Yankees 7, Angels 2
Johnson pitched seven strong innings and surpassed 4,500 strikeouts, and Alex Rodriguez hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly that sent New York to a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Derek Jeter hit an early two-run homer and Jorge Posada added a solo shot, helping the Yankees gain a four-game split against a longtime nemesis and extend their AL East lead to two games over Boston.
“I’ve never allowed myself to get too caught up in the accomplishments. Maybe I will when I’m done,” Johnson said. “It means I’ve been around a long time and I’ve struck out a lot of batters. That’s probably why my arm’s pretty tired.”
“I thought his slider was outstanding,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He looks like he’s got a little spring in his step. We just want to hold onto it as long as possible.”
After taking a no-hit bid into the seventh during his previous start against the Chicago White Sox, Johnson (13-9) held the Angels scoreless for six innings.
“We got a good rally off a tough pitcher. We just couldn’t get the lead,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “If we’d gotten our offense going a little earlier, we might have given John a little more room to work with.”
The Yankees pushed across the go-ahead run in the bottom half with two bunts and a sac fly.
Johnny Damon got it going with a bloop single, Jeter followed with a perfectly placed bunt single and No. 3 batter Bobby Abreu squared around for his first sacrifice bunt since July 1998, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“He’s capable of doing everything,” Posada said. “Even the third hitter’s got to be able to get it down. That’s the way we’re going to go after it from now on. Everything counts.”
Jason Giambi was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rodriguez. Booed at home much of the season for failing to come through in clutch situations, the two-time MVP lofted a 1-2 pitch deep into the right-field corner.
Vladimir Guerrero caught the ball with his back to the wall, but Damon scored easily and A-Rod received hearty congratulations in the dugout.
“A nice way to manufacture a run,” Rodriguez said. “That was a great game out there. Lackey’s a handful.”
Posada homered on Brendan Donnelly’s first pitch in the eighth—his third hit after beginning the night in a career-worst 0-for-25 slump.
Abreu added an RBI infield single against J.C. Romero, Giambi delivered a sacrifice fly and Rodriguez drove in another run with a bad-hop single, making it 7-2.
Lackey (10-9) lost his third consecutive start, allowing three runs and 11 hits in seven innings.
“It would be nice if we could get out to a lead and hang onto one,” he said. “I was able to minimize the damage, give our team a chance to win. If you’re going to be a playoff team, you’ve got to figure out ways to win games like that.”
Johnson gave up eight hits, walked one and struck out five. He fanned Tim Salmon in the fourth for No. 4,500.
“He really pitches now. He kind of reminds me of Clemens when he started throwing that splitty,” Salmon said.
Posada tossed the ball into the dugout to be kept as a souvenir, and the crowd chanted “Randy! Randy!” The Big Unit went right back to work, but waved to his family behind home plate after the inning.
Jeter’s bunt single drew chants of “MVP! MVP!” … Giambi was thrown out at the plate by rookie CF Reggie Willits in the second after running through a stop sign from third base coach Larry Bowa. … Johnson improved to 16-7 against the Angels. … Scioscia said he would rest slumping SS Orlando Cabrera one of the next two nights in Texas. … Angels OF Garret Anderson missed his third straight start due to tightness in his lower back, but Scioscia said he hopes to have Anderson back in some capacity Tuesday night.