There was a decided lack of buzz around Angel Stadium on Monday, even though the New York Yankees were in town.
The pockets of empty seats spoke to that, and so did the sharply discounted tickets offered online. The Angels said they had sold 36,245 tickets, the fewest for a Yankees game in eight years.
These teams have not prospered since they met in the 2009 American League Championship Series. Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter have retired. So have Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees have not won a postseason game in five years.
The Angels have not won a postseason game in eight years.
Mike Trout is on the disabled list.
There were “M-V-P” chants in Anaheim, but they came from the seats adjacent to right field, patrolled for the Yankees by rookie Aaron Judge, who leads the majors in home runs.
That would be 22 home runs, the latest of which won the game for the Yankees on Monday. With an open base in the eighth inning, the Angels pitched to Judge, who launched a two-run home run that delivered a 5-3 victory to the Yankees.
The Yankees extended the longest winning streak in the major leagues to six games.
The game boiled down to one question: Why did the Angels pitch to Judge?
The home team had rallied to tie the score 3-3 in the seventh inning. With one out in the Yankees’ eighth, Aaron Hicks doubled, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia summoned closer Bud Norris to face Judge.
“With Bud being able to move the ball and spin it,” Scioscia said, “you hope you can get him [Judge] to expand [the strike zone] a little bit.”
Norris threw ball one, then ball two. With first base open, perhaps the Angels would work around Judge, to try to get him to swing at a bad pitch and walk him if he did not.
Or not. Norris’ third pitch was a strike, and it was creamed, deep into left field, 438 feet worth of a game-winning home run.
“You tip your cap,” Scioscia said. “He hit it a long way.”
Scioscia said he considered the intentional walk after the first two balls but still hoped Norris could get Judge to chase a bad pitch, aware that Norris had the luxury of the open base if Judge did not chase.
“Unfortuntately,” Scioscia said, “the cutter wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Judge leads the American League with a .347 batting average. In runs batted in — the only triple crown category in which he does not lead — he has 49 runs.
Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners leads with 50.
The game was there for the Angels’ taking.
Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka had lost five consecutive starts, and his ERA had risen to 6.55.
There was nothing wrong with him on Monday, though.
He gave up one earned run and four hits over 62/3 innings, striking out eight. Kole Calhoun homered in the first inning, but the Angels did not score again until the seventh — two runs, both unearned.
Calhoun, who had one home run in April and three in May, has five in 11 games in June. He is batting .421 this month.
Angels starter Alex Meyer once again struggled to command his elite stuff.
It is never a good sign for a pitcher when the number of walks exceeds the number of innings pitched, but Meyer walked five in 42/3 innings. He has walked 29 batters in 40 innings this season.
He survived the first inning, when he walked two but also struck out two and the Yankees did not score.
In the third inning, Didi Gregorious’ two-out RBI single followed a pair of walks. In the fifth, Gregorious delivered another two-out single — scoring Judge, who had walked.
Meyer is averaging 6.5 walks per nine innings. None of the 85 pitchers with enough innings to rank among league leaders has walked more than 4.8 batters per nine innings.
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