The New York Yankees -- the fourth-place New York Yankees -- might have to watch the Angels celebrate another American League West championship tonight.
The Angels beating up on the Yankees, that’s nothing new. This part of their 12-1 victory Monday night at Angel Stadium rubbed it in a little bit, though: An infielder named Rodriguez hit a home run -- not $300-million man Alex Rodriguez for the Yankees, but rookie Sean Rodriguez for the Angels.
Brandon Wood, another rookie infielder, hit two home runs. Vladimir Guerrero hit one too, and the emotions were flying, with benches clearing as the Angels batted around during the six-run sixth inning.
The Angels’ magic number dropped to two. If they beat the Yankees again tonight, and if the Texas Rangers lose, the Angels would clinch their third division title in four years. They also would shatter the record for earliest clinching date in AL West history, currently Sept. 15 by the 1971 Oakland Athletics.
The Angels carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning Monday, when a rout and a bout broke out.
Sean Rodriguez started the inning with a home run, Guerrero hit a two-run homer later in the inning, and in the middle of the inning, the Angels’ Torii Hunter and the Yankees’ Ivan Rodriguez were ejected, after an incident that could result in suspensions for both players.
“He pushed me pretty hard, like a fight in the ‘hood,” Hunter said. “The ghetto came out. I hate that. I want to apologize to the fans for my temper flaring.”
The players met after the game and apologized to each other.
Hunter tried to score from third base on a ground ball, but he had no chance and appeared to ease up as he ran into Rodriguez, the Yankees’ catcher. But Hunter nonetheless ran into him, forearms first.
“He was out by plenty,” Rodriguez said. “He came hard at me.”
As Rodriguez stepped forward, Hunter said he tripped on the bat and rolled into Rodriguez. The catcher reached behind his back and elbowed Hunter.
“He just grabbed me from behind,” Rodriguez said. “I tried to release him.”
Hunter took immediate exception and shoved Rodriguez in the back, with both hands. Rodriguez pivoted and tried to take a slap at Hunter -- a big swing with an open hand -- but without making contact.
No sooner had teammates on both sides rushed to the scene than the incident had ended, even before the relievers had arrived from the bullpens. No parties other than Hunter and Rodriguez were ejected.
The Angels clinched their fifth consecutive season series from New York. The Angels have played eight games against the Yankees this season, winning six and scoring in double digits four times.
Jon Garland (13-8), pitching for a spot in the Angels’ postseason rotation, delivered his best start in two months, holding the Yankees to one run over seven innings. He had given up five runs in each of his previous four starts and had posted a 5.59 earned-run average since the All-Star break. In his first multi-homer game, Wood, 23, made the Yankees feel old.
“I was really excited,” Wood said, “seeing guys like A-Rod and [Derek] Jeter that I idolized in high school and tried to model my game after.”