Angels 4, Yankees 3
Good thing for New York it’s not October yet.
“This is a playoff team. You need to go in and show you can play with them,” Angels closer Troy Percival said. “We ran into a New York team that isn’t playing its best ball—we know that. That’s when you need to take advantage.”
The Angels did exactly that, limiting the Yankees to four runs in the series and dominating their All-Star-laden lineup.
Gary Sheffield homered and had two RBIs for New York, which managed only four hits Sunday and was booed by a sellout crowd of 53,885.
“You have a red-hot team over there. They came in on their `A’ game and whipped (us),” Alex Rodriguez said.
New York lost for the sixth time in seven games and has been outscored 37-11 in the defeats. With Boston’s 6-5 victory in Chicago on Sunday night, the Yankees’ AL East lead dipped to 5 1/2 games for the first time since June 28.
They were ahead of the rival Red Sox by a season-high 10 1/2 games just a week earlier.
“I guess that’s what the lead is all about. You have fouls to give,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said before the game. “You certainly can’t worry about who’s running after you.”
Molina tied his career high for hits in his second start since returning from a broken finger, leading the Angels to their fifth straight win and 13th in 17 games.
They pulled off their first sweep of New York since May 11-13, 1999, also at Yankee Stadium, and finished 5-1 on a road trip that included a stop in Tampa Bay.
Anaheim is only a half-game behind first-place Oakland in the AL West and right in the thick of a tight wild-card race.
“Every time I hit the ball it’s very, very sore. But it’s no time to think about a finger right now,” Molina said.
Anaheim has won 10 of its last 11 road games and is 18-6 in its last 24 away from home.
Escobar (8-9) allowed just three hits and struck out eight in seven stellar innings, winning for the third time in four starts.
“He’s been great all season. If this guy had any run support, his record would be right up there with some of the top records in our league,” Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said.
Brendan Donnelly gave up Sheffield’s 31st homer in the eighth, cutting it to 4-3, but Percival pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 29 chances. He threw only four pitches.
“With the exception of Sheff, nobody’s swinging the bat very well right now,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “Usually it’s not everyone cold at the same time.”
Brown (9-3) lost for the first time in 10 starts at home this season.
Brown cruised into the fifth with the help of two double plays, but then ran into trouble.
Jose Guillen led off with an infield single and Jeff DaVanon bunted for a hit. One out later, Molina surprised everybody by sending a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence for his ninth homer and a 3-2 lead.
“A bad breaking ball. It didn’t get down,” Brown said. “We haven’t had a whole lot going right for us lately. Bad bounces, bad pitches. Today, it was that one pitch.
“I didn’t have the stuff I’d like to carry out there, but I made do and gave us a chance to win I thought,” he said.
Darin Erstad opened the sixth with a single and scored on Guillen’s sacrifice fly, making it 4-2.
Escobar took it from there, using a nasty splitter to record all of his strikeouts in his final four innings. Troubled recently by a blister on his middle finger, he gave up just two runs and four walks.
“I’m the kind of guy that always feels stronger as the game goes,” Escobar said. “Keeping the ball down and changing speeds was the key.”
Brown allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings, his fifth start since coming off the disabled list.
Lofton is one hit shy of 2,000. His third-inning single snapped a 4-for-33 skid. … The Angels won the season series 5-4. … Guillen was in the lineup despite fouling a ball off his ankle Saturday. He went 1-for-3 and struggled to beat out his infield single in the fifth. … Brown’s previous two losses this season came at Texas.