ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Some things in baseball just can't be explained easily -- like why the Angels have such a great bullpen without any left-handers in it. Or why they are the only team with a winning record against the Yankees in the Joe Torre era.
"Maybe it's because we're not scared of anybody," closer Francisco Rodriguez said Friday night after preserving John Lackey's 6-3 victory with his 23rd save. "Our confidence is really high. We play aggressive no matter who we're facing.
"We know how good they are. They have so many superstars in their lineup, but we're not paying attention to that. We go out there and play hard every single out and every single inning, and we don't give up."
Darin Erstad, Chone Figgins and Jose Molina had RBI singles for the Angels, who are 47-45 against New York in the regular season since Torre became Yankees manager in 1996. That doesn't even count the 2002 AL playoffs, when the Angels beat the Yankees in four games en route to their first World Series title.
"I have no idea why. If that's the case, it hasn't been easy," second baseman Adam Kennedy said. "You know you're always in for a dogfight and you know your pitchers are going to have to work harder because their hitters just constantly work the count and put pressure on you."
Kennedy's two-run single keyed a four-run second inning against Al Leiter, helping the AL West-leading Angels maintain their 6½-game lead and keeping New York 1½ games behind Boston in the East.
Lackey (8-4) allowed three runs -- two earned -- and five hits in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.
Leiter (1-1) gave up six runs and 10 hits over six innings in his second start since the Yankees acquired him from Florida last Saturday. The 19-year veteran left-hander, pitching again for the team he began his big league career with in 1987, couldn't keep the momentum going after holding Boston to a run in 6 1/3 innings last Sunday in a 5-3 victory.
"It looked like the first three innings he stayed in the strike zone too long," Torre said. "But the competitor he is, he just battled his tail off. He was one hitter away from coming out of the game a couple different times. But as frustrated as he was early on, it didn't keep him from fixing it. I thought his last three innings were high-quality."
Brendan Donnelly inherited a 5-3 lead from Lackey in the sixth and struck out the red-hot Jason Giambi with the tying run at the plate. Donnelly pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, Scot Shields worked the eighth and Rodriguez got three outs for his 23rd save in 25 chances.
"We've taken pride in being one of the best bullpens for the last four years," Donnelly said. "Knowing your roles down there is huge because we know what kind of situations we're going to pitch in and are able to mentally prepare ourselves the best way possible to give ourselves the best chance for success. We already have a plan going into the game."
Angels relievers extended their scoreless streak to 28 1/3 innings dating back to Richie Sexson's two-run homer against Kevin Gregg on July 10 against Seattle.
"Their right-handers get lefties out," Torre said. "I think the cosmetic value of having a left-hander is only useful if he gets lefties out. But some of those guys' numbers against left-handers are pretty impressive. It is unusual, but a lot of it is the confidence Mike Scioscia has in those guys. I mean, look what he did tonight. He made changes not after hits, but after outs."
The Angels grabbed a 4-1 lead in the second after singles by Bengie Molina and his younger brother Jose. Maicer Izturis was robbed of at least a double by third base umpire Larry Young -- who ruled his one-out liner over third base was foul. TV replays clearly showed the ball kicked up chalk on the foul line, and Izturis eventually drew a walk to load the bases.
Kennedy followed with a two-run single that put the Angels ahead 2-1, and Figgins lined a single off Leiter's glove and into center field to score Izturis. Kennedy advanced to third on Figgins' hit and came home with the fourth run when Leiter's errant pickoff throw to first got past Giambi.
"I kind of settled in a little better after that inning. But a four-run inning is a big inning, and it's hard for the guys to come back from that," Leiter said.
The Yankees narrowed the gap to 5-3 with Hideki Matsui's RBI single in the fourth and Robinson Cano's RBI double in the fifth, which followed a two-out walk to the slumping Derek Jeter. But Erstad got one of the runs back in the sixth with his two-out single.
The Angels announced after the game that RHP Jered Weaver, their No.1 draft pick from 2004, was promoted from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga to Double-A Arkansas. ... Jeter was 0-for-4 and is in a 4-for-35 slump. Bernie Williams ended an 0-for-18 drought with a seventh-inning single. ... Cano's two hits extended his hitting streak to 11 games, tying the rookie's career best.