Saunders tops Pettitte as Halos delay Yanks party

BY foxsports • September 22, 2009

After challenging the Yankees' powerful lineup, Joe Saunders stood at his locker with a bulging wrap around his left shoulder and another on his left knee.

Despite how worn out he looked afterward, Saunders was plenty strong on the mound Monday night.

Saunders pitched into the ninth inning and the Los Angeles Angels prevented New York from wrapping up a playoff spot, winning 5-2 in a matchup of division leaders.

"I threw the ball well, especially against a great-hitting club like they are," he said. "I didn't have my best stuff, but I located it when I needed to and got some big double plays. The hitters did a great job for me, giving me a little bit of a cushion there in the first."

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Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter hit consecutive RBI doubles in the first inning off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, who said his troublesome shoulder felt fine. Kendry Morales added a pinch-hit homer.

The Angels earned their 90th victory for the seventh time in nine seasons and reduced their magic number to six for clinching their third consecutive AL West title.

As usual, manager Mike Scioscia didn't want to talk about magic numbers.

"How 'bout magic Joe Saunders?" he quipped. "That was a nice effort against a very, very good lineup."

The Yankees, who have dropped six of 10, could have secured a postseason spot with a win or a Texas loss at Oakland. The Rangers beat the Athletics 10-3.

"We'd like to get it locked up, but we haven't been winning," Pettitte said. "We've been playing so well the second half, but we're kind of in a little lull right now. So more than anything, we just want to get it going again and get back on the winning ways."

That's not a problem for the Angels.

They've won two in a row, four of five and remained a season-best 7 1/2 games ahead of Texas. They moved within 4 1/2 games of New York in the race for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

"All year long our bats have been carrying us," Saunders said. "Us starters have kind of figured it out. We're on a roll right now, so hopefully we can keep that going. We're playing good defense and that's our key."

The Yankees, looking for their 14th playoff berth in 15 years, stayed five games ahead of Boston in the AL East because the Red Sox blew a pair of six-run leads in a 12-9 loss at Kansas City.

"We haven't scored a lot of runs on this road trip, but we've hit some balls hard. You're going to go through that from time to time, so we've just got to turn it around," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought our approach was good, but we didn't have a whole lot of luck. Sometimes it's not how you hit them but where you hit them."

New York missed the postseason last year in Girardi's first season. The Yankees have squandered a pair of chances to clinch at least the AL wild card, losing the past two days to the Mariners and Angels.

"It's a bump in the road, but it happens. You just have to work your way through it," Derek Jeter said. "I really don't think we've been playing all that bad."

Saunders (14-7) gave up two runs and seven hits in 8 1-3 innings, struck out three and walked none in winning his fifth consecutive decision and sixth in his last seven. After the first inning, the left-hander didn't allow a runner past second until Alex Rodriguez homered leading off the seventh.

"Joe's command was terrific, good life on his sinker," Scioscia said. "That's an extraordinary lineup, very deep with power from both sides. For Joe to go through them, make the pitches and not have a lot of runs to work with was very impressive."

Saunders left after giving up a one-out single to Rodriguez in the ninth. He tipped his cap to acknowledge a standing ovation from the crowd of 38,667, but a grimace crossed his face as he walked away.

"It was disappointing not to be able to finish it," he said.

Brian Fuentes got two outs for his 44th save in 51 chances.

Saunders said he tweaked the patella tendon in his left leg coming out of the dugout in the second inning.

"I jumped an extra step like I do all the time," he said. "It was weird. I didn't feel it on every step. I felt it coming off the mound or pushing off on it on my toe. It didn't hurt me, so hopefully it goes away tomorrow."

Pettitte (13-7) allowed three runs and five hits in six innings while losing for the first time in 10 starts. New York skipped the left-hander's previous turn in the rotation because he had a tired shoulder.

Pettitte departed a game with the Yankees trailing for the first time since July 11, also in Anaheim, a span of 13 starts. He lost for the first time since a 6-4 defeat on July 25 against Oakland.

"I got us in a hole there in the first inning and scuffled with my command," he said. "I don't know if I was a little rusty from having the time off or what, but I felt strong."

The Yankees scored in the eighth on Hideki Matsui's first career pinch-hit homer.


The Yankees are 0-4 in Anaheim this season. ... Jeter is one hit from his seventh season with at least 200.

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