Results tagged ‘ Vernon Wells ’

Behind the 8-ball, Yanks erupt in the 8th

For seven innings Wednesday night, it looked like “second verse same as the first” for the Yankees, who were shut out Tuesday night by the Blue Jays and were six outs from having that happen again at a time when losing is not an option if the Bombers want to take that wild-card ticket into the playoffs.

Toronto lefthander J.A. Happ took a three-hit shutout into the eighth inning but was removed after giving up a leadoff double to Brendan Ryan. Even with the emphasis on bullpens, there is nothing more welcome to opposing hitters than the departure of a starting pitcher whom they have not solved all night.

The Happ-less Blue Jays were hapless as the Yankees struck for four runs on three straight RBI hits off reliever Steve Delabar (5-5) and knocked off Toronto, 4-3, with Mariano Rivera coming through with a four-out save.

Delabar entered the game after lefthander Aaron Loup allowed a single to Curtis Granderson that gave the Yankees runners at the corners with none out. Delabar struck out Alex Rodriguez on a nifty changeup, but the righthander did not get another out. Robinson Cano singled to center to send home Ryan with the Yankees’ first run in 17 innings.

Alfonso Soriano doubled to make the score 3-2. Yankees manager Joe Girardi could have gone to a left-handed batter, Lyle Overbay or Ichiro Suzuki, to bat for Vernon Wells, but he stayed with him and Wells came through with a double to left to put the Yankees in front.

Whereas Toronto’s bullpen came apart, the Yankees’ pen was a key to the victory. David Huff took over for Phil Hughes one out in the fourth after Colby Rasmus belted a two-run home run into the second deck of right field at Rogers Centre. Huff (3-1) gave up another second-deck homer, to Ryan Goins (the first of his career), but the lefthander retired the next 10 batters in order.

The eighth-inning rally by the Yankees set up the last two innings perfectly for them with David Robertson and Rivera plenty rested to finish things off. Girardi was just as quick to lift D-Rob as he was for Hughes in calling for Mo with two outs and a runner on second base. The skipper was in no mood for one of Robertson’s Houdini acts. Girardi wanted the sure thing, which is what he is used to getting from Rivera.

The Blue Jays created some drama when Adam Lind and Rasmus started the ninth with singles. Pinch hitter Munenori Kawasaki got off a lousy sacrifice attempt and Overbay cut down the lead runner at third base. Mo took care of the rest of it by getting Goins on a grounder to second and striking out J.P. Arencibia on three pitches.

It remains very much an uphill climb for the Yankees, but they avoided a major slide to stay on the incline.

Ichiro saves one for Mo

If you didn’t think Sunday’s game was important to the Yankees, consider this: Mariano Rivera was called on for a six-out save. This was something out of postseason play, which is what the Yankees are hopeful for qualifying for this season.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate in using Mo for such a stretch. One, it is that time of year and, two, what would you save Rivera for? As the skipper said after the game, noting that the career saves leader will retire at the end of the season, “He’s at a point where he’s not saving anything for 2014.”

The only problem is that it didn’t work. Rivera blew the save opportunity for the seventh time this season and the second time in this series when he allowed a leadoff home run to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the ninth inning that made the score 3-3. Perhaps the only people at Yankee Stadium who thought the ball was a homer were those seated in the first two rows of seats in right field. To everybody else, Rivera and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, it seemed as if it were a high fly ball that would eventually become an out instead of going out.

In the bottom of that inning, however, Rivera would have a smile on his face as wide as the Grand Canyon after Suzuki scored from third base on a wild pitch by Brandon Workman that clinched a 4-3 victory.

Eight runs were not enough Thursday night. Eight runs were not enough Friday night. Nine runs were not enough Saturday. As it turned out, four runs were sufficient for the Yankees Sunday.

