In retrospect, the Angels’ Tuesday night game against the New York Yankees was doomed before it began. But it could have unfolded in so many more favorable ways than it did in their 6-3 defeat at Yankee Stadium.
When Nick Tropeano decamped for the disabled list because of shoulder pain over the weekend, the Angels needed a man to start the game, any man, and so they called up journeyman left-hander David Huff, a triple-A reliever as of last month.
The choice was between him and right-hander Kyle Kendrick, with Tim Lincecum choosing to continue his preparation in triple A. The choice did not work out.
Huff yielded an infield single to the first man he faced, Brett Gardner, and a two-run home run to the third, Carlos Beltran. Alex Rodriguez and Starlin Castro followed with singles to left. With one out, Chase Headley chopped a ball to third with enough pace that Yunel Escobar seemed to have time to step on the base, throw to first, and end the inning.
Instead, Escobar jogged the six or so feet to third base, touched it, and took two more steps toward the visiting dugout, until he stopped and glanced at first base, too late to get Headley. All the while, catcher Carlos Perez had been pointing to first, but Escobar seemed to think he was recording the third out of the inning.
From the dugout, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia stared at Escobar. In his office after the game, Scioscia denied that Escobar forgot how many outs were on the ledger.
“He was only getting one out on that ball,” Scioscia said.
Asked if he did not think Escobar had a chance at a double play, Scioscia shook his head.
“That ball was kind of chopped,” he said. “He took the out at third base.”
Escobar vehemently declined to speak to reporters following the loss. The miscue was his third apparent lapse in three days. During a high-leverage situation Sunday in Pittsburgh, he leisurely pursued a foul ball that landed in the first row of seats beyond third base. On Monday at Yankee Stadium, he jogged out of the batter’s box on a routine grounder. When Castro fumbled it, he accelerated, then slowed again, and was thrown out by one step.
“He just gave up on that play early, and he knows it,” Scioscia said before Tuesday’s game. “Esky plays every day. He plays banged up. There is nobody that wants to win more than he does. Yesterday was just a blip on the radar.”
Tuesday, his slip allowed the Yankees to score another run, when Austin Romine singled to left. Rafael Ortega’s overthrow home from left field, the Angels’ next mistake, put New York hitters on second and third, but the Yankees didn’t score again in the first.
“That’s an error of aggression,” Scioscia said. “That’s fine.”
They would make two more mishaps. Huff picked up Gardner’s sacrifice bunt in the second but misflipped it to first base. In the seventh, Perez threw in time to get Gardner trying to steal second base but Gregorio Petit dropped the throw. Gardner came around to score.
The Yankees tacked on a run apiece against Huff in the second and third innings. The 31-year-old, still a possibility to start Sunday at Angel Stadium, retired only 11 of the 20 hitters he faced on an abbreviated night.
The Angels had three baserunners through four innings against starter Michael Pineda, two on walks and another on a double from Petit. They produced four more in the remaining innings: all hits. Their only veritable rally occurred in the fifth, when Ortega led off with a double, Petit singled him in and Kole Calhoun slammed a two-out, two-run home run.
They did not score again.