The legend of Shohei Ohtani continues to grow, as does the defensive stature of Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun, the offensive prowess of shortstop Andrelton Simmons and the rally-extinguishing reputation of new reliever Justin Anderson.
All four played huge roles in pushing the Angels to the brink of what would have been a dramatic comeback victory Friday night before it all collapsed like a pile of Jenga blocks in the last two innings.
The New York Yankees rallied off closer Keynan Middleton to tie the score in the ninth, and Didi Gregorius drove a solo homer to right field off a poorly located Blake Parker fastball in the 10th to give the Yankees a 4-3 victory in Angel Stadium.
Gregorius, who is batting .368, leads the major leagues with 30 RBIs and is tied with Mike Trout for the major league lead with 10 homers.
“Didi has been on fire,” said Simmons, who grew up playing youth-league ball with Gregorius in Curacao. “We made a mistake, and he punished us.”
Ohtani hit a second-inning homer off hard-throwing Yankees starter Luis Severino, his fourth homer in 15 offensive starts, but finished the night in the training room after suffering a mild left-ankle sprain while stepping on the first base bag on a fifth-inning groundout. He limped off the field and is listed as day-to-day.
“When he stepped on the bag, he kind of rolled it a little bit,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We took him out as a precaution. We’ll evaluate it and see how it sets up [Saturday] and Sunday.”
Calhoun, mired in a one-for-30 slump at the plate, made two spectacular plays, diving into the gap to rob Gleyber Torres of a double in the third and leaping at the wall to rob Neil Walker of a three-run homer in the sixth.
Simmons followed singles by Trout and Albert Pujols (career hit No. 2,995) in the seventh with a two-run triple into the right-field corner to give the Angels a 3-2 lead and Simmons seven RBIs in his last three games.
Anderson, in his third big league game after being called up from triple A on Monday, issued a leadoff walk in the eighth before striking out Aaron Judge, getting Gregorius to pop to second and slugger Giancarlo Stanton to fly to the wall in left.
Middleton couldn’t hold the lead in the ninth. Gary Sanchez led off with a walk and took third on Miguel Andujar’s one-out double to left. Torres was walked intentionally, and pinch-hitter Brett Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to left for a 3-3 tie.
Zack Cozart doubled with two outs off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the 10th, but Chris Young popped out to first to end the game.
The Yankees took a 2-1 lead on a bizarre play in the sixth. With Gregorius on third, Stanton on second and one out, Walker lifted a fly to deep right, where Calhoun made a leaping catch above the wall.
But umpires ruled that Gregorius stepped on the plate before Simmons stepped on second, so the run counted, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Ohtani turned viciously on a 97-mph Severino fastball that was an inch or two inside and lined it into the right-field seats for a solo homer in the second, the ball leaving his bat at 112 mph and traveling 410 feet.
The Angels maintained that 1-0 lead through the fourth thanks to Calhoun’s full-extension diving catch in the gap to rob Torres in the third, and Calhoun made another potentially game-saving play in the sixth.
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