The ninth-inning run was an Ichiro special. He singled to left-center field with one out and then quickly moved into scoring position with a steal of second base. Vernon Wells’ flyout to right field was deep enough for Suzuki to scamper to third base. Any battery has to be careful about a wild pitch or a passed ball with a player as quick as Ichiro on third base. There was no doubt that when the pitch by Workman eluded catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia that the Yankee would get the run they needed to avoid a four-game sweep by Boston and give them some momentum headed to Baltimore for another challenging, four-game set against an Orioles club that is battling for the same prize as the Yankees, a wild-card postseason berth.

“Anybody could have made it,” Ichiro said of the winning run, “anybody with a good read.”

Well, that does not just happen with anybody but with a player of Suzuki’s instinct on the bases. This was the first time the Yankees had a walk-off victory on a wild pitch since Sept. 27, 1977 against the Indians and Jim Bibby when the run was scored by Thurman Munson, who made up for lack of speed with an abundance of smarts.

The game might have turned into a disaster if not for that play. The Yankees had overcome a 1-0 deficit to Jon Lester, who pitched eight strong innings, to take a 3-1 lead behind Hiroki Kuroda, who threw 117 pitches over six innings. Shawn Kelley worked the seventh without issue before the strains of “Enter Sandman” were heard surprisingly at the start of the eighth.

Rivera had not pitched for two days, so Girard felt confident that he could use him for a lengthier period. Mo had the same confidence and said he will feel the same way Monday night at Camden Yards.

“If they need me, I’ll be there,” Rivera said. “I have to be ready for any situation. We’re trying to get to the playoffs.”

That pursuit can often find players doing odd things. In the second inning with runners on first and second and none out, Mark Reynolds tried to bunt them over and fouled out to the catcher, the same Mark Reynolds who is usually feast or famine with his home run or strikeout mentality.

“We’ll let that go for now,” Girardi said, clearly indicated that Reynolds was bunting on his own and something he will be told never to do again.

The Yankees failed to score that inning, but Reynolds atoned for his mistake by driving in the Yankees’ first run of the game in the fourth with a booming double to center field. A clutch, two-out single by Robinson Cano an inning later gave the Yankees their first lead in the series since that 8-3 spread entering the seventh inning Friday night that the bullpen flushed.

The Red Sox cut it to 3-2 with a run in the sixth on a double by David Ortiz and two infield outs. One-run leads are usually as good as gold for Rivera, but he has proved a bit more vulnerable in his final season. He last blew as many as seven saves in 2001.

Don’t be surprised, however, that if the Yankees need him to nail down a victory Monday night that, in his words, Mo will be there.

Pettitte comes up big but not bullpen

On a night when the Yankees were in a must-win situation and with the knowledge that neither setup reliever David Robertson nor closer Mariano Rivera was available, Andy Pettitte handled the pressure of coming up big time in a big situation. This should come as no surprise, of course, considering the pitcher in question has logged 276 2/3 innings in postseason play and is used to stressful workloads.

Pettitte would like to add to his postseason resume and did his part to help the Yankees remain in contention toward that goal Friday night with six sturdy innings that continued a successful run for the lefthander that belies his age, 41, and adds to his reputation as a go-to guy. The Yankees helped his cause by continuing to put up multiple-run innings – four two-run frames during his six innings of work.

It also did not hurt the Yanks’ cause that Red Sox starter Felix Doubront handed out free passes on a regular basis. Doubront walked six batters in his 3 2/3 innings and four of them scored. Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees off to a quick start with his 30th home run of the season, a two-run shot to left, in the first inning.

Doubront walked Vernon Wells to start the second inning, and Eduardo Nunez tripled him home. Chris Stewart’s sacrifice fly scored Nunez. Doubront walked two more batters with two out in the fourth and both scored on a triple by Brett Gardner. The Yanks didn’t need any walks to score twice in the fifth off righthander Rubby De La Rosa on a double by Robinson Cano and singles by Wells, Nunez and Mark Reynolds.

