Sloppy stretch proves costly in loss to Yanks

Early miscues help NY jump out to quick 5-0 lead

Sloppy stretch proves costly in loss to Yanks

NEW YORK -- Their third baseman seemingly lost track of the number of outs, their left fielder airmailed a throw home, their fill-in starter flipped wide of first base, and their opponent amassed four runs on six hits, all in the first two innings from Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.

It was one of the more sluggish stretches in what has generally been a listless season for the Angels, and it set the tone in a 6-3 loss that pushed them 10 games out of first place in the American League West.

David Huff -- making a spot start in place of Nick Tropeano, who is on the 15-day disabled list with tightness in his right shoulder -- began by serving up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran, the man who burned the Angels in a crushing defeat the night before.

Back-to-back one-out singles by Alex Rodriguez and Starlin Castro extended the inning, and then Chase Headley hit a two-hopper near the third-base line. Yunel Escobar fielded it on a backhand and casually jogged four steps forward, moving at a pace one would if he felt the third out was about to be recorded. The Angels' catcher, Carlos Perez, pointed to first base, pleaded with Escobar to try for the double play. Escobar stepped on the bag and seemed to immediately realize his mistake.

The next batter, Austin Romine, followed with a base hit that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia denied that Escobar forgot the number of outs, and he didn't believe his third baseman had a chance to record two outs on that play, even though Headley isn't necessarily fleet of foot.

"He was only getting one out on that ball," Scioscia said of Escobar, who declined to speak with the media. "That ball was kind of chopped, and he took the out at third base."

Escobar has been one of the Angels' best, most consistent producers this season, boasting a .306/.356/.412 slash line from the leadoff spot, making several highlight-reel plays at a position he is still learning and playing in 54 of 58 games, even on the days when his body is sore. But he seems to have also been prone to the occasional lapse in focus.

Escobar was doubled off second on a Kole Calhoun fly ball to right on Saturday, though Scioscia said Escobar was going on contact because he thought the ball would bounce off the wall, not because he felt it would be the third out. On Sunday, he idly pursued a foul popup that landed in the first row down the left-field line, extending a second inning in which Hector Santiago gave up two additional runs.

On Monday, he didn't run hard out of the box on a grounder up the middle, a ball he could've reached first base on after Castro initially booted it.

"He came back and said that he should've gone a little harder," Scioscia said pregame. "And it's fine. This guy plays every day, he plays hard, he plays banged up. A lot of times getting out of the box, his swing doesn't facilitate a clean break out of the box. Yesterday, he just gave up on that play early, and he knows it."

Escobar's nice defensive play

Double play or not, Huff struggled mightily with his changeup and never got right on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old left-hander -- obtained on a Minor League contract in the middle of May -- was charged with five runs on eight hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings, suffering the loss and taxing a bullpen that may be needed when this rotation spot comes up again on Sunday. He gave up a sac fly to Rob Refsnyder in the second and a solo homer to Castro, off the right-field pole, in the third.

Huff worked as a reliever in Spring Training and through his first five weeks with the Royals' Triple-A affiliate, then made only three Minor League starts in the Angels' system -- posting a 5.40 ERA -- before getting called up.

He's still getting used to being stretched out, and he's still unsure if he will get another chance to start for the Angels.

"They say it's like riding a bike," Huff said of resuming his role as a starting pitcher, "but sometimes it's a little tougher than that. I'm still getting used to it. Hopefully next time out, I'll be better."

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.