Los Angeles (87-56) cut its magic number for the division crown to two with a 12-1 win in the opener of this three-game series Monday. The Angels will clinch a tie for the AL West with a victory Tuesday, and will earn the outright crown if second-place Texas also loses Tuesday at Seattle.
Brandon Wood homered twice and Vladimir Guerrero and Sean Rodriguez also connected Tuesday for Los Angeles, which improved to 4-0 at home against New York (76-68) this season. The Angels also clinched the season series versus the Yankees for the fifth straight season.
The dustup began when Hunter came home on Mike Napoli’s grounder to third and bumped into Rodriguez, who tagged him out.
Rodriguez appeared to nudge Hunter with his left elbow after the tag, then walked toward the mound. Hunter turned, took a few steps and pushed Rodriguez in the back - hard. The catcher whipped off his mask and charged at Hunter, but was restrained by plate umpire Ted Barrett while missing on a wild swing.
Both benches and bullpens cleared, with players milling in a mass at the plate.
Rodriguez and Hunter later met during the game to clear the air.
“Torii is a nice guy. We apologized to each other,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very professional player and so am I. I’ve been in baseball for 18 years and I’ve never started a fight. I compete and I compete hard. And sometimes when you compete hard, things like that happen.”
New York shortstop Derek Jeter remains one hit shy of moving past Babe Ruth for second place on New York’s all-time list. Both players still have 2,518 after Jeter went 0-for-3 with a walk Monday.
Ervin Santana (15-5, 3.23 ERA) will start for Los Angeles in place of Jered Weaver, who has cuts on two fingers of his pitching hand suffered in a freak injury in the dugout at Detroit last week. Santana is unbeaten since the start of August, going 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his last seven starts.
That run started when he earned a 1-0 win over New York on Aug. 1. The right-hander allowed five hits over eight innings to improve to 5-1 with a 4.72 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees, whom he’s beaten in all three career home outings.
Santana can match his career high for victories in a season, accomplished in 2006. He has won his last two starts, including Thursday’s 7-1 victory in Detroit in which he gave up one run over 7 1-3 innings.
“He’s as consistent as any pitcher I’ve seen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s approaching 30 starts, and he’s throwing as well as he did in start five or six.”
Santana is second in the AL with 191 strikeouts, including 34 in his last four starts.
New York will give Alfredo Aceves (0-0, 1.29) his first major league start. Aceves has made two appearances out of the bullpen, allowing one run and seven hits.
The 25-year-old right-hander is taking the place of Darrell Rasner. Aceves was signed from the Mexican League on March 10.