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Yankees 3, Angels 4: Aaron Judge’s 50th home run couldn’t overcome an Angels barrage

The Yankees’ West Coast troubles continue in their third straight loss.

New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

I’m not going to lie. I cannot wait for the Yankees to get back from the West Coast. These past few days have been rough. With a capital R. After a disappointing end to the series in Oakland, tonight was more of the same. Albeit with an historic, majestic home run from Aaron Judge that puts the free agent-to-be slugger closer to baseball immortality. And Oswaldo Cabrera teasing a dramatic, go-ahead home run in the ninth inning.

It looked early on like the Yankees offense was still in a funk. After DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Andrew Benintendi went down in order in the first, the second inning was even worse. Giancarlo Stanton? Down swinging. Gleyber Torres? Down swinging. Anthony Rizzo? Down swinging. It’s a hell of a thing when your entire batting order goes ice-cold simultaneously.

While the Angels matched the Yankees’ zero in the run column in the first inning, the Halos wasted no time putting New York in the hole in the second. Cleanup hitter Luis Rengifo jumped all over a fastball from Frankie Montas and crushed it to right field for the game’s first run. You know times are tough when a one-run deficit feels really dispiriting.

On the positive side, Isiah Kiner-Falefa gave the Yankees a nice little web gem in the very next at-bat, ranging to his left to corral a ball off the bat of Taylor Ward, spinning around, and firing a dart to Rizzo to retire Ward.

In the top of the third, the Yankees finally put some traffic on the bases. With one out, IKF drew a full-count walk. Then, rookie Oswaldo Cabrera punched a single to the opposite field, just eluding the glove of former Yankee Mike Ford at first base. LeMahieu then brought in the run the way we all expected … with the safety squeeze.

Montas responded with a shutdown inning in the bottom of the third, a huge development given the Yankees’ struggle to score. Then, in the top half of the fourth, the offense kept coming. With two out in the inning, Rizzo stayed back on an 81-mph slider from José Suarez and crushed it 411 feet to left field for a solo dinger to give the Yankees the 2-1 lead.

Two shutdown innings in a row was too much to ask for though. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Mike Ford annihilated an offering from Montas. Just like that, the game was tied again and Ford had his first round tripper of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I like to see Mike Ford succeed — just not at the Yankees’ expense.

IKF continued his strong night in the fifth inning. After working the count full for the second time in the game, he turned on a pitch and smoked it into the left center field gap for a leadoff double. After unproductive outs from Cabrera and LeMahieu, Angels manager and former Yankee third base coach Phil Nevin intentionally walked Judge for the second time.

Can’t really blame Nevin, either. Taking the bat out of Judge’s hands and forcing someone else to beat you is the exact right call, especially considering the general malaise of the Yankee offense. And Benintendi vindicated Nevin, weakly flying out to right field to end the frame.

That failure to score immediately came back to haunt the Yankees. With two out in the bottom of the fifth, Mike Trout dropped a weak fly ball into right center. And then Montas went to the well one too many times with his splitter to Shohei Ohtani. And of course, Ohtani made him pay. A bloop and a blast led to Ohtani’s fourth career dinger off Montas. 4-2 Angels. You’re not going to win a ton of games surrendering three home runs in five innings, Frankie.

That home run from Ohtani seemed to herald the death knell for the Yankees in this one. In the sixth, Stanton, Torres, and Rizzo went down in order. In the seventh, with reliever Ryan Tepera in for the Angels, Trevino, IKF, and Cabrera did likewise.

In the bottom of the seventh, after Montas surrendered a leadoff single, Aaron Boone went to the ‘pen and called on Clay Holmes, back for the first time after an IL stint. All told, it was not a terrible start from Montas. The fourth consecutive splitter to Ohtani that the slugger demolished was likely the only pitch that will haunt Montas tonight. Nevertheless, he left the game on the hook for the loss.

In his first outing back, Holmes looked just fine. After striking out former Yankee Andrew Velazquez, Holmes promptly induced a worm-burner to shortstop that should have been an easy double play. Alas, Gleyber had his foot off second base and after a successful Angels challenge extended the frame, Holmes got Mike Trout to ground out and end it.

In the eighth inning though, the Yankee offense got a historic shot in the arm. After a LeMahieu ground out, Judge went down and murdered a slider from Tepera. 434 feet later, Judge had 50 home runs, the second time in the slugger’s career he’s accomplished that feat. And all of a sudden, Phil Nevin looks like a genius for intentionally walking Judge twice earlier.

The top of the ninth had some drama after pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson singled with two out. Aaron Boone immediately pinch-ran speedster Tim Locastro, meaning that if Cabrera could put a ball into the gap the game would almost certainly be tied up at four. And Cabrera did his utmost, driving a ball to deep center field. But Trout got a great jump and ran the ball down to end the game.

It was nice to see Judge get to 50, but this club desperately needs to win games. They’ll get their next chance tomorrow night with Jameson Taillon facing Mike Mayers. First pitch at 9:38 pm EDT.

Box Score