ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) After a lengthy stretch away from baseball to recover from a personal tragedy, Tommy Hanson is pitching his way back into top form.
The rest of the Los Angeles Angels are also looking sharp against the struggling New York Yankees.
Erick Aybar homered and drove in two runs, and Albert Pujols added two more RBIs in the Angels’ 6-2 victory Saturday night, sending New York to its fifth straight defeat.
Hanson (4-2) recorded a season-high eight strikeouts while pitching five-hit ball into the seventh inning for the Angels, who have won three straight after a four-game skid.
“This was the most confident I’ve felt all year,” said Hanson, just the third pitcher in 20 years to win in each of his first three career appearances against the Yankees. “Obviously, I needed a little time to deal with what I was dealing with, but I feel like I’m getting back to a rhythm. I’m back to a normal routine.”
The big right-hander delivered his strongest start since returning from a 27-day gap between starts in May while he was on the Angels’ restricted list, mentally dealing with his stepbrother’s death. Against the Yankees, Hanson walked just one and allowed the second-fewest hits in any start of his debut season with Los Angeles.
He also got plenty of help from his teammates.
Josh Hamilton had an RBI double, and Aybar hit an early homer before delivering a tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth. Howie Kendrick had three hits and drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning of his fourth straight multi-hit game. Mike Trout drew three walks and scored two runs.
Combined with Pujols’ third straight multi-hit game, the Angels got another standout day from their inconsistent offense, which has 25 hits in the first two games of this weekend series.
“A lot of guys are really swinging the bats real well,” said Kendrick, who leads the AL with 24 hits while batting .500 in June. “One through nine, different guys are doing it every time. We just want to play good baseball. We’re not worried about the standings or whatever. We just want to win.”
Brett Gardner had an RBI triple for the Yankees, who matched their worst skid of the season. Jayson Nix drove in Gardner in the third inning, but New York managed just two more hits in the final six innings – both by Ichiro Suzuki, who also made two outstanding catches in right field.
“He’s a little funky out there with his mechanics,” Yankees catcher Chris Stewart said of Hanson. “It throws you off when the ball comes out at a weird angle, and we had shadows today, too, so it was a little tough to pick him up. He’s got extreme speeds – a real slow curveball, which he mixes with his slider, and his fastball kind of gets on you because of his motion.”
And it gets worse: Mark Teixeira left in the fourth inning with an aggravated right wrist, heading home to New York for further evaluation.
David Phelps (4-4) yielded nine hits and four runs while pitching into the seventh for the Yankees, taking a small step back from outstanding work in his two previous starts.
The Yankees have lost 27 of their last 39 games at the Big A, and their overall skid got even more foreboding with the latest injury setback for Teixeira, their $180 million slugger.
Teixeira flied out to right and popped out to third before leaving in the fourth inning when David Adams replaced him at first base. Teixeira is hitless in 12 at-bats and is just 8 for 53 since coming off the disabled list on May 31 with a torn sheath on his right wrist.
“It’s the first time he’s come to us, really, and said something,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he just doesn’t feel that he has the whip that he normally does, hitting left-handed, so we’ll see what it is. He came to us after the second at-bat and just said he feels like there’s not a lot of strength there, so we told him we’re going to take him out of there. I’ve always said that wrist is tricky, so I’m concerned.”
Aybar put the Angels ahead in the second inning with a low drive that barely cleared the short fence in the right-field corner for the shortstop’s second homer of the season.
After Aybar drove in Mark Trumbo with the go-ahead run in the sixth, Hamilton bounced an RBI double down the first-base line in the seventh against reliever Shawn Kelley.
NOTES: The Yankees stole four bases against Hanson, who has yielded 14 stolen bases this season. “I can’t hold runners on first base,” Hanson said with a chuckle. “I’m terrible at that.” … Suzuki doubled in the fourth inning, but was caught trying to steal third base. Television replays showed Suzuki might have been safe even though Hank Conger’s throw beat him to the bag, and Girardi had an animated argument with umpire Manny Gonzalez. … Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte turned 41 on Saturday, and Eduardo Perez turned 26.