Anthony Rizzo’s game-changing blunder turns tide in Yankees’ loss to Angels

Yankees' Anthony Rizzo makes a defensive error at the game against the Los Angeles Angels, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Anaheim, Calif.
Michael Bennington
Wednesday May 29, 2024

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Anthony Rizzo‘s eighth-inning error loomed large in the New York Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night. The four-time Gold Glove winner mishandled a ground ball, allowing the Angels to capitalize and win the game.

With two outs and a runner on first in the eighth, Anthony Rizzo fumbled Luis Rengifo’s weakly hit groundball. Had he fielded it cleanly, the inning would have ended with the Yankees leading 3-2. Initially ruled a hit, it extended the inning and the miscue led to Yankees closer Clay Holmes entering with runners on first and third. Holmes surrendered a two-run double to Taylor Ward that put the Angels ahead 4-3.

The Yankees went down in order in the ninth, rendering Anthony Rizzo’s defensive lapse costly on a day the team’s pitching staff etched its name into the record books.

Anthony Rizzo’s error opens up Yankees’ misfortune

Juan Soto demonstrated his offensive prowess, driving in the Yankees’ first two runs of the evening. He launched a 424-foot home run in the first inning and later delivered a bloop RBI single to left field, tying the game at 2-2 in the fourth. Catcher Austin Wells gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the fifth by doubling to right field, scoring Anthony Rizzo from second.

Former Yankee Willie Calhoun opened the bottom of the eighth inning for the Angels with a single before Luke Weaver retired the next two batters. Luis Rengifo then hit a grounder to the right of Anthony Rizzo, who knocked it down but failed to secure it cleanly, allowing Rengifo to reach first. Anthony Rizzo later admitted he should have made the play, saying he over-slid the ball, causing it to deflect off his glove. He acknowledged that if he had made the play, Clay Holmes wouldn’t have been needed in that situation.

Holmes, brought in after Anthony Rizzo’s error, quickly lost the lead when Taylor Ward smacked an inside sinker for a two-run double over Alex Verdugo’s head in left field. Holmes explained his intention was to induce a ground ball but conceded he was beaten on the pitch. He remarked that Ward managed to put a good swing on the sinker and elevate it, a rare occurrence according to Holmes.

In the ninth, DJ LeMahieu, making his season debut, and Juan Soto both came close to leveling the score with deep fly balls, but fell short. The defeat overshadowed the historic achievement of the Yankees’ starting rotation, which had set a new milestone earlier in the night.

The Yankees (37-19) experienced an uncommon setback Tuesday, with their dependable bullpen duo of Luke Weaver and Clay Holmes faltering in a 4-3 defeat to the Angels (21-33). Defensive errors, which also marred Sunday’s game against the Padres, once again proved costly.

Despite the loss, starter Nestor Cortes delivered a commendable performance, yielding just two runs over 5 1/3 innings. The Yankees’ rotation maintained its impressive streak, solidifying its place in the record books. However, the bullpen’s inability to secure the lead after seven innings overshadowed these accomplishments. Defensive lapses, highlighted by Gleyber Torres’ error on Sunday and Rizzo’s on Tuesday, played a pivotal role in the Yankees’ rare defeat.

Anthony Rizzo admits fault, in crosshairs

Soon after the Yankees‘ stunning 4-3 loss to the Angels, a small group of New York media waited outside the visiting clubhouse. Jason Zillo, the team’s VP of media relations, redirected them to a back entrance near the manager’s office.

Yankees Anthony Rizzo is at the game against the Los Angeles Angels, Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Anaheim, Calif.

Rounding the corner, Anthony Rizzo sat on the floor, head down and texting, his costly eighth-inning error fresh on everyone’s mind. Even his error dominated the discussions and manager Aaron Boone admitted that it was the turning point of the game.

“It looked like Rengifo got it off the end of the bat a little bit,” he said of the pivotal moment. “Maybe just a little bit of an in-betweener. (Rizzo) probably had a chance to get it even when he knocked it down and just didn’t pick it up cleanly. They extended the inning.”

Anthony Rizzo conceded: “That play needs to be made. I kind of over-slid it and it bounced off my glove. Clay comes in and gives up a hit. He never should have been in the game if I make that play, so it’s a tough one.”

It continues an uncharacteristic defensive stretch for the four-time Gold Glover. Last Sunday in San Diego, he allowed a bobbled bunt to become a hit, helping the Padres rally for a 5-2 win.

“Honestly, it’s been disappointing,” Anthony Rizzo said of his glovework this season. “It’s not to the standard I hold myself to. I need to be better.”

At the plate, the 34-year-old is batting .245 with 7 HRs and a .680 OPS, down from his prime Cubs years but still dangerous when healthy. Anthony Rizzo’s $16 million club option for 2023 remains uncertain as Rizzo hopes to reverse his slow start over the season’s final four months.

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