ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Dan Haren continued a streak of masterful outings by the Los Angeles Angels rotation against a pitcher who doesn't give up too many runs - CC Sabathia.
Haren pitched a four-hitter for his fifth career shutout and retired 18 straight batters as the Angels climbed within 1 1/2 games of the AL West lead with a 6-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday night.
``Coming into the game, I knew that there was going to be a battle,' Haren said after lowering his ERA to 3.06. ``It was like a playoff atmosphere. When the Yankees come to town, it's always a little bit more exciting. That's a tough lineup, so I'm fortunate that I had my good stuff this time as opposed to my last time.'
Haren (15-8) went the distance for the 15th time in 253 career starts and fourth time this season. The three-time All-Star right-hander struck out seven and walked none for the 13th time in his 31 starts.
``I wasn't aware of that, but my game is attacking the zone, making them put the ball in play. And with that, I need good defense behind me,' Haren said after his 113-pitch outing. ``Tonight, a got a couple of double plays and some great plays up the middle. It takes an all-around effort to enable me to attack the strike zone like that.'
Jeff Mathis and Torii Hunter homered for the Angels, who have won six of seven and climbed within 1 1/2 games of Texas in the AL West after training by as many as seven games on Aug. 17. They are as close to the Rangers as they've been since Aug. 10 and are doing their best to avoid looking past the next 14 games to their season-ending, three-game showdown in Anaheim.
``Technically, we control our own destiny because we've still got the Rangers three more times,' Haren said. ``But we're just trying to win every ballgame that we can. And we've been real scrappy. They haven't been the easiest wins, but we've played tough and we've played like a unit all year.'
Haren held the AL East leaders to a pair of eighth-inning singles after giving up a ground-rule double to Derek Jeter on his second pitch and a single by rookie Jesus Montero leading off the second.
``We're just hungry,' Hunter said. ``We're grinding and we can smell that division title. So we just want to play every game close and keep it close. And Dan Haren gave us a chance to win. He was the starter and the closer. When you shut out the New York Yankees, you're doing something.'
The Yankees squandered a chance to pad its division lead over Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and remained 2 1/2 games in front. They have lost four in a row for the first time since a season-worst, six-game skid in May.
In Friday's series opener, Jered Weaver held them to three hits over eight innings and ended up with a no-decision as the Angels won in the ninth on Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly.
``We need to swing the bats better,' Jeter said. ``When you're going up against good pitching, it's going to be tough at times. ``This is one of those streaks where it doesn't seem like too many people are hitting.'
Sabathia (19-8) threw 119 pitches in six innings, allowing a run and eight hits. He struck out five and walked four - escaping bases-loaded jams in the first and sixth - but failed in his bid to become the first Yankees pitcher in 31 years with back-to-back 20 win seasons.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez sat out because of a troublesome left thumb that has hindered him the past three weeks. He has been shut down for at least three days.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi fielded a lineup that had Eric Chavez filling in for Rodriguez, catcher Russell Martin starting in place of Francisco Cervelli, and infielder Eduardo Nunez starting in the outfield for the first time in two big league seasons because right fielder Nick Swisher sat out a second straight game because of pain in his left elbow.
It was the second consecutive day that Cervelli was scratched from the original lineup because of concussionlike symptoms stemming from his home plate collision with Baltimore's Nick Markakis on Thursday.
In the second inning, Martin took a foul tip off the bat of Izturis and remained in the game after being checked out by the trainer. Izturis lined the next pitch over the head of center fielder Curtis Granderson for a double that scored Mathis.
Martin, however, was pulled before the Angels batted in the third after he appeared to have trouble throwing the ball back to the mound while warming up Sabathia because of a bruised right hand. X-rays were negative.
``It hit the end of the thumb and bent the nail right in the middle,' Martin said. ``I couldn't really feel the baseball in my hand when I threw to second base. I knew at some point the feeling was going to come back. It just took a little longer than I anticipated.'
Jorge Posada, who hasn't caught all season, came out in his gear to the delight of hundreds of Yankee fans, who gave him a thunderous ovation.
``I got a chance to get back behind the plate,' Posada said. ``I have my equipment with me. I'm an emergency catcher, like I was today. Joe said, 'What do you think?' So I said, 'Well if you need me, I'm there.' He said, 'Go ahead. It's like riding a bike.' I was excited. It was fun. I'll be sore tomorrow, but I'll sleep well tonight.'
Howie Kendrick led off with an infield single, then tried to steal second and was erased by Posada, a five-time All-Star catcher limited to first base and designated hitter duty this season.
``It showed a lot of guts to go back there and do what he did,' said Girardi, who took a lot of heat from Posada for putting Posada ninth in the batting order earlier this season. ``I thought he did fine. He'll get back there every once in a while to warm up a pitcher in-between innings and it kind of gives him that feel. But it's not easy.'
The Angels broke it open with a four-run seventh against Hector Noesi. Mike Trout hit an RBI single, and Erick Aybar followed with another sacrifice fly, and Mathis capped the rally with a two-run homer.
Notes: Wells stranded all eight runners that were on base during his five at_bats. ... The run Mathis scored in the second was the 1,000th allowed by Sabathia, who fanned Hunter in the third inning for his 2,000th career strikeout. The only left-handers younger than the 31-year-old Sabathia to reach 2,000 strikeouts were Sandy Koufax (29) and Sam McDowell (28). The only other active pitchers to reach the mark are Javier Vazquez and Tim Wakefield.
The Associated Press News Service
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