Tug-of-war is probably a better description for the back-and-forth of the game today. And in spite of the power struggle for the win, it was a rather laidback kind of game.
Adam Warren took the start today for the Yankees in Port Charlotte against the Rays. Warren is currently the leading contender for that 5th starters’ position, and despite today’s outcome, he still maintained the game fairly well. He threw 3.2 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk, and just 1 run, striking out 5 Rays batters. That run was a solo home run in the bottom of the 2nd to the Rays’ best power hitter. The crowd loved it, but it gave Warren a no-decision (which is still better than a loss).
At the top of the 2nd, Refsnyder on base with a walk, Slade Heathcott’s solid double scored the first Yankees run. So by the end of the 2nd, the game was tied 1-1 — the tug-of-war was on. In the 4th, the Yankees grabbed the lead with 2 runners on base due to a single and walk that scored on Ramon Flores’ double. The Yankees were up 3-1. It would be the last time the Yankees held the lead in the game. (Cue the ominous music.)
Reliever Jose Ramirez took over for Warren to get the last out of the 4th inning and threw the 5th inning. It was in that latter inning he got himself into trouble and credited for a blown save. A single and a walk put runners on base, so the next two singles could score them both. Funny moment: on the last single, the batter ended up on 2nd on the throw home, but the lead runner (the previous single) stopped at 2nd to see if the throw would end up trying to get him out. Yes, there were 2 Rays players standing at 2nd for a brief moment before the Yankees tagged out the lead runner. Oops. And what’s worse (for the Yankees), it was the first out of that inning.
Chris Martin took the mound in the 6th inning and promptly gave up a solo home run, putting him on track for the loss. The next batter singled, stole 2nd and 3rd, and then scored on a wild pitch. 5-3 Rays.
But the Yankees weren’t about to let the Rays run away with the game. I mean, they are the Yankees after all. Flores led off the 7th with single and later scored on Didi Gregorius’ double (what was with the doubles in this game — the Yankees had 4 doubles of their 9 total hits). Then reliever Danny Burawa took over for the Yankees in the bottom of the 7th and gave up a triple and a sacrifice fly RBI. 6-4 Rays.
Again, the Yankees made a final attempt in the 9th inning. Figueroa, on base with a single and a stolen base (on defensive indifference), scored on Jake Cave’s solid line drive single into right field. A quick two outs later, the Rays emerged victors in a 6-5 win over the Yankees.
Roster moves: the Yankees officially released pitcher Jared Burton from his minor league contract.
And a fun fact for the day, to make up for the loss and celebrate the great history of the Yankees: 64 years ago, a young 19 year old kid from Oklahoma was in Yankees camp to see if he had the stuff to take over for the veteran outfielder, the great Joe DiMaggio. