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Angels' O'Sullivan goes from rocky to rock-solid to beat Yankees, 10-2

In his 2010 debut, the pitcher follows a two-run, two-hit first inning with five hitless innings, retiring 12 in a row at one point. Mike Napoli drives in four runs with a homer and a single.

July 20, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from New York

His third pitch of the game was lined into Yankee Stadium's right-field seats by Nick Swisher, a walk, a double, a walk and a groundout produced another run, and one thought ran through the head of Angels pitcher Sean O'Sullivan on Tuesday night:

"Don't look up," said the right-hander, who was called up from triple-A Salt Lake to oppose one of baseball's most prolific lineups.

"Here I was facing the biggest team in baseball, coming into their house, pitching on the mound some call the loneliest place on Earth. I had to take the stadium out of it."

Once he did, he took the Yankees out of it. After a rocky two-run, two-hit first, O'Sullivan threw five hitless innings, retiring 12 in a row at one point, to lead the Angels to a 10-2 victory over New York in his 2010 debut.

Mike Napoli drove in four runs with a two-run homer and a two-run single, Maicer Izturis, playing for the first time since June 15, hit a two-run homer and an RBI single, and Hideki Matsui added a two-run homer, as the Angels began a critical 12-game stretch against the Yankees, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox on a high note.

The Angels improved to 54-44 against the Yankees since 2000 — they are the only team with a winning record against them in that span — and 85-73 against them since 1996, including the playoffs.

Napoli improved his career average against the Yankees to .391 (27 for 69), the second-highest among active players with at least 75 plate appearances against them.

He also improved his OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) against the Yankees to 1.174, the highest among players with a minimum of 85 plate appearances in the last 100 years.

The next three players on that list: Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Hank Greenberg. It should be noted that Napoli has 92 career plate appearances against the Yankees; Williams had 1,351 of them.

"Good for me," said Napoli, who has rebounded from an 0-for-14 slump before the All-Star break to go 8 for 16 with three homers and six RBIs in four games since the break. "Sometimes it just happens that way. I don't know why."

O'Sullivan, who went 4-2 with a 5.92 earned-run average in 12 games — 10 of them starts — for the Angels last season, was not at a loss to explain his performance. It was a matter of the 22-year-old grounding himself.

"I made some pitches to get out of the first, came in and took a deep breath and just tried to throw strikes, get ahead of guys and let the defense work," O'Sullivan said. "I felt butterflies in the first, but then I realized it was just baseball. Don't try to do too much."

O'Sullivan, who replaced struggling and sore-shouldered left-hander Scott Kazmir in the rotation, knew Monday that he was being called up, but he didn't receive a voice mail from pitching coach Mike Butcher telling him he would be starting.

"Butch said he called, but I didn't get the message," O'Sullivan said. "I got here [Tuesday] and said, 'What am I doing?' I figured since it was my day to pitch, I'd show up and see what happens."

Izturis, out for five weeks because of a tear in his left forearm, sparked the Angels' comeback with a two-out, RBI single in the second. Torii Hunter's two-out RBI single in the third made it 2-2, and Izturis' two-run homer off Phil Hughes in the fourth made it 4-2.

The Angels extended their lead on Napoli's two-run, opposite-field homer to right-center, his 17th of the season, in the sixth, Matsui's two-run homer in the seventh, his second homer since June 7, and Napoli's two-run single in the ninth.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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