Angels drop opener late to Yankees
Speier allows three runs after entering tie game in eighth
NEW YORK -- Bring on May, please and thank you. Leave April, the cruelest month, to T. S. Eliot and the poets.
One of the most distressing and despairing months in Angels history ended on Thursday night in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees in front of 43,388 in new Yankee Stadium.
The Angels lost 12 of 21 games -- and Nick Adenhart. It had been 16 months since they'd finished below .500 for a full month, but the real challenge was in getting through it, not winning baseball games.
"There have been some rough spots our organization has gone through," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. "Don't relate it to our organization as much as to Jim and Janet Adenhart losing a son.
"Baseball's a release. We're supporting the Adenhart family, and that's our focus. Anything else in baseball, as far as getting guys injured, it happens all the time. We've got to be strong as an organization."
The Angels got some stout work from starting pitcher Anthony Ortega, but some late thunder left their sparkling new clubhouse silent.
The big guys up top contributed, but it was the bottom of the Yankees' order that did the serious damage after Ortega departed with one out in the seventh inning.
After a single, double and intentional walk to Nick Swisher loaded the bases in the eighth against Justin Speier, Melky Cabrera, hitting eighth, singled home the go-ahead run.
Third baseman Ramiro Pena then banged a two-run double to right, handing a win to lefty Phil Coke (1-1), with Speier (0-1) absorbing the loss.
"My location's been pretty good," Speier said. "Today it wasn't. If I'm making my pitches, I'm going to get outs. If I don't, they're going to get good wood. I've got a short-term memory."
A.J. Burnett, one of the new Yankees multimillionaires, had dueled Ortega, who made his second start for the Angels an impressive one.
Coke pitched a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera, the legend, got through the ninth for the save after a leadoff single by Torii Hunter.
Burnett yielded four earned runs in seven innings, compared to four runs -- three earned -- by Ortega in 6 1/3 innings.
"Stay strong and stay confident," Ortega said through translator Jose Mota. "That's my approach. Mainly, I kept my confidence level. It doesn't matter what ballpark I'm in -- baseball is baseball.
And there used to be only one Yankee Stadium.
"I'm honored and proud to have the chance to take the mound at a place like Yankee Stadium," Ortega said. "I don't want to take away from the fact this is a special place to play. I respect and admire it."
Scioscia lauded the effort of Ortega, who delivered 100 pitches and had two strikeouts against two walks and eight hits. He also had pitched well in his Major League debut against the Mariners at home.
"Anthony really pitched well, considering where he's been in Spring Training, being a little banged up [with a tender forearm]," Scioscia said. "He's done a heckuva job and pitched well tonight.
"We just didn't support him. It was a great start. We were impressed with his stuff, pitching against a tough lineup stacked with lefties who can do a lot of things -- run, hit with power."
The Angels came out swinging with the same confidence they always took into the storied building across the street, where they won 22 of their final 40 regular-season games.
Chone Figgins got the Angels started against Burnett with a leadoff triple to the gap in left-center, scoring on Maicer Izturis' infield out. Burnett left Bobby Abreu -- back in his old stomping grounds -- at third after a single and steal.
The Yanks quickly drew even when Mark Teixeira, facing his former teammates for the first time, doubled to left-center off Hunter's glove and scored on Hideki Matsui's single to center.
Mike Napoli's homer to right, his fourth of the year, leading off the second gave the lead back to Ortega. Howard Kendrick walked, stole second, moved up on an infield out and scored on Erick Aybar's sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.
Johnny Damon's solo homer to right, his fourth, brought the Yankees to within a run in the third. They seized the lead an inning later on singles by Swisher, Pena (an infield roller) and Derek Jeter.
When Jeter's bullet got past Abreu in right for an error, Pena scored an unearned run.
The Angels got even in the fifth. Aybar doubled to left-center leading off and scored on Figgins' single to left.
Ortega ended the sixth inning with a double-play grounder by Cabrera and got one out in the seventh before Jeter sent his final pitch into center for a single.
Scot Shields, putting his curveball in a good place, got Teixeira to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The bottom of the eighth started with an out, but Robinson Cano's single and Jorge Posada's double to the right-center gap had Speier in trouble. Swisher was walked intentionally to set up a possible double play, but Cabrera did not cooperate on a pitch that was down and in, shooting it into right.
"Justin just missed with his spots," Scioscia said of Speier, who had yielded only five hits and one walk in 8 2/3 previous innings. "He was trying to get balls away to lefties and left them in."
Speier was flipping the calendar.
"I'll be thinking about something else in 10 minutes," he said.
The Angels welcome the arrival of May.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.