Pettitte was masterful. He allowed three runs, five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts and left with the Yankees ahead, 8-3, through six. Over his past six starts, Andy has pitched to a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings in lowering his season ERA from 4.71 to 4.03. He is 3-0 over that stretch with three no-decisions. Unfortunately, one of those no-decisions was Friday night.

Phil Hughes took the ball from Pettitte and, well, dropped it. In his first relief appearance of the season, Hughes gave up three hits and a walk and left the game in the seventh with the bases full, one run in and one out. Boone Logan did a nice job of striking out David Ortiz, but Mike Napoli proved stiffer competition.

Napoli worked the count full and fouled off two fastballs in the mid-90s before driving a third one to right field off the top of the wall just beyond the reach of Ichiro Suzuki. It was the sixth career grand slam and third this season for Napoli, who victimized Hughes earlier this season.

With that one swing, the score was tied. It only got worse. Preston Claiborne gave up a two-run home run to Shane Victorino in the eighth, and Joba Chamberlain had another rough outing in allowing the Red Sox two more runs.

All of Pettitte’s work went for naught, which was an absolute shame.

6 steals by 6 players: a 1st for Yanks in 97 years

Do you recognize any of these names?

Roxy Walters, Wally Pipp, Lee Magee, Frank Gilhooley, Hugh High, Paddy Baumann.

Well, there is a good chance you may have heard of Pipp. He was the Yankees first baseman who came out of the lineup because of illness in 1925 and was replaced by Lou Gehrig, who only played every day after that for 14 years.

The other guys were all teammates of Pipp on the Yankees of 1916, which was the last time before Thursday night that six different players had a stolen base for them in a single game. Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, Lyle Overbay, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells each stole a base in the Yankees’ 9-8, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox.

That tied a franchise record for most players stealing at least one base in a game. It was the ninth time it happened but the first since Wally and his mates did it May 31, 1916 (Memorial Day) in the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics at the Polo Grounds.

Yanks don’t take advantage of big rally

How many big rallies begin with a walk? It is a rhetorical question. I am not looking it up. Leave us just say a lot.

So when Ichiro Suzuki walked to lead off the seventh inning for the Yankees Thursday night it hardly seemed dramatic considering the score at the time was 7-2 Red Sox. But as Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch used to say famously during his managerial days, “Oh, them bases on balls.”

Perhaps Red Sox manager John Farrell had similar thoughts. If he didn’t, he should have. The leadoff walk has an ominous look to it regardless of the score. Suzuki’s stroll to first base was just the ominous sign the Yankees needed to get started toward a six-run rally that turned the tables in the game, yet another startling crooked-number inning that the Yanks have constructed regularly during their offensive renaissance of the past month.

In the blink of an eye, Ichiro was standing on third base after a pinch single by Vernon Wells chased Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, who departed with a five-run lead but by inning’s end was still winless in his career against the Yankees.

Brett Gardner greeted lefthander Matt Thornton with a single to score Ichiro. With Derek Jeter at bat, Wells shook up the Red Sox with a steal of third, one of the Yanks’ season-high six swipes in the game. Thornton walked Jeter, which loaded the bases for Robinson Cano, who hit a bases-loaded double earlier in the game. This time he hit into a fielder’s choice but another run scored.

Alfonso Soriano also did an about-face from previous at-bats. Boston used an exaggerated shift against him all night. Twice he hit into it and flied out. This time against righthander Junichi Tazawa Sori poked a single to the right side for an RBI single that made the score 7-5. The Red Sox’ collective collar was tightening.

Curtis Granderson doubled to make it a one-run game. After Alex Rodriguez struck out, Lyle Overbay pushed the Yankees into the lead with a ground single to right for two more runs. 8-7 Yanks, and what made it even cooler was that the situation was set up for them out of the bullpen with David Robertson in the eighth and Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

Robertson did his part with a hitless, two-strikeout eighth. In the ninth, Rivera came within one strike of registering a save that would have matched his uniform No. 42. But he walked – there’s that stat again – Mike Napoli on a full count. Pinch runner Quintin Berry stunned everybody by breaking for second base on Mo’s first pitch to Stephen Drew. The throw from Austin Romine, just into the game behind the plate, bounced in front of Jeter and went into left-center field as Berry wound up on third base.

