NEW YORK (AP) Anthony Rizzo is among the players happiest with the new restrictions against defensive shifts.
He singled in the opening run in a five-run first inning, going 3 for 3 with a pair of walks to help New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-3 Thursday and take two of three in the high-profile matchup of MVPs.
“Not having nine guys on the right side of the field definitely helps out a lot more,” Rizzo said. “It’s not really much in the back of my mind when I’m hitting but more after the fact or even when other guys are hitting.”
Rizzo is batting .344, fourth in the American League and up from .224 last season. He has four homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.027 OPS.
With the rise in shifts in the past decade, the left-handed hitter's average dropped steadily from what had been a .273-to-.293 range from 2014-19.
“He feels really good,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Really started his to find his stroke a little bit literally the last couple days of spring training and obviously now he's carried that right into the season.”
Rookie Anthony Volpe walked leading off, Judge and Rizzo followed with singles, Oswald Peraza walked with the bases loaded and Jose Trevino hit a three-run double off Patrick Sandoval (1-1) that short-hopped the left-field wall. The Yankees sent nine batters to the plate in a 39-pitch first.
New York (12-7) has won five of its first six series along with a four-game split against Minnesota, just the third time since 1957 the Yankees didn’t lose any of their first six series and first time since 2003. The Yankees improved to 10-0 this year when facing a series loss.
Los Angeles (9-10) headed home after a 2-5 trip that started in Boston. Eleven Yankees reached on walks, six of whom scored. Angels pitchers walked 23 in the series.
“I'm not worried about that,” manager Phil Nevin said. “We're in a good place. We're playing pretty good baseball and one little run here, and we're off and running.”
Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout each went 0 for 3 against Nestor Cortes, a fellow All-Star. Cortes gave up three runs and four hits in six innings, ending his team-record-tying streak of nine straight starts allowing two runs or fewer.
Los Angeles closed to 5-3 on Logan O’Hoppe’s RBI single and Taylor Ward’s sacrifice fly in the fifth, and O'Hoppe's RBI double in the seventh. Wandy Peralta walked Ohtani with two outs in the seventh and Trout followed with an infield single. Anthony Rendon, still without a home run this season, stranded the bases loaded with a flyout.
Sandoval tied a career high with six walks, allowing five runs and four hits.
“You can't have six walks in an outing,” he said.
O’Hoppe was forced from the game by a recurrence of intense left shoulder pain after a swing in the ninth inning. The rookie catcher initially hurt the shoulder during Monday’s 5-4 win at Boston, but stayed in that game.
“I felt it pop, come out the back, and will be evaluated the next couple days,” O’Hoppe said after his first three-hit game. “Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious.”
Rendon is hitting .269 (7 for 26) with a double since he was hit on the back by a pitch from Toronto’s Jordan Romano on April 9.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa made a pair of diving catches in center and hit a two-run single in a three-run seventh. Kiner-Falefa preserved a no-hit bid when he ran in to make a diving backhand catch on Hunter Renfroe for the final out of the fourth, then sprawled for a backhand grab in left-center with two on in the fifth, holding Ward to a sacrifice fly and saving a run. ... Peraza saved a run when he knocked down Trout's seventh-inning grounder on the center field grass to the left of second and slid on the right-field grass to rob Luis Rengifo of a hit in the eighth.
There were four pitch clock violations, by Cortes, Peralta, the Yankees' Greg Weissert and the Angels' Aaron Loup.
Yankees: LHP Carlos Rodón (strained left forearm) was to have a CT scan of his back, which has bothered him during the past week. ... CF Harrison Bader (strained left oblique) will start a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment on Friday at Double-A Somerset.
Angels: Ohtani (2-0, 0.86 ERA) starts on three days’ rest in a homestand opener against Kansas City and RHP Taylor Clarke (1-0) after Ohtani’s outing at Boston was cut short by rain.
Yankees: RHP Domingo Germán (1-1) starts Friday night in the opener of the first series this season against AL East rival Toronto, which pitches Yusei Kikuchi (2-0).
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