ANAHEIM, Calif. — The home runs are sexier but the biggest reason the Yankees have won five straight and seven of eight is because the starting rotation, perceived as the club’s biggest question mark at the start of spring training, has easily turned into a lifeline for an injured roster.
Luke Voit homered twice and Mike Ford provided his first major league home run Tuesday night, but Domingo German toyed with the Angels’ hitters on the way to a 7-5 victory that was witnessed by an Angel Stadium crowd of 38,016.
Chad Green’s struggles put a wart on the victory when he gave up a grand slam to Justin Bour in the eighth inning that made it a two-run game.
The Yankees’ rotation has been so good lately that staff ace Luis Severino hardly has been missed. In his fourth start of the young season German allowed an unearned run and four hits in a season-high 6 ²/₃ innings and is 4-1. One of the wins came in relief against the White Sox.
During those seven wins in their past eight games, Yankees starters are 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA.
It is easy to mock the competition — Red Sox, Royals and Angels — that those numbers have been posted against, but considering who isn’t in the Yankees’ lineup these days the rotation has done more than its share to make sure a stuffed injured list didn’t sink the Yankees in April.
With a bullpen featuring several arms Aaron Boone said he would avoid using Tuesday unless it was an emergency after back-to-back extra-inning games, German took a 6-1 lead into the seventh, an inning German hadn’t seen in three starts.
A struggling Green replaced him with two outs and Brian Goodwin on second in the seventh and retired Tommy La Stella on a grounder to keep the five-run cushion intact.
The next frame was ugly.
Green gave up back-to-back singles to David Fletcher and Kole Calhoun to start the eighth and walked Mike Trout. Ahead of Bour, 1-2, Green watched the next pitch land in the center-field seats. Luis Cessa replaced Green and watched Andrelton Simmons’ fly ball to deep center go in and out of Brett Gardner’s glove for a double. He then walked Albert Pujols.
Cessa regrouped to fan Goodwin and induced Kevan Smith to bang into a 5-4-3 double play to keep the lead at 7-5.
Because closer Aroldis Chapman had worked Sunday and Monday, Boone called for Zack Britton to get the final three outs and the lefty posted his first save in three chances.
Gardner, hitting third for the second time this season, went 4-for-5 with a double and triple. Voit homered in the first inning for the second time in as many games and Ford delivered a two-run homer in the fifth. Gleyber Torres, who was 5-for-37 (.135), singled in a run in the seventh that hiked the Yankees’ lead to 5-1. Voit hit his team-leading seventh homer with the bases empty in the eighth and pushed the Yankees’ advantage to 7-1.
Goodwin opened the fifth with an opposite-field double to left-center and moved to third when German failed to glove Tommy La Stella’s chopper on the first-base line. With runners at the corners, Fletcher forced La Stella at second with a grounder to short that scored Goodwin and cut the Yankees’ lead to 4-1. German kept the damage to an unearned run by getting Kole Calhoun to foul out to third baseman DJ LeMahieu near the dugout.
German’s first taste of possible trouble surfaced in the third when La Stella and Fletcher, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, singled to start the inning. German rebounded to strike out Calhoun and feed Trout a 6-4-3 double play that was initially ruled a force out at second because first base umpire Chris Guccione called Trout safe. A quick replay procedure corrected the botched call.
Ford’s first big-league homer came with Gardner on and two outs in the fifth and extended the Yankees’ lead to 4-0. The left-handed product of Princeton sent a 3-1 pitch into the seats above the scoreboard in center field off Chris Stratton.
Ford had opened the second with a line single to right in front of Mike Tauchman drawing a walk. Austin Romine whiffed before Thairo Estrada singled to right and loaded the bases. It was Estrada’s first big-league hit in his first big league at-bat. Tyler Wade followed with a chopper to short that forced Estrada at second but scored Ford for a 2-0 lead.
Gardner’s one-out triple in the third didn’t turn into a run because the ice-cold Torres struck out and Ford popped out.
Voit’s second first-inning home run in as many games staked the Yankees to a 1-0 lead off Stratton.