NEW YORK – Every so often you run across a box score that’s so one-sided it practically jumps off the computer screen. And then there’s a once-in-an-orange-moon blowout that’s so devastating mere numbers don’t do it justice.
Welcome to the Yankees’ destruction of the Angels at the Stadium.
Final score: 9-1.
Damage done: wholesale.
Message sent: Be very afraid.
It’s not just the Angels who got the memo. It was meant for the Astros, Blue Jays and maybe even the Dodgers and Mets, too. The Yankees consider themselves the major league’s best team, and while they have a smattering of flaws, the world got a glimpse of what perfect synchronicity looks like in the Bronx. Terrifying.
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Aaron Boone wouldn’t dare gloat, modestly describing the rout as “a little bit of everything.” It was more like a fantasy brought to life for the Yankees. They checked every box on the blowout menu, starting with the quick knockout of former Mets ace Noah Syndergaard.
The game was all but over once the Bombers took a 4-0 lead in the first inning. The rest of the evening was a showcase for the 31,000 ticket buyers and the legion of YES viewers. There was highlight-reel defense, another miniature classic by Jordan Montgomery and even a flicker of life from Joey Gallo, who went 2-for-3 with a walk.
By the ninth inning the Bleacher Creatures, woozy from the conquest, were serenading the struggling outfielder with their signature chant: “Jo-eee Ga-llo… Jo-eee Ga-llo” as if to say all was forgiven – the strikeouts, the sub-.200 batting average, all pardoned by the promise of better days ahead.
The fact that it was the Angels who were flogged instead of, say, the Orioles or the Royals, shouldn’t be minimized. Even in the midst of a current slump – losers of five straight – the Angels represent the kind of team the Yankees will likely face in October.
They have a cast of stars. Mike Trout, who missed most of 2021 with a calf injury, has the highest OPS-plus of his career. Shohei Ohtani is the greatest two-way player since Babe Ruth. Syndergaard, post-Tommy surgery, arrived with a respectable 3.08 ERA, even without the triple-digit velocity of his Mets-era prime. And former Yankee Andrew Velazquez – that lovable Squid – “is the best shortstop in the league,” according to manager Joe Maddon.
Yet, none of the Angels ‘pillars could contain the Yankees’ onslaught. Trout was held hitless. Ohtani had a seemingly mammoth home run in the first inning snuffed out by Aaron Judge’s perfectly-timed, full-extension leap at the centerfield wall. And Syndergaard lasted all of 2.1 innings, allowing five earned runs and seven hits without a single strikeout.
That’s not just a beat-down the Yankees administered. They used the Angels to make several points, all of which are critical to their success this summer – and, more importantly, in the post-season as well.
Judge really is more than just a fill-in center fielder.
His snare of Ohtani’s blast in the first inning changed the game’s entire vibe. Everyone in the Stadium assumed that the Japanese slugger had beaten Montgomery, which would have been no surprise. Nor would there have been any shame in it.
Ohtani, after all, is the American League’s defending MVP, coming off a 46-HR season in ’21. Boone said before the game, “it’s just mind boggling how talented (Ohtani) is,” but his athleticism was matched by Judge’s timing that extended his glove a foot over the wall. It’s hard to imagine Aaron Hicks making that same catch.
Judge says he’s happy to share centerfield with Hicks – “whatever they want me to do,” he said – but it’s clear the big man’s preference is to stay put in the center.
“There’s more space out there, I can see the ball off the bat better, and I get better reads,” Judge said. Plus, there’s less worry about his 6-7, 260-pound frame crashing into the walls.
Montgomery is the AL’s best fifth starter. Or is he No. 4? Or No. 3?
The fact that we’re asking speaks to the depth of the Yankees’ rotation. It took Montgomery almost two months to record his first victory on Tuesday, but that’s no reflection on the way he’s pitched.
The left-hander is actually the Bombers’ devastating secret weapon, having allowed three runs or fewer in each of his ten starts and two or fewer in eight of them. Maddon himself went out of his way to praise the Yankees’ rotation – and that was even before Montgomery limited the Angels to one run in seven innings.
“You hear so much about (the Yankees’) offense, but it’s their pitching that’s been the difference,” Maddon said, alluding to Boone’s eventual dilemma.
Which starter gets bumped in the playoffs? Seriously, how does this choice get made when the rotation is flawless one-through-five?
This is a much, much better defensive team than the 2021 version.
It wasn’t just Judge who took everyone’s breath away. Isaiah Kiner-Falefa made a stunning play on Trout’s grounder deep in the hole in the sixth inning, making a strong throw after ranging far to his right. Trout was out by a full step.
It’s all part of the makeover that made the Yankees’ defense unrecognizable from past years. They’ve committed the fewest errors and have the highest fielding percentage in the American League. In 2021, with Gleyber Torres out of position at short and the slow-footed Luke Voit at first, the Bombers ranked 26th of 30 team in errors.
Nothing deflates an opposing team like a sure hit – or in Ohtani’s case, a home run – that’s turned in a pure gold putout. The Angels learned the hard way just how dangerous the Yankees are this year.
Pitching, defense, big-inning rallies, it’s all there, percolating for an October run. Consider Tuesday’s rout a sneak peek. That memo should have everyone worried.
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Bob Klapisch may be reached at email@example.com.