Rivera’s save and the Yankees’ lead disappeared when Drew hit a flare single to right for a single that knotted the score. Career save No. 650 would have to wait for Rivera, whose blown save was his sixth of the season.

Late rally propels Yanks to exhilarating victory

There was an impending disaster facing the Yankees for seven innings Tuesday night. They were actually in danger of losing to the White Sox at a time when the Yankees need to have the upper hand against the lower order of the American League if they intend to play in October.

Let’s be fair here. The White Sox are a different team with Chris Sale on the mound. He has pitched far better (2.97 ERA) than his 10-12 record would indicate. And against the Yankees, he is simply lights out (2-0, 1.05 ERA). Well, at least until the eighth inning Tuesday night. The Yanks finally put enough of a dent in his armor for White Sox manager Robin Ventura to turn to his bullpen.

Please send our old pal a thank you note.

After Derek Jeter singled and Robinson Cano doubled with one out against Sale, the Yankees jumped on three Chicago relief pitchers for a five-run rally that had even more impact than the eight-run inning they exhibited the day before. This late charge that turned a potential loss into an exhilarating, 6-4 victory and had the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,215 sounding like the whole borough of the Bronx was in attendance.

Cano’s double off the left field auxiliary scoreboard came on a two-strike pitch from Sale. So did the single by Alfonso Soriano that got the Yankees to 4-3 and the single by Alex Rodriguez that kept the line moving, both off righthander Nate Jones (4-5).

Curtis Granderson greeted lefthander Donnie Veal with a single to center that tied the score. There was a temporary sigh when Mark Reynolds struck out, but another abrupt message to an incoming reliever was in store. Eduardo Nunez, who made one of the best defensive plays of the game, got the crowd roaring with a double down the left field line to break the tie and tack on an insurance run as well.

Mariano Rivera laced it up into a bow with his 40th save; a huge victory for the Yankees, who jumped back in front of the Orioles into third place in the AL East and climbed a half-game closer to the Rays, who took a five-game losing streak into their game against the Angels. This was a game that will resonate for the Yankees if they can complete their quest for a postseason berth that seemed in serious peril after their disappointing 2-4 trip through St. Petersburg, Fla., and Toronto a week ago.

The pitcher the Yankees have relied on the most this season is showing signs of wear, which is not unusual for someone his age. Hiroki Kuroda, 38, has clearly hit a wall. He was not terrible Tuesday night but not good enough to beat the beatable White Sox. His teammates got him off the hook to avoid what would have been his fourth straight loss, but they owed him as much.

For four innings, Kuroda matched Sale in a 1-1 game. The Chicago run in the first inning ended Kuroda’s 21 2/3 scoreless innings streak at the Stadium. The Yankees’ run in the second came on a double steal with Vernon Wells scoring from third base.

Then in the fifth, Kuroda began to crack. He gave up a leadoff single to Alejandro De Aza and walked Gordon Beckham in an 11-pitch at-bat. Alexi Ramirez somehow got around on a 94-mph sinker and hit a hard grounder down the left field line. Soriano, who has played well in left field since coming to the Yankees, couldn’t stop the ball before it got to the corner and rolled past him as Ramirez legged out a two-run triple.

Kuroda and his infielders kept the inning from being worse. Dunn couldn’t get the ball past a tight infield and grounded out to Cano, who checked Ramirez at third. Nunez at shortstop went one better by gloving a liner by Paul Konerko and firing to Rodriguez at third base to double-off Ramirez.

Okay, 3-1 in the fifth is not the end of the world, but the Yankees couldn’t fire back right away. They failed to capitalize on Nunez’s leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth and stranded him at second base. In the seventh came that rarity when a player hit a foul home run and in the same at-bat hits a fair home run. De Aza’s 15th jack of the year made it 4-1 and ended Kuroda’s outing.

