After Wilson exits, 'pen can't seal deal vs. Yanks

After Wilson exits, 'pen can't seal deal vs. Yanks

After Wilson exits, 'pen can't seal deal vs. Yanks
NEW YORK -- Scott Downs gave up his first home run in more than 11 months, Russell Martin and his .179 first-half batting average notched the game-winning hit, and the Angels' lights-out bullpen blew just its second save in its last 29 games.

Yep, it was Friday the 13th at Yankee Stadium.

Downs and his 0.30 ERA surrendered a game-tying three-run homer to Mark Teixeira, made an early exit and paved the way for Kevin Jepsen to give up the go-ahead single to Martin in an eventual 6-5 loss, putting a sour note to the start of the Angels' second half.

The Angels had a three-run lead, six outs left and were ready to go with Downs and Ernesto Frieri -- the best reliever combo in baseball, ERA-wise -- but lost to the team with baseball's best record, falling to 5-6 over their last 11.

"It's been almost a no-brainer all year," said Mark Trumbo, who had put the Angels ahead with a long homer and appeared to have another one taken away. "That's just one of the anomalies that you probably won't see again for a long time. It's cliché, but you have to turn the page."

And the Angels will, because they know Downs having an outing like this is the exception, not the rule.

The three-run homer he gave up to Teixeira, who also hit a two-run shot off starter C.J. Wilson, was his first surrendered in 30-plus innings this year and the first dating back to Aug. 11, 2011 -- to Robinson Cano in Yankee Stadium. The three runs, all of which came before recording an out, marked the most in an outing since August 2006. The two walks in that inning was the first time he had done that since May 2010.

An anomaly, indeed.

"As steady as they've been, they're not machines," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose club has dropped 16 of its last 21 at Yankee Stadium. "There's going to be games that they're going to struggle with that at times. Give the Yankees some credit. It's not always what Downs doesn't do or what happens in our 'pen."

Facing Hiroki Kuroda, the Angels took a 4-2 lead on a three-run seventh-inning homer from Trumbo -- giving him a team-leading 23 on the year and one in each of his last five games against the Yankees -- and added another run on an RBI double by Albert Pujols in the eighth.

But Downs, who came in with one earned run in 30 innings this year, was uncharacteristically erratic.

With rain starting to fall in the bottom of the eighth, he surrendered a double to Derek Jeter and walked Curtis Granderson to start the inning. Then, Teixeira got a 1-2 curveball out over the plate and sent it out over the left-field fence for his 16th on the year and the Major League-leading 134th for the Yankees.

Downs said he didn't really feel any different with his command, and that the layoff of the All-Star break wasn't to blame.

"Just a couple mistakes," Downs said. "Good hitters hit mistakes. That's what they did."

Wilson was in line for the win after giving up just the two runs on Teixeira's first homer in seven innings, putting his ERA at 2.45 on the year. He's limited opponents to two runs or less in 11 of his 12 road starts.

Even when the Yankees put the first two batters on, Wilson was almost certain Downs would find his way out of it -- like he has so often this season.

"When Teixeira came up, I was thinking to myself, 'Oh, here comes the double-play ball, Scott's going to get out of it again,'" said Wilson, winless despite posting a 2.42 ERA in his last three starts. "It didn't go that way, and that's unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of the season, Scott's obviously thrown the ball really well and we trust him."

Downs got back-to-back outs after that, then walked Nick Swisher -- who had jumped right in front of the wall in right-center field to potentially take away a two-run homer from Trumbo in the eighth -- and Jepsen came in, with Scioscia wanting the right-handed power arm and needing to save Frieri for a save situation.

With pinch-runner Dewayne Wise on second after a stolen base, and a 3-1 count on the lefty-hitting Raul Ibanez, Jepsen issued the free pass to Ibanez. The logic was obvious. The next batter was the right-handed-hitting Martin, who has hit below the Mendoza Line for most of the season and, as an added bonus, had only seen Jepsen once.

"Once it got to 3-1," Scioscia said, "I definitely felt better about starting over with a fresh count with the next guy."

But that next guy found grass, Martin taking an outside-corner fastball and lining it over Pujols' head to plate the winning run, put his batting average at .181, and give the Angels a heartbreaking loss.

"I feel a lot better now than I did before the game," said Martin, who ended the game by blocking a pitch in the dirt, scooping it up and gunning down Howie Kendrick at second base. "It's a good way to start the second half -- a 'W' and I'm starting to feel a little bit better about myself. It's never a bad thing."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.