Daily variety means boffo results for Angels
NEW YORK -- Whether they’re bludgeoning opponents with their bats, overpowering them with their arms or smothering them with their gloves, the Angels these days never seem to run out of ways to beat teams.
Friday night they used a dominant start by Ervin Santana, some lock-down relief by Francisco Rodriguez, some flashy defense by shortstop Maicer Izturis, and a rare rally against the game’s best closer to defeat the New York Yankees, 1-0.
One night after amassing 18 hits in a 12-6 victory at Yankee Stadium, the Angels needed only four hits to extend their winning streak to five and win for the 14th time in 16 games. They have baseball’s best records overall (69-40) and on the road (38-19) and are 34-25 in Yankee Stadium since 1996.
“It means we’re hot, that we’re going good,” said Torii Hunter, who drove in the game’s only run with a single off Mariano Rivera in the ninth. “Sometimes you’ve got to ride that bike until the wheels fall off, and that hasn’t happened yet.”
Blanked by starter Sidney Ponson for seven innings and reliever Damaso Marte in the eighth, the Angels’ winning rally began with a five-pitch walk to Mark Teixeira, who was acquired Tuesday for his power but brings the added benefit of patience.
“It has to be a full moon for him to walk somebody,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said of Rivera, who is 26 for 26 in save opportunities with a 1.33 earned-run average and four walks in 47 1/3 innings. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
Teixeira, who had one single in nine career at-bats against Rivera, wasn’t looking for a walk. He was stunned when Rivera threw him three straight balls, a called strike and ball four.
“He’s pretty much owned me my whole career, so any time you get on base against him, it’s a plus,” Teixeira said. “If you expand your zone against him, he’ll eat you alive. I was looking for a pitch to hit. He just didn’t give me one.”
Vladimir Guerrero got one, following with a single to right that advanced pinch-runner Reggie Willits to third. With the infield in, Hunter, one for six against Rivera, grounded an RBI single to center.
“He’s been playing with a lot of emotion this week, and it’s been rough on him,” Scioscia said of Hunter, who will travel to Pine Bluff, Ark., today for his grandmother’s funeral. “But he’s kept his focus on baseball, and it’s been a good release for him.”
Rodriguez struck out Alex Rodriguez on a full-count changeup to open the ninth inning and got Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano to fly out for his major league-leading 45th save.
Santana gave up five hits in eight shutout innings, striking out eight and walking two, to improve to 12-5. He is 9-2 with a 3.47 ERA on the road this season after going 1-10 with an 8.38 ERA away from home in 2007.
The right-hander’s defining moment Friday came in the first inning, when he gave up a walk and a single before striking out Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez and getting Giambi to pop to third.
“The first inning was key for Ervin,” Scioscia said. “Runners on first and second, no one out . . . he got out of it and gave us a chance to catch our breath a bit.”
Izturis helped keep Santana out of harm’s way with a phenomenal play in the seventh.
Cano led off with a blistering liner that caromed off Santana’s right hand (he was OK) toward Izturis, who knocked it down with a dive toward the middle.
Izturis grabbed the ball, did a 360-degree spin on his knees and fired a one-hop throw to Teixeira, who scooped it up for the out.
“I fully expected that ball to go up the middle,” Teixeira said. “For him to make the play and make the throw was incredible.”
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Francisco Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera have pitched the same number of innings this season. Rodriguez is chasing a saves record, but Rivera has been tough as usual:
*--* PITCHER IP H K BB ERA SV Francisco Rodriguez 48.1 31 50 28 2.42 45-48 Mariano Rivera 48.1 30 58 5 1.49 26-26 *--*