Ward delivers dramatic hit in Angels’ win over Yankees

Brandon Slotter-TheSportingTribune
The Angels relied on their bullpen who retired all 12 of the batters they faced to complete the victory over New York Yankees.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — With a crowd mostly wearing pinstripes, it may have come as a benefit for the Angels, who relied on clutch pitching and a timely double from Taylor Ward to take the series opener over the Yankees, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.

Countering runs, mostly by account of home runs in the first inning, the Angels relied on their relievers, which retired all 12 batters they faced and found a clutch two-run double from Taylor Ward in the eighth inning to complete the victory.

“We can compete with anyone,” Kevin Pillar said. “Believing that we can win games even when we don’t really see the path to victory.”

Ward lifts Angels

Staring down a one-run deficit and a potential 0-for-3 day with a strikeout, Ward came up clutch with a two-run double in the eighth that would be the key hit to the Angels victory. Sitting on a first-pitch fastball, Ward lined a ball over the head of left fielder Alex Verdugo for a double.

“He had an idea of what he was going to do and he was being aggressive and he caught it,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “I’m glad he was aggressive and not check to see what he was doing before he decided to swing.

“He’d already made up his mind that he was going for that first pitch and he gave it to him and he didn’t miss.”

Added Ward: “I figured he’d try to get ahead early so kind of played the odds there. Usually it’s not a type of pitch I’m hunting early but picked my spot and took my shot. Came through and put a good swing on it and glad it all worked out.”

Canning capitalizes

Following the first-inning home run from Juan Soto, starter Griffin Canning had to battle over five innings, limited a the Yankees lineup to three runs on nine hits and two walks. Canning left runners in scoring position in four of his five innings and left a baserunner on in each of those five.

“That’s obviously a good lineup so they make you work for it,” Canning said. “Just happy with the way I competed.”

Despite allowing three runs, two of the runs were attributed to defensive lapses on the infield. Canning and Washington said the starter truly contributed to one run.

Falling behind 3-0 to Soto, Canning threw a fastball down the heart of the plate and followed it with a chase in the same location on the following fastball. On the third fastball, however, Soto hit a missile that flew 424 feet down the right-field line.

“Yeah, probably a stupid pitch,” said Canning, who overcame a poor April with a May that featured a 2.60 ERA in five starts and 27 2/3 innings. “I felt like I probably had the best stuff I’ve had all year.

“I feel like since I started the year off with a little rough patch each outing is getting better.”

Trailing after five innings, the bullpen kept the Angels in the game with a combined effort from Hunter Strickland, Luis Garcia, Matt Moore and Carlos Estevez.

“They were outstanding,” Washington said. “Strickland did his job. Garcia did his job. Moore did his job. Carlos did his job. So it worked out perfect for us.”

“Road game” at home

A raucous announced crowd of 34,894 exploded after Soto’s first-inning homer. For a team with a 14-14 on the road and 7-19 at home, the Angels weren’t afraid to laugh the hostile crowd at Angel Stadium after the victory.

“I think they know we’re not on the road but what I liked is they didn’t bow down,” Washington said. “They kept fighting and kept trying to put good at bats together.”

Added Canning: “It’s fun pitching against them. It honestly feels kind of like a road game with all their fans that come in but it makes it fun. Fun to compete against.”

Ward you could feel the presence of pro Yankees crowd.

“It’s really weird with the home/away thing but I just think guys are grinding and having good at bats,” Ward said. “If we continue to get that one hit here and there, we can change the script.”

Pillar stays hot

With two hits off of Yankees Nestor Cortes Jr. — a first inning two-run home run and fourth inning single — Kevin Pillar rose his slash line against southpaws in 2024 to .405/.463/.730. Both his slugging percentage and OPS rank fourth best across the majors in the category among hitters with 40-or-more plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.