Angels 7, Yankees 4
NEW YORK (AP)—Joe Saunders got so nervous when he thought about his Yankee Stadium debut, he couldn’t get to sleep.
“I was up until about 6 because I was thinking of all the different scenarios I could put myself into,” he said. “Giving up grand slams, pitching perfect games. It was all sorts of stuff going through my head.”
Come Friday night, he pretty much put the Yankees to sleep. Saunders won his fourth straight start, getting early home runs from Garret Anderson and Maicer Izturis and leading the Los Angeles Angels over New York 7-4.
“You could see the poise in him out there,” Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon said. “Yankee Stadium did not get to him.”
It took an unusual solution for Saunders to finally get some rest early Friday.
“I took some cough syrup with Codeine,” he said. “I took about two swigs of that, and that put me to bed.”
The 25-year-old left-hander, starting because AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon has a partially torn rotator cuff, allowed three runs—two earned — and six hits over six-plus innings, his third outing since he was brought back from the minors on Aug. 1. Saunders has an ERA of just 1.67.
“I was impressed,” said Alex Rodriguez, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for New York. “Good stuff, good composure. good changeup, throwing 97 (mph) at one point.”
Los Angeles rookie starters are 12-0. Jered Weaver, slated to start for the Angels on Sunday, won his first seven major league starts before getting no-decisions in his last three, and Dustin Moseley also has a win.
“These guys are young, but they’re talented,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They have the makeup to go out there and achieve.”
Saunders got some needed help from his defense. Trailing 5-1, the Yankees put their first two runners on in the sixth before center fielder Chone Figgins ran in to make a diving catch on Rodriguez’s liner. Jason Giambi then grounded into the second of New York’s three double plays.
“That was a game saver,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of the catch. “It could have turned the game in our favor at that point in time.”
Taking the mound before a sellout crowd of 54,450, Saunders tried to look calm, even though he wasn’t. He opened the game by hitting Damon with his fifth pitch.
“First inning, my left knee was shaking a little bit. Hopefully, I didn’t show it,” Saunders said. “I kept my nerves under check for the most part, kept the ball down, got some ground balls when I needed to.”
Vladimir Guerrero also homered in the opener of the four-game series, helping the Angels beat the Yankees for the third time in four games this year.
Rodriguez hit a solo homer for New York, knocked out by Los Angeles in the first round of last year’s playoffs. The Yankees have lost three of four overall, and their AL East lead over second-place Boston was cut to two games.
New York lost consecutive games for the first time since dropping three in a row from July 19-21 against Seattle and Toronto.
Giambi’s RBI single in the fourth drove in New York’s first run. After the Yankees put two on in the seventh on an error by Izturis at third and a walk, catcher Mike Napoli and first baseman Robb Quinlan let Sal Fasano’s foul pop drop between them. Fasano then chased Saunders with a two-run double over Guerrero in right.
Scot Shields relieved Saunders in the seventh, and the right-hander made a pair of nice plays with his left hand. He ran off the mound to turn Nick Green’s popped bunt into a double play, walked Damon and then stabbed Derek Jeter’s bouncer and threw to first for the final out of the inning.
Francisco Rodriguez got four outs for his 29th save in 32 chances.
In his second start since New York acquired him from Philadelphia, Cory Lidle (1-1) didn’t feel well and gave up a solo homer to Anderson in the second and a two-run drive to Izturis in the third
“Some kind of stomach virus or something,” Lidle said. “I haven’t been holding anything in.”
Orlando Cabrera hit a two-run double against Sidney Ponson on a hard-hit ball past Rodriguez at third, and Guerrero homered off Jose Veras as the Angels rebounded from Thursday night’s 14-2 loss at Cleveland. Izturis added a run-scoring single off Ponson in the seventh, his third hit of the night.
New York, which lost a rain-delayed game at Chicago on Thursday, didn’t arrive back at Yankee Stadium until 5 a.m. Friday, and the Yankees looked a bit sluggish.
“If you can pitch here, you can pitch pretty much anywhere,” Saunders said. “If you can keep your nerves in check, you can keep your nerves in check anywhere.”
Jeter made a backhand stop in the seventh on Quinlan’s bouncer deep into the shortstop hole, jumped to make the throw on the outfield grass and threw him out at first. … Napoli’s seventh-inning double stopped an 0-for-18 slide. … Izturis’ comebacker in the fifth at first was scored an error, but Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke called the press box, and scorer Bill Shannon later changed the call to a hit. … Rodriguez’s eighth-inning homer off Shields was his 453rd, tying injured teammate Gary Sheffield for 30th place on the career list.