But not the game; oh, no, far from it.

After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced that Phil Hughes and his 4-13 record would go to the bullpen and that David Huff, who is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.60 over his past 15 innings, will go into the rotation and start during the upcoming four-game series with the Red Sox.

After rain delay, Yankees rain down hits and runs

It was Phil Hughes’ misfortune to have to come out of Monday’s game at Yankee Stadium due to a 1-hour, 53-minute rain delay. That was the only misfortune suffered by the Yankees. They got a head start on making up for being swept by the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field last month by trouncing Chicago, 9-1, in the opener of a three-game series.

One day after losing to the Orioles because of Baltimore’s seven-run seventh inning, the Yanks constructed an eight-run fourth inning. The beneficiary instead of Hughes was David Huff, the lefthander who has pitched so well in relief since his Aug. 15 call-up from Triple A Scranton.

Hughes, who is winless in 10 starts since July 2, would have loved all that run support against his 4-13 record. What starter wouldn’t? For a career middle-innings reliever such as Huff, the eight-run bulge felt just as satisfying. Hughes was actually on the winning side of the ledger at the time the game was stopped with one out in the Chicago second and the Yankees leading, 1-0. Because of the duration of the delay, Hughes did not return to the mound with his teammates.

White Sox reliever Dylan Axelrod was not as lucky as Huff. The Yankees sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth in scoring eight runs (six earned), all charged to his record, although he was removed after the 10th batter. Robinson Cano was the only Yankees batter that inning who did not reach base. Cano had his hand in the victory with a couple of dazzling, back-to-the-infield grabs, one of which resulted in a double play.

The Yanks’ rally was aided by two White Sox errors and two walks but was fueled primarily by seven hits – doubles by Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano and singles by Vernon Wells, Mark Reynolds, Austin Romine and Derek Jeter. In essence, it was a team effort. The Yanks scored as many runs that inning as they did in the three games combined in Chicago last month.

Huff, who is in his second tour with the Yankees this season, had a 14 1/3-inning scoreless streak ended when he gave up Paul Konerko’s 10th home run with one out in the seventh. Huff, 29, is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings since his return Aug. 16 that has lowered his season ERA from 13.50 to 3.32.

The Yankees picked up Huff back in May off waivers from the Indians. After a four-game stint with the Yanks that month, Huff ended up being outrighted to Scranton where he was 1-6 despite a 3.84 ERA. He has pitched so well the past two weeks that Huff might even be considered for a start down the line.

It was also good to see Jeter run with authority when the Yankees scored their first run, off White Sox starter Jose Quintana. For the third consecutive game, Gardner led off with a double. He scored on a ground single between shortstop and third base by Jeter, who alertly took second when left fielder Alejandro De Aza bobbled the ball. DJ also crossed to third on Cano’s flyout to right field but was stranded there.

Jeter’s hit in the fourth inning was career No. 3,313, which tied him with Eddie Collins for ninth place on the all-time list and is six behind another Hall of Famer at No. 8, Paul Molitor.

The big lead allowed manager Joe Girardi to get some new people into the game. Pitcher Cesar Cabral and catcher J.R. Murphy made their major-league debuts. Cabral pitched a shutout inning of relief and Murphy, pinch hitting for Cano in the eighth, beat out an infield single for his first big-league hit.

Their appearances brought the total of players used by the Yankees this season to 52, a franchise record.

Sabathia pays the ‘Price’ against Rays

CC Sabathia has had a nasty habit this season of giving up leads. That virus struck him again Saturday night at Tropicana Field at a time the Yankees could least afford it. This was a game that fit the must-win category with Boston and Oakland both winning and the Yanks trying to stretch their winning series streak to five. Instead, they will take the field Sunday in an attempt salvage one game in the three-game set against the first-place Rays.

Paired against fellow former American League Cy Young Award winner David Price for the ninth time, Sabathia actually had the upper hand for five innings. He held the Rays to one hit, a two-out double by longtime nemesis Evan Longoria in the first inning, and a walk to that point. CC also made an outstanding defensive play to get the last out of the third inning by fielding a chopper with his back to the plate and firing a laser beam to first base.

The Yankees gave Sabathia a 2-0 lead in the fifth by using three singles and a walk to put a dent in Price. After that, however, the Yanks had only one more base runner – Curtis Granderson with a one-out double in the seventh – so their offense was standing still as the Rays made their move.

Then came the sixth inning and everything fell apart for the big guy. Sam Fuld, the 9-hole hitter barely batting over .200, led off with a single through the middle. Sabathia temporarily lost the plate by walking Desmond Jennings on four pitches and falling behind 2-0 in the count to Ben Zobrist, who later in the at-bat drilled a 3-1 fastball to left-center for a two-run double. CC then had to deal with Longoria, who singled home Zobrist to give the Rays the lead. Longoria raised his career average against Sabathia to .396 with six doubles and six home runs.

“I lost my command,” Sabathia told reporters. “I tried to nibble, and it cost us the game. One bad inning; I felt like I couldn’t stop the bleeding.”

Sabathia departed in the seventh after allowing yet another hit to Fuld with one out. Preston Claiborne prevented Fuld from scoring but the next inning had no more success against Longoria than did Sabathia. The Rays third baseman crushed a 1-2 slider to center field for his 27th home run that gave Fernando Rodney (30th save) some insurance in the ninth as he closed it out for his 30th save in 37 tries.

Price (8-5) is now 6-1 in head-to-head matchups against Sabathia with the Rays winning seven of the nine games. The lefthander missed 44 games while on the 15-day disabled list because of a left triceps strain. Since returning from the DL July 2, Price is 7-1 with a 1.97 ERA. He seemed to lost faith in his fastball in the fifth inning and was touched for singles by Alex Rodriguez and Vernon Wells off hanging sliders. Mark Reynolds foiled Rays manager Joe Maddon’s overshift with a single to the right side to load the bases. The Yankees’ runs came on a walk to Austin Romine and an infield out by Ichiro Suzuki.

The Rays maintained their percentage-points edge over the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East. Meanwhile, the Yankees dropped seven games out of first place in the division race and 4 ½ games behind the Athletics for the second wild-card berth.

Will rout gets Yankees on a roll?

Will Tuesday night’s 14-7, 19-hit victory over the Angels be the start of something big for the Yankees? They certainly hope so as the days begin to dwindle in the final third of the season if the Yankees want to make a splash and qualify for postseason play.

The addition of Alfonso Soriano and the return from the disabled list of Curtis Granderson and Aleex Rodriguez have surely given the Yankees’ batting order some depth. It was not that long ago Lyle Overbay was batting cleanup in some games; now he is batting eighth.

After an overabundance of low-scoring and tightly contested games, the Yankees were due for an old-fashioned blowout and got it Tuesday night. Eduardo Nunez (4) and Soriano (6), the first two batters in the order, combined to drive in 10 runs, a franchise first since 1920 when RBI became an official statistic in baseball. It marked the first time any 1-2 hitters combined for 10 RBI since the Blue Jays’ Russ Adams (4) and Reed Johnson (6) did it July 1, 2005 at Boston in a 15-2 Toronto victory over the Red Sox.

The RBI figures were personal career highs for both Nunez and Soriano. The rest of the lineup all came through as well as everyone who came to bat for the Yankees had at least one hit with Overbay and Granderson joining Soriano with three-hit games. Vernon Wells socked his first home run in 208 at-bats since May 15 at Seattle. Of Wells’ 11 homers this season, four have come against teams for which he formerly played – three against the Blue Jays and one against the Angels.

I was a big proponent of the Yankees’ re-acquiring Soriano, who is one of my favorite players. After Soriano had a rough time of it for the Yanks in the 2003 World Series against the Marlins when he hit .227 with nine strikeouts, there were loud calls for him to be traded. I was opposed to that, although who could argue with letting him go to bring Rodriguez here at the peak of his powers? Well, I did, but to no avail.

Anyway, now they are here together, and the lineup seems all the better for it.

The Yankees have a lot of work to do. They need to go on one of those outrageous runs like the Dodgers have done to get back into the post-season mix. CC Sabathia got back to .500 (10-10) with a positive outing yet one that could be considered only fair. He held the Angels to three hits but walked six batters and got a huge break from an umpire’s terrible call on a runners’ break off third base erroneously judged too soon.

Nevertheless, Sabathia pitched into the seventh inning, didn’t give back any leads and even got his first putout in two seasons with a hustling cover of first base.

The night after winning consecutive games for the first time in 23 games, the Yankees made it three straight victories in a stretch equally as long. Before anyone dismisses what they have done because the Angels are a stumbling team, consider that the Yankees recently went 1-5 combined against the Padres and White Sox, two clubs that are even worse.

Yankees cannot take Angels lightly

The Angels team that arrived at Yankee Stadium to open a four-game series Monday night was not the team everybody expected to challenge for the American League West title. Expectations were high after the Angels signed free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract for $125 million to be a bookend with three-time Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols.

Like the Yankees, the Angels are a fourth-place team in their division. Unlike the Yankees, who are still above .500 and a have a shot at a wild-card playoff spot, the Angels are somewhat buried at 10 games under .500. Pujols is lost for the season to injury. Hamilton, the AL MVP just three years ago, has had a subpar season (.221, 17 home runs, 55 RBI) yet was in the cleanup spot in manager Mike Scioscia’s lineup.

The Angels traditionally have given the Yankees a hard time. They were the only club against whom Joe Torre had a losing record in his 12 years as Yankees manager. Recent years have been a bit different.

Last year, the Yankees were 5-4 against Los Angeles in winning their second straight season series and their fourth straight non-losing season series against the Angels since 2009. That came on the heels of five straight losing season series from 2004-08. The Yanks’ 56-64 record against the Angels since 2000 is their only losing mark against any AL team over the span. The Yanks are 7-6 in the past 13 games between the clubs and 11-9 over the past 20.

The Angels won two of three games June 14-16 at Anaheim. At Yankee Stadium, the Yankees have won three of their past four games and six of their past eight against the Angels. The Yanks have won each of their past four home season series against L.A. Their 12-6 record over that span coincides with the move to the current Stadium (2009-12). It follows a stretch from 2003-08 of going 0-3-3 in home season series against the Angels.

Despite the Angels’ 53-63 record, the Yankees cannot take them lightly. Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have played the AL’s current top four teams (Tigers, 69-47; Red Sox, 71-49; Rangers, 68-50; Rays, 66-50) along with the Dodgers (67-50), who are tied for the third best record in the National League. The Yankees went 7-8 in those games but were 1-5 in games against the Padres (53-64) and the White Sox (44-72).

The Angels have significance in the career of Mariano Rivera, who made his major league debut May 23, 1995 at Anaheim. He started the game and allowed five earned runs, eight hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. Mo also recorded his first career save against the Angels May 17, 1996 in an 8-5 victory at the original Stadium. In his one inning, Rivera struck out Randy Velarde looking, gave up a single to Mike Aldrete and retired Garrett Anderson on a double play for the first of 643 career saves.

Vernon Wells played two seasons with the Angels (2011-12) and batted .222 with 24 doubles, four triples, 36 home runs and 95 RBI in 208 games and 748 at-bats. . .Alex Rodriguez has 70 career home runs against the Angels, his most against any opponent and the most by any opposing hitter against the Angels. . . Curtis Granderson has homered in nine of his past 15 games against the Angels. . .Since the start of the 2009 season, Robinson Cano has hit .333 (51-for-153) in 39 games and 153 at-bats against the Angels with 15 multi-hit games and 21 extra-base hits (10 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs).