Spring Game 17: NYY vs. ATL — Offensive attack at the “Happiest Place on Earth”

I grew up in Florida, even spending a few early years near the Mouse’s Kingdom; I know that people think Florida has only three things — the beach, the Mouse, and retired people. I beg to differ normally, but when we’re in that transition time where everyone comes to Florida for Spring Break just before the Snowbirds leave for their Northern summer abodes, it’s kind of easy to understand why a good portion of the States believe Florida is very limited.

For the record, it’s got way more than just those things. I don’t know about you, but I believe The Grapefruit League is a huge draw, especially right now.

But whenever the Yankees go to visit the Atlanta Braves at their Spring facility, I’m forced to remember that Disney is still a big part of tourism for Central Florida. (My best friend with annual passes, a minor Disney obsession, and fellow baseball aficionado, though for the Rays, would be quick to remind me of this fact too!) Yes, the Braves play at Disney World in their Wide World of Sports complex, just a stone’s throw (that is if you throw really, really far) from Cinderella’s castle and all those iconic Mouse-related postcard-worthy scenes. And if anything, Disney does what it does best — provide a beautiful, glossy stadium for its fans and players alike with the perfect sheen of “Mouse Magic”.

Well, maybe not so much for the Braves tonight, as the Mouse seemed to be quite the Yankees fan.

Let me start with pitching, because when you have someone like Masahiro Tanaka starting a game, it’s really where one would start talking. Tanaka earned tonight’s win by being himself and throwing a rather good game of baseball against the Braves. For 3.2 innings, Tanaka gave up just 2 hits and struck out 3 batters, but nothing beyond a couple of hits. A 4th inning double (his 2nd allowed hit) forced them to turn to the bullpen for a reliever — Ramirez who got them out of the inning quickly.

Ramirez’s 5th inning was a tad messier. A quick 2 outs looked promising, but a fielding error allowed a runner to reach 1st safely and a single put a second runner on base, lined up for a 3-run home run to get the Braves on the board. Lindgren came on at the end of the 5th in relief of Ramirez to get that elusive 3rd out.

Bailey’s 6th inning was eerily similar to the 5th — 2 quick outs, a throwing error and a single put runners on base, and a single (this time around) scored a run. Burawa had a bit of trouble in his 7th inning — a lead-off walk and a single put runners on the corners so that a sacrifice fly could score the Braves’ 5th and final run. Rumbelow and Pazos closed out the game, each with an inning and each with 2 strikeouts. In total, the Braves were hitting tonight, a total of 10 collective hits.

The Yankees were just hitting more and better. To sum up quickly: the only innings the Yankees didn’t score runs in were the 1st, 2nd, and 9th. In the 3rd, Didi Gregorius on base with a single and 2 outs, Chase Headley’s single scored Gregorius. Then in the 4th, Garrett Jones led-off with a double and then scored on Stephen Drew’s 2-run home run (something Drew needed even more than the Yankees needed a win).

But it was the 5th inning that had Yankees’ fans jumping for joy. Headley led-off with a walk and then scored on Brian McCann’s 2-run home run. Teixeira doubled and then was pinch-run by Tyler Austin, who scored on Chris Young’s single. A pitching change didn’t help the Braves much as Gregorius promptly hit a solid triple (what is with the triples lately? and no, I’m not complaining at all!) and scored Young.

Even with the Braves finally on the board by the end of the 5th, the Yankees were still leading 7-3. It wasn’t going to get much better for the Braves.

In the 6th, the bases loaded with walks to Mason Williams, Galvez, and McCann, a balk quickly advanced and scored a run. And back-to-back sacrifice flies by Austin and Jones scored 2 more runs. End of 6th: 10-4 Yankees.

On to the 7th, bases loaded again with a walk, single, and hit by pitch, a Williams’ sacrifice fly scored yet another. And in the 8th, a walk and a single put 2 runners on base before the pitcher issued another walk to Figueroa, but the last ball was quite the wild pitch and the runner (Austin) who was already at 3rd easily scored the Yankees’ 12th and final run of the game.

Yes, final score 12-5 Yankees. Not that the Yankees’ defense (or a minor portion of their pitching) was all that great. It was just way better than the Braves truly sloppy pitching staff tonight. Last year, I witnessed quite a bit of good pitching from the organization that sadly suffered from the injury bug that roams itself through the season. And if it’s there again this year, it’s certainly having an off-night. Don’t get me wrong — I like winning, but winning at the expense of sloppiness isn’t really that fun for either team in the long-run.

But again, I’ll still take a win — handed-over, well-earned, or otherwise. I guess I just like a really good, tight competition. It’s what makes sports fun and exciting and worth every moment of agony praying for that well-earned, fought-for victory.

But, like I said, it’s a win.

Minor fun trivia fact: Truth be told, Walt Disney himself was quite a baseball fan, especially of a local LA minor league team known as the “Hollywood Stars” (1939-1957). His friend Gene Autry was part-owner of the Stars and later purchased and established the California Angels in 1960 (first season was 1961 as part of the Expansion Era). Though possibly tempted himself, Disney never made the leap to become a team owner, or even a part-owner. The Company he created did eventually purchase the Angels from Autry (who remained on the board until his death in 1998) in 1996 (naming it the Anaheim Angels), owning it for 7 years before selling to current owner Arturo Moreno (who renamed them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). Disney might not have preferred the Braves playing on his property, but I think he would like to know that there is quite a bit of baseball going on there regardless.

Go Yankees!

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