NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran's eighth-inning, opposite-field fly ball is an out at almost every ballpark in the Major Leagues. But in Yankee Stadium, with it being 314 feet down the right-field line and not much further in the gap, it is a home run. And on Monday night, it
NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran's eighth-inning, opposite-field fly ball is an out at almost every ballpark in the Major Leagues. But in Yankee Stadium, with it being 314 feet down the right-field line and not much further in the gap, it is a home run. And on Monday night, it dealt the Angels a tough 5-2 loss.
Their starter, Matt Shoemaker, was forced to watch it from the end of the bench, unable to finish the brilliant start he began.
"I'm pretty fired up right now," Shoemaker said. "I'm just getting sick of losing. That's all."
Shoemaker entered with a 1.59 ERA and 31 strikeouts since his last walk, then proceeded to carve up the Yankees' lineup through the first six innings, needing only 59 pitches to record the game's first 18 outs. But then he gave up back-to-back homers with two outs in the seventh, and back-to-back singles with two outs in the eighth, his pitch count at 93.
Up came the switch-hitting Beltran, a better hitter from the left side of the plate.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted the platoon advantage, so he brought in his best lefty reliever, Jose Alvarez, to force Beltran to bat right-handed.
"Shoe had trouble closing out that seventh inning and the eighth inning," Scioscia said, "so we felt it was better to turn him around and get that last out in the eighth."
Beltran began the game with an .875 on-base-plus slugging against righties and a .728 OPS against lefties, but he was batting .304/.350/.674 against both of them over his last 26 games, one of the few consistent contributors in a Yankees offense that had managed the fifth-fewest runs per game in the Major Leagues.
"I wasn't really thinking homer," Beltran said. "I was thinking more base hit to right field."
Ahead in the count, 0-1, Alvarez tried to locate a fastball inside to keep Beltran from extending his arms.
"But I think it ran a little bit over the heart of the plate," Alvarez said in Spanish. "He got a good part of the bat on it. When it left, I thought it was a fly ball. It didn't go very far."
The ball traveled 348 feet, landing in the third row beyond the wall in right, good enough for the home run that gave the Yankees a three-run lead they would not give up.
"You always want to be in there as a pitcher, but I wasn't surprised," Shoemaker said of being taken out with his sixth-lowest pitch count this season. "[Scioscia] gave me a chance to get out there in the eighth."
Shoemaker didn't encounter his first three-ball count until he faced Brian McCann with two outs in the seventh. He threw a 3-1 fastball that McCann hooked into the second deck, but just foul. Shoemaker came back with his signature pitch, a splitter that traveled 84 mph, and McCann sent it well out to right. The next batter, Starlin Castro, got a 1-0 splitter and sent a towering shot to the second deck in left field, tying the game at 2.
With two outs in the eighth, Shoemaker faced the top of the Yankees' order for a fourth time and gave up a line-drive single to Jacoby Ellsbury on a third straight splitter, this one an 0-2 pitch located in the lower part of the strike zone. Brett Gardner followed by extending his arms on a low-and-away splitter and poking it into a vacant center field.
Mike Trout charged in, but the Angels were in a no-doubles defense to keep the go-ahead run from scoring from first base.
He pulled up just in front of the ball and fielded it on a bounce.
He was close to laying out.
"And then, last second, I just told myself to just try to keep it in front of me and keep them from scoring," Trout said. "If I lay out, maybe I catch it."
And if he does, maybe Shoemaker can better appreciate the run he is on.
Despite the loss, and despite two runs that were tacked on while he was out of the game, Shoemaker has a 2.37 ERA over his last four starts. He has faced 132 batters since his last walk -- in the second inning of a May 16 start at Dodger Stadium -- and has struck out 39 of them. Since 1913, only one other pitcher -- Curt Schilling -- has gone seven-plus innings with six-plus strikeouts and zero walks in four consecutive starts.
"That's why it's so frustrating," said Shoemaker, still 3-7 with a 5.40 ERA overall. "I felt like I pitched really well today. Towards the end, a couple of things of things got away."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.