ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Yankees manager Joe Girardi knew who was to blame for the decision that led to Kendry Morales' three-run homer in the seventh inning.
"I just screwed up, in a sense, you know? Sometimes, your first instinct is your best instinct," Girardi said after New York lost to the Los Angeles Angels 8-4 on Sunday for its first series loss of the season.
New York was trailing 5-4 in the seventh, when Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli was given the signal from the dugout to intentionally walk the switch-hitting Morales with first and second base occupied. But after one pitch, Girardi changed his mind and had Damaso Marte pitch to him.
Morales was given the hit sign with a 3-0 count and he drove the offering over the fence in left-center to break open the game. In Friday's series-opening 6-4 win, Morales hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning.
"My instinct was to walk him. We talked about it some more, and we decided to go after him," said Girardi, adding that the preferred move would have been to bring in righty David Robertson to finish Morales' at-bat and then face on-deck hitter Juan Rivera. "I could have put up four (fingers) again when he got to 3-0. I probably should have."
"This is something I have to live with," Girardi added. "Not everything I do is going to be right. As a manager, there are things that you're going to think about long and hard — and this is one of them."
Bobby Abreu also connected for the Angels and Brandon Wood's two-run double with the bases loaded gave the Angels lead for good.
New York had won its first five series, including a three-game set against the Angels in the Bronx, to tie the 1926 Yankees for the most consecutive series won by the franchise at the start of a season.
"You have to play well if you've going to have a chance with them, and we played well this weekend and were fortunate to win two out of three," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But it took a lot of pitching on our side to hold those guys down and a lot of clutch hitting, which we needed."
Scott Kazmir (2-1) gave up two home runs — including his third to Robinson Cano this season — but got the win after allowing four runs, three hits and four walks in 5 1-3 innings.
"I had to battle out there pretty much the whole time, and some days that's what you've got to do," Kazmir said. "I didn't have the velocity I wanted, so I had to keep the ball down and make pitches."
Javier Vazquez (1-3) threw 78 pitches in just 3 2-3 innings, giving up five runs, five hits and three walks. The 33-year-old right-hander hasn't made it through the sixth in any of his four starts, surrendering 20 runs in 20 innings. Last year, Vazquez pitched at least six innings in 28 of his 32 starts with Atlanta.
"It's kind of embarrassing right now, the way I'm throwing the ball," Vazquez said. "I'm not doing the job. Obviously, I'm having trouble with my mechanics, but I still have to make good pitches. So that's no excuse."
The Angels spotted the Yankees a 3-0 lead before Abreu launched a solo shot to right with two out in the third. It was his 259th career homer and his 10th off Vazquez, the most he's hit against any pitcher.
The three-time defending AL West champions pulled ahead 5-3 in the fourth with Howie Kendrick's RBI single, Wood's clutch double off the glove of a diving Marcus Thames in left field, and a run-scoring groundout by Maicer Izturis. Wood's first two RBIs of the season came in his 51st at-bat.
"It's just nice to come in here after a win and know I contributed and did something to help this team," Wood said. "All my teammates have been behind me through this struggle. I'm a better hitter than what I've shown, and I can only go up."
Cano, who homered twice against Kazmir on April 15 at Yankee Stadium in the left-hander's season debut off the disabled list, had to bail out of the batter's box on the first pitch he saw from the left-hander in their rematch. The next one hit Cano on the backside, and he went to first base without incident as Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue went out to check on him.
"By all means, I wasn't trying to hit him or anything like that," Kazmir said. "I was just trying to get the ball in."
Jorge Posada hit the next pitch into the trees behind the center field fence for his fourth homer to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, and Cano stomped on the plate before heading to the dugout.
Thames followed Posada's fourth homer with a double, advanced on a sacrifice by Curtis Granderson and scored as Derek Jeter beat the relay to first base on a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to third. Cano led off the sixth with his fifth homer, trimming the Angels' lead to 5-4.
NOTES: Yankees reserve OF Randy Winn, who has played in more games than any active major leaguer who has never been to the postseason (1,611), will respectfully skip the team's visit to the White House on Monday. "It's for the guys who won the World Series," said the 13-year veteran, who signed with them as a free agent in February after four-plus seasons with the Giants. ... The Yankees don't play at Anaheim the rest of the regular season, but they will be at Dodger Stadium for a three-game set beginning June 25. ... Nine-time Gold Glove CF Torii Hunter robbed Alex Rodriguez of extra bases in the eighth with a diving catch in left-center.