Yankees blow lead after Anthony Rizzo misplay in loss to Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Yankees’ starting pitchers set new records Tuesday night, but the bullpen and defense couldn’t keep up their promise and translate it into a win.

After a defensive error by Anthony Rizzo extended the eighth inning (later ruled a hit), Clay Holmes came to the mound with a runner on second to protect a one-run lead, but his first pitch was a two-run double, giving the Yankees a 4-3 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium.

DJ LeMahieu and Juan Soto, who were making their season debuts, both charged at the ball in the top of the ninth inning, but were unable to tie the game.

Taylor Ward hit the game-winning double in the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Angels. Getty Images

Former Yankee Willie Calhoun singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning, and Luke Weaver struck out the next two batters.

But then Luis Rengifo came up to bat and hit a grounder to Rizzo’s right.

The first baseman dropped the ball but was unable to catch it cleanly, allowing Rengifo to reach it safely.

“I didn’t make that play,” Rizzo said. “It just slipped a little too much and it bounced off my glove. I didn’t make that play. Clay went out there and got hit. I shouldn’t have been in the game.” [yet] If that play works, it will be a tough match.”

Holmes then came on and quickly lost the lead when Taylor Ward hit an inside sinker over the head of left fielder Alex Verdugo for a two-run double.

“I tried to hit him on the ground, but I lost him on that pitch,” Holmes said. “He took a good swing at that sinker and pulled the ball in the air, which doesn’t happen very often.”

Juan Soto hit a solo home run in the first inning of the Yankees’ loss. Getty Images

The Yankees (37-19) led 33-1 after seven innings, with Weaver and Holmes serving as two of the most reliable bullpen pitchers in the first two months of this season.

But their defense has let them down for the second straight game.

On Sunday against the Padres, a Gleyber Torres error led to a game-changing four-run opportunity, and Rizzo dropped a bunt during the decisive comeback.

Nestor Cortes was the losing pitcher for the Yankees, allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Rizzo, a four-time Gold Glove first baseman, struggled defensively early this season but has improved through his last two games and his error on Tuesday helped the Angels (21-33) secure the win.

The late drama negated a strong pitch from Nestor Cortes, who gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings.

In the process, the Yankees’ starting pitchers’ recent hot streak has become historic.

Austin Wells hit a one-run double in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ loss. Getty Images

Cortez became the 15th consecutive starting pitcher to pitch five or more innings and allow two or fewer runs, breaking an MLB record that had stood since 1893 (the year the mound returned to its current distance of 60 feet, 6 inches).

During that span, the Yankees’ starting pitchers posted a combined 0.99 ERA but went 11-4, all without current AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole.

“I think we’ve done a good job of creating a little bit of competition within our team,” Cortes said. “I think any guy that goes up to pitch the night before wants to win that game, wants to pitch better than him or wants to have a better lineup. I think that’s what drives us. Everybody wants to go six or seven innings.”

Juan Soto hit a home run and a single to short to give the Yankees their first two runs of the night.

He hit a 424-foot home run in the first inning, then smashed a slow, one-run single to left field in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2.

Austin Wells then gave the Yankees the lead in the fifth inning.

The catcher hit a double to right field, bringing in Rizzo from second base for a 3-2 lead, but on the play Torres was called out at home trying to score from first base.

The Yankees put up a lot of hard hitting action against Angels right-hander Griffin Canning, throwing 10 of the 19 pitches they threw to him faster than 95 mph, but only managed to score three runs.

“We only scored three runs tonight and I thought we had some really good swings at the bat,” manager Aaron Boone said, “but we just didn’t have the game-deciding pieces.”