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NYY@LAA: Wilson whiffs five over eight solid frames

ANAHEIM -- Ernesto Frieri had been doing so well, and was an out away from breezing through yet another inning to give his offense a crack at a walk-off win. And then he yanked his fastball a little too far inside, and then a light-hitting second baseman dropped his bat head right on time and went deep for the first time in 105 plate appearances this season.

Another home run against Frieri, the sixth he's allowed in 14 1/3 innings.

Another loss, his third.

"I've been making my pitches lately," Frieri said after Brian Roberts' solo homer handed the Angels a 4-3 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night. "Today I just said, 'Let's attack the strike zone, let's make sure I'm going to throw strikes,' and I got hurt. It's crazy."

Frieri had thrown 4 2/3 hitless innings since being temporarily demoted from the closer's role after an April 23 meltdown in the nation's capital, and was coming off Monday's clean ninth-inning save when he took the mound in a tied game in the top of the ninth of the middle game of the three-game series.

C.J. Wilson had just completed eight innings of three-run ball, notching his fifth quality start in seven outings to put his ERA at 3.21. Albert Pujols had just delivered a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, bringing in Mike Trout after the 22-year-old center fielder snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a two-out triple to right-center field off Hiroki Kuroda.

Frieri got Yangervis Solarte to fly out after seeing five straight fastballs, then threw five more fastballs to strike out Brett Gardner. Next up was the No. 9-hitting Roberts, with his .242 batting average and zero home runs.

"When you get two quick outs, you don't want to mess around with that third guy -- especially when the better hitters are coming up," Frieri said.

Roberts is a 14-year veteran, but he had only faced Frieri one other time in his career.

So he kept it simple, and looked for a first-pitch fastball.

"I'm not sure I've ever looked for anything else in my life, anyway," Roberts said. "'See it and hit it' has always been my motto, I guess."

Hank Conger set up low and away, but Frieri's first-pitch 94-mph fastball sailed right toward the middle, and Roberts lofted it over the tall fence in right field to help the Yanks gain a split after the first two games of the series.

Conger said Frieri, whose ERA is now 6.28, "had really good zip on his fastball today" and felt that was "the best I've seen his stuff."

The hope is that a hiccup like this -- gut-wrenching as it might be -- doesn't shake Frieri's confidence again, and doesn't negate all the progress he'd made leading up to it.

"Most of the lefties, that's kind of where it hurts him, because he does have that four-seam carry on it, and it's really that spot for most of the lefties that are facing him," Conger said. "But I kept encouraging him, because the zip on his fastball today was very noticeable, and it's been noticeable the past couple outings."

Wilson took the mound in the eighth despite having 106 pitches under his belt, and he faced the right-handed-hitting Alfonso Soriano with two on, one out and 118 pitches, even though right-hander Kevin Jepsen was loose in the bullpen. Soriano then took a first-pitch curveball and hit a sharp grounder past a diving Erick Aybar and into left field to give the Yankees their first of two leads.

"He had handled Soriano all night, and his stuff was still sharp," manager Mike Scioscia said of leaving Wilson in. "He got the ground ball; it went through the six-hole."

Pujols' game-tying hit, a single to left-center field after working a 3-2 count against Shawn Kelley, snapped an 0-for-14 drought with runners in scoring position by the Angels' offense -- an offense that's without corner outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun, as well as third baseman David Freese.

One inning later, the Angels suffered their eighth loss by a single run. They've led at some point in 12 of their 16 defeats, giving them the highest percent of losses with blown leads in the Majors.

"We're really close," Wilson said. "You have to think that when we get back to full strength that some of these games will go in our favor a lot more."

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