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Rookie helps Yankees get past Angels

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Rookie catcher John-Ryan Murphy had the best game of his brief career at the plate Saturday.

How he navigated New York Yankees relievers Shawn Kelley and David Robertson through difficult encounters with Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols was equally as significant.

Murphy had the best all-around showing of his brief career, recording a career-best three RBIs and hitting a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the fifth inning while guiding four relievers through 4 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-3 win over the Angels.

"It's special, and obviously it even means more because we win the game by one run," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "He'll never forget it, and it's a great moment for him."

Murphy made his third start since rejoining the Yankees when Francisco Cervelli injured his hamstring two weeks ago. He had two hits in his first 10 at-bats, but on Saturday he went 2-for-3.

He came up in a key spot with two on and two outs in the second inning. After starter Hector Santiago (0-4) balked home first baseman Mark Teixeira with the tying run, Murphy lined an offspeed pitch into left field, scoring left fielder Brett Gardner and second baseman Brian Roberts for a 3-1 lead.

That lasted until the fourth, when Pujols scored on a throwing error by Roberts on an attempted double play, which preceded an RBI double by catcher Chris Iannetta.

When he led off the fifth, Murphy wasn't necessarily looking to hit a go-ahead home run, but he was thinking with an aggressive mindset. So he swung at a first-pitch fastball from Santiago, and it carried over the left-field wall.

"When he hit it, we all were like, 'He got it, he got it,' and we were waiting for the signal from the umpire because we can't see that far on the field," Robertson said. "So it was nice to see."

That hit provided the final margin because of what Murphy did defensively against Pujols and other hitters.

Center fielder Mike Trout had a solo home run in the first off New York starter Vidal Nuno and walked twice. His second walk came on four pitches in the seventh after Kelley relieved Dellin Betances (1-0).

Kelley fell behind Pujols 2-0 on fastballs. Murphy called for another fastball, and that one turned into a fly ball that left fielder Brett Gardner tracked down. Kelley then struck out second baseman Howie Kendrick, ending a game in which the Angels went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.

"Kelley and I talked about that at-bat before it happened, and we stuck with it and it worked," Murphy said.

After Kelley allowed two hits in the eighth and left-hander Matt Thornton retired pinch hitter Raul Ibanez for the final out, Robertson had a similar situation. He allowed a one-out single on a 2-1 curveball and then watched Trout steal second on a 1-1 pitch.

Robertson reached a full count and, on the eighth pitch, Pujols lifted a cutter into left field. Even with a Yankee reliever retiring Pujols for the second time, Kendrick was a threat, especially once Robertson fell behind 3-0.

"He's a threat any time he's on base, and of course Albert's a threat any time he's at the plate," Murphy said. "So that combination doesn't make it easy, but Robby still has to make pitches and he did a really good job on Albert there with first base open. We stayed right at him and kept attacking him and Robby did a great job."

Kendrick struck out swinging on a cutter and Robertson shook hands with Murphy and the rest of his teammates after getting his third save and first at Yankee Stadium since officially taking over for Mariano Rivera.

"We did exactly what we're supposed to do," Robertson said.

Robertson's save and the big outs recorded by the bullpen came after Nuno had allowed three runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings in his second start -- his first in place of right-hander Ivan Nova. Along the way, he was supported by good catches by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for the first out of the game and final out of the fourth.

Santiago left with a line similar to Nuno's, allowing four runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings. After allowing Murphy's home run, he gave up consecutive singles to Ellsbury and shortstop Derek Jeter before being lifted. He slammed his glove in the dugout out of frustration.

Santiago said the balk threw him off and that when he threw the changeup for Murphy's first hit Iannetta had called for a fastball but it was too late.

"It was the sign sequence we were using, and he didn't see what I put down," Iannetta said. "I called for a fastball, and he threw a changeup, and he left it up there, and it ended up being a base hit."

NOTES: SS Derek Jeter made his first start in a day game after a night game, although the previous instances were due to a right-handed starter facing the Yankees. ... The Yankees added another reliever to their bullpen when they purchased the contract of RHP Chris Leroux from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. They also announced that RHP Jose Campos underwent Tommy John surgery on Friday. ... The Angels have hit 36 home runs, the most in the first month in team history, surpassing the 34 slugged in the opening month of 2000. ... INF Ian Stewart made his second start at first base for the Angels.

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