yankees in a matchup of AL powerhouses.
Anaheim completed its first four-game sweep in seven years Sunday and opened up a 2 1/2 -game lead in the AL West with an 8-4 victory over Tampa Bay. Utilityman Jeff DaVanon homered and drove in four runs for the Angels, who have won 15 of 17 and are two victories shy of the franchise’s record winning streak, set in June 1964.
That’s due in large part to the bullpen, which has made the Angels all but unbeatable in the later innings. Anaheim’s top three relievers, Francisco Rodriguez, Kevin Gregg and closer Troy Percival, have allowed four combined earned runs and posted an 0.81 ERA.
Anaheim’s overpowering bullpen has been all the more important because of the rash of injuries that has hit the team. First baseman Darin Erstad has joined fellow stars Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon on the disabled list, and outfielder Jose Guillen, who homered for the fourth time in six games Sunday, had to be carted off the field in the seventh inning with a sprained left knee and ankle.
“It’s weird to have won 15 out of 17 and have the mood in here that we have now,” said left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who won his fifth straight start Sunday. “Every year, it seems like something like this happens to us. It’s got to stop sometimes, but we’ll keep plugging away. Guys will have to step up, and the pitchers will have to do the same.”
The Yankees have also suffered some key injuries this season, but like the Angels, have been able to count on three dominant relief pitchers as they’ve climbed back to within a half-game of first-place Boston in the division. Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera have combined for a 2.00 ERA in 55 innings, which has been crucial as New York’s rotation has struggled to find consistency.
The Yankees completed a 4-2 West Coast trip Sunday by rallying from a 6-0 deficit for a 7-6 victory over Seattle. Slumping Derek Jeter hit a tying two-run homer in the seventh, Jason Giambi added a three-run shot and Alex Rodriguez also homered for New York.
“You want to help and I haven’t really been helping offensively lately,” said Jeter, who is hitting .186 after going 2-for-5 on Sunday. “I just want to be comfortable at the plate and today I was comfortable.”