ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Adam Kennedy had only two previous career at-bats against Randy Johnson, and the Big Unit had not allowed an RBI to a left-handed batter in 60 consecutive at-bats over his previous 14 regular-season starts.
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia started Kennedy anyway—not for his bat, but for his glove—and got significant results with both.
Kennedy hit a tiebreaking two-run triple and made a critical defensive play in the ninth, leading the Angels to a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday night and sending Johnson to his first loss of the season.
“I wouldn’t say it surprised me, but you have to stay ready,” said Kennedy, the Angels’ second baseman and No. 9 hitter. “On nights like this when you get the opportunity, you want to be ready. Sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Jason Giambi led off the Yankees’ ninth and Scioscia ordered the shift against the dead-pull hitter, with Kennedy stationed about 20 feet into the outfield grass. Giambi lined a one-hopper to Kennedy, who threw him out and deprived him of a certain base hit. The next batter, Hideki Matsui, homered off closer Francisco Rodriguez and New York came up a run short.
“They’ve got a lot of left-handed hitters over there, so we wanted to make sure we had a presence there on the right side of the infield,” Scioscia said. “We need to keep defensive continuity if we’re going to win, and Adam was in there for right-side defense. Adam’s a terrific defensive second baseman. That’s why he was out there tonight—and he ends up winning the game with his bat.”
“I had seen a good number of pitches in my previous at-bat, so I had a little bit of a gauge on how his fastball was working,” Kennedy said. “I just wanted to put a good swing on it and not try to do too much, and I was fortunate enough to find a hole.”
The last time Johnson and Santana pitched in the same game was back on Oct. 10, when both worked in relief in the finale of the AL division series. Santana, who was bumped to the bullpen because the Angels went with a four-man rotation in the postseason, pitched 5 1-3 innings for the series-clinching victory in his postseason debut after Bartolo Colon left in the second inning with an injured shoulder.
In the rematch, Santana allowed two hits and three walks while striking out one. The 23-year-old Dominican right-hander was lifted after walking Giambi on a borderline 3-2 pitch with two out and runners at second and third. The walk came one out after Santana was hit on the inside of the left knee by a line drive single off the bat of Gary Sheffield.
J.C. Romero retired all four batters he faced, Scot Shields pitched a scoreless eighth and Rodriguez got three outs for his third save. The right-hander converted his 21st straight save opportunity to break the club record set by Troy Percival in 2003.
Johnson (1-1) went the distance, throwing 97 pitches over eight innings and allowing seven hits. He struck out eight and walked none.
“It was a pleasant surprise to throw as many strikes as I did,” said the five-time Cy Young winner, who threw 69 of his 103 pitches for strikes. “I threw all my pitches and had some fun out there. I got in a little jam in the fifth inning, got behind a couple of hitters and they got base hits. I didn’t make my pitch to Kennedy, and that was the ballgame right there.”
Johnson went to the mound with a 1-0 lead after Jeter drove a 2-2 pitch to left-center for his first homer of the season. But the left-hander gave the run right back on an RBI single to right field by Vladimir Guerrero.
Santana is 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA in four regular-season starts against New York. Last July, he became only the third rookie pitcher over the past 20 years to beat the Yankees twice in one week, along with Boston’s Brian Rose (1999) and Texas’ Kevin Brown (1989).
The Yankees designated C Wil Nieves for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for C Koyie Hill, who was claimed off waivers from Arizona on Thursday. … Alex Rodriguez, who said he “played like a dog the last five days” after going 2-for-15 with no RBIs in the playoff series against the Angels, finished 0-for-3 with a walk. … Colon was presented with his 2005 Cy Young award at home plate before the game, moments after Guerrero received his Silver Slugger award for having the highest batting average among right fielders. … Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who entered this season with an AL-record 379 career saves, has yet to pitch through the season’s first five games.