Lieber (3-1) worked into the eighth inning Wednesday night, helping New York beat the Anaheim Angels 4-2. Jason Giambi hit a two-run homer in his return to the lineup, and the Yankees made several fine defensive plays.
“That’s how you’re going to win ballgames, with great defense behind you,” said Lieber, who gave up two runs and seven hits in 7 2-3 innings. “The guys made big plays, and the double play was probably the biggest play in the ballgame.”
With the game tied at 2 in the fifth, the Angels had runners at first and third. But speedy Chone Figgins grounded to first to start an inning-ending double play.
In the third, Alex Rodriguez made a diving play on a grounder at third and, still on his knees, threw out Figgins at first.
All that excellent defense made Lieber’s job much easier.
“We love playing behind him because he works so fast and he forces you to be on your toes,” shortstop Derek Jeter said. “He throws a lot of strikes and he comes right at them, so we’re not out there too long on defense.”
Mariano Rivera needed only five pitches—all strikes—in a perfect ninth to earn his AL-leading 15th save in 16 chances.
The Yankees broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth when Kevin Gregg walked Jeter with the bases loaded after replacing John Lackey. Hideki Matsui singled to start the rally, and Lackey walked Tony Clark and pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra before Gregg relieved.
Rodriguez gave New York a two-run lead with an RBI double off Ben Weber in the eighth.
New York manager Joe Torre was ejected in the sixth for arguing a called strike on Rodriguez. With the bases loaded, Rodriguez stepped away from the plate shaking his head after umpire Tim Timmons called strike two on a pitch that Rodriguez thought was low. Rodriguez then went down swinging.
“I said, `The ball’s too low,’ and I was motioning down below my shin, right above the ankle, and he threw me out,” Torre said. “Then I went out and explained to him, `The reason I did that was in case you couldn’t read my lips from back there.’
“I was surprised he threw me out without saying, `That’s enough,’ or something like that.”
Giambi, who had missed two games because of back spasms, was the designated hitter instead of starting at first base. He homered in the third inning to put the Yankees up 2-1.
His ninth homer of the year came after Rodriguez tripled off the wall in right-center with two outs. Guerrero, the Angels’ right fielder, had a play on the ball, but lunged too far as he tried to make the catch and the ball bounced off the wall past him.
Lackey (3-5) gave up three runs on five hits in 5 1-3 innings and walked a career-high six. He struck out four, losing to Lieber for the second time in seven games.
“When you walk 11 guys against a team like that, we were fortunate to hold them to four runs,” Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said. “It could have been worse.”
New York stranded 14 runners and left the bases loaded twice. Lackey got Miguel Cairo on a called third strike for the final out in the second inning,and Gregg struck out Rodriguez in the sixth.
Anaheim CF Garret Anderson, out since April 22, was diagnosed with arthritis. He will take medication and begin some light workouts in a week, but no timetable was set for his return. Anderson has had pain and stiffness in his neck, shoulder and upper back. … Torre’s previous ejection was June 5, 2003, by plate umpire Bruce Dreckman for arguing balls and strikes during a 10-2 win at Cincinnati. … New York RHP Steve Karsay threw two innings in a simulated game in Tampa, Fla., his first such action since rotator cuff surgery a year ago. … Also in Tampa, RHP Orlando Hernandez had his second bullpen session in three days. He received a cortisone shot for bursitis in his right shoulderthis month. Hernandez had shoulder surgery last May.