Well. That’s certainly not the way the Yankees wanted to start this last series before returning home. Ultimately, Corey Kluber’s fourth-inning meltdown was just too much to overcome and the Yankees are now stuck in a three-game losing streak, falling further behind Tampa in the AL East. They kept the game close but ultimately fell at Angel Stadium on Monday night by a 8-7 score.
The Yankees started strong as they hung a crooked number on Mike Mayers in the top of the first inning. DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo greeted the Angels’ opener with back-to-back doubles to score the first run of the game. Aaron Judge then singled. Unfortunately, with runners on first and third and no one out, Giancarlo Stanton hit into a double play, continuing the 2021 Yankees’ worst trend. Another run scored to make it 2-0, but that was the extend of the damage.
On the board early in Anaheim. pic.twitter.com/IjohLIAxmF— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 31, 2021
Kluber took to a Major League mound for the first time in more than three months in the bottom of the first. He passed the initial test, striking out David Fletcher and Shohei Ohtani. After a two-out walk to Phil Gosselin, Kluber retired Jared Walsh on a lineout to Judge in right field. Mission accomplished, although Kluber’s command was a bit scattershot early in his return.
After a quiet top of the second, Klubot came out throwing strikes in the bottom half, retiring the side on eight pitches. The third offered more of the same, as Kluber bookended a deep fly ball to center field with two strikeouts. That marked five K’s through three for Kluber, as he seemed to shake off the rust in real-time.
Despite a promising beginning, the Yankees’ bats went silent for a time shortly after the first. Mayers retired the Bombers in order in the second, and then replacement Sam Selman did likewise in the third. Finally, with two out in the fourth, the Yankees got their first baserunner since the opening frame when Andrew Wantz, the third Angels pitcher, walked Joey Gallo before Gio Urshela weakly grounded out.
After Ohtani struck out again in the fourth inning, Gosselin drove a liner into center field and broke up Kluber’s no-hitter. Then the wheels really fell off as the Angels started to attack breaking balls early in the count. Walsh singled to right and suddenly, Kluber faced his first jam: first and third with only one out. Rookie Jo Adell then singled to left to cut the Yankee lead in half. After a fly out to deep center field for the second out, Kluber walked Max Stassi to load the bases.
On the first pitch to Jack Mayfield, Kluber threw a curveball in the heart of the zone. One grand slam later, and the Angels led 5-2 — a miserable turn of events. Juan Lagares singled, and to be charitable about it, the Angels absolutely tattooed Kluber in the fourth inning:
That’s plenty of high exit velocities from Angel bats and a lot of high xBAs in the fourth inning; not much cheap contact to be found at all. It’s not what you want. Kluber finally got the final out of the inning, but the Yankees now trailed by three runs. Despite the long winning streak, coming back from multi-run deficits has not been a Yankee strength in 2021 so skepticism would have been forgivable.
The Yankee offense came back to life in the fifth, however. With Brett Gardner at second and two out, LeMahieu came through with a big RBI single to right. Gardy scored rather easily and the Angel lead was 5-3. Rizzo then ripped a two-strike single to center, where a fielding error allowed the runners to move to second and third for Judge.
Joe Maddon went to the bullpen and brought in righty Steve Cishek to try and get Judge out. On a 3-0 count, Judge hit an infield single to the right side that scored LeMahieu to cut the Angel lead to one. Stanton then took the baton and lined a ribbie single to center to tie the game and take Kluber off the hook for the fourth inning.
Clutch at-bats with two outs quickly erased the deficit. Joey Gallo struck out to end the inning, but after four-and-a-half, it was tied once more.
Former Angel Andrew Heaney took the ball to pitch the fifth inning, first facing Shohei Ohtani. If you though to yourself, “Heaney gives up dingers like crazy and Ohtani hits dingers like crazy. I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” then you are spot on.
Ohtani crushed a ball out to right field, his 42nd round-tripper of the season, and the 26th allowed by Heaney. To the lefty’s credit, he bounced back and retired the next three Angels, but the Yankees trailed once again.
Cishek stayed in to pitch the sixth for Los Angeles. With two out, Gardner walked and Andrew Velazquez singled to left to put two ducks on the pond for LeMahieu. No repeat of the fifth inning with clutch hitting followed, as DJ weakly grounded out.
It briefly looked like Heaney would escape the bottom of the sixth without any damage, but he found a way to snatch failure from the jaws of success when he surrendered an opposite field RBI triple to Lagares. Judge was playing a shallow right field that may have hindered his ability to get back and play the ball, but whatever the case, the damage was done. 7-5 Angels.
Again, though, the Yankee offense bailed out their pitching. With Rizzo on first base after a walk, Stanton absolutely obliterated a hanging breaking ball. 115.2-mph off the bat. The ball soared through the Los Angeles night and when it landed - 457 feet from where Big G murdered it — it was again a brand new ballgame.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Angels once again took the lead. With a runner on third and two out, Lagares drove a ball from Clay Holmes to left field to plate the go-ahead run — the third hit of the day for someone who came into the night with a 65 OPS+. It was just a little bit frustrating, as “Let Juan Lagares beat you” seems like a shoddy strategy for success.
The Yankees’ last chance meant facing off against Raisel Iglesias, the Angels closer who has been nigh-unhittable since July 1st. Up first? LeMahieu. Down swinging on three pitches. Rizzo? Grounder to first. Two out. Judge? Down swinging. Game over.
It was an annoying way to begin a three-game series in Anaheim, and now the winning streak honeymoon is over — three straight losses have threatened to send this West Coast trip into chaos (as so many West Coast trips often do). Hopefully the Bombers can bounce back tomorrow night. Jameson Taillon takes the hill for the good guys, looking to rebound from a shaky outing in Oakland. First pitch at 9:38pm ET.