Spring Game 20: HOU vs. NYY — Fence jumping and a 9th inning rally

I was asked today after the game what my favorite part of the game was, and despite the 9th inning, ridiculously amazing, reel-worthy 9th inning rally, it was very easy to say my favorite part of the game was watching Brett Gardner hop the centerfield fence to retrieve Chris Young’s glove.

Let me back up…

So, it was Michael Pineda’s turn to start today, and other than a couple of weak spots in the 1st inning, he showed why the Yankees put so much time and effort into his development and his health in recent years. In that memorable 1st inning (memorable for both Astro and Yankee fans for very different reasons), a solid triple paved the way for the Astros’ 2-run home run. As center fielder Chris Young was running towards the wall to make that over-the-fence grab, he unfortunately didn’t keep a hold too tightly on his glove as he leapt up to catch the ball. The ball and the glove went tumbling down over the centerfield fence. Young stood there looking at the wall for a moment as Gardner jogged over to see what was up. When Young told him what happened, Gardner didn’t hesitate to jump the 8-foot fence… twice — once over and once back. (Best article on the leap and the responses here.)

And then it was back to the game. The Astros were up 2-0 by the end of the 1st inning, but under the steamy hot Saturday afternoon sun, no one seemed to do much as far as scoring beyond that. Actually, the Yankees hit a bit, even out-hitting the Astros, but those zeroes kept appearing on the scoreboard for the entire game after the top of the 1st.

Pineda went 3.2 innings, giving up 4 hits and those 2 runs, but struck up 6 Houston batters. His reliever Wilson kept the ball rolling for his 1.1 innings. Then relievers Miller, Bailey, Rumbelow, and Lindgren all threw their individual innings and kept the Astros from doing much more than accumulating 1 more hit and 8 more strikeouts (14 in total).

Going into the 9th inning, the Yankees were down 2-0 to the Astros, the starters (including the “fence jumper”) were long gone, and the heat had driven quite a few fans away beginning in the 7th inning. See, what they don’t remember is that good old Yogi-ism: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And with the cast of “other guys” making a very nice appearance at the end of the game, it was time to show the Astros what a Yankee rally really looks like.

I turned to my mom as the Astros pitcher was doing his warm-up tosses before the bottom of the 9th began and said, “All we need is two bloops and a blast, and we can go home.” Well, it wasn’t quite that way, but almost…

Noonan and Judge each singled, and Arcia struck out. Then Eddy Rodriguez doubled out to left field, Noonan and Judge easily scored; Rodriguez ended up on 3rd on a throwing error. Game tied 2-2. The crowd alive with anticipation, suddenly forgetting they’ve been baking in the 86-degree heat for 2 1/2 hours. Pinch-running for Rodriguez, the speedy Slade Heathcott. And with just 1 out on the board, things were looking hopeful as Jake Cave stepped into the batter’s box. A quick sacrifice fly plated the fast Heathcott, who beat the decent attempt to throw him out at home. Send it to Frank… the Yankees win 3-2.

Not a terrible way to win — 2 bloops, a double and an error, and a sac fly for the win. And it all started with some fence-jumping.

Of course, it did. I mean, it is Spring Training, after all.

Go Yankees!

{Tech note: Today’s game was only available on the Houston radio broadcast, which means you are forced to imagine Gardner’s leap and that 9th inning rally. I did my best to aid your imagination. Sorry! I wish I could see the replays myself, as it was a lot of fun to watch the first time around.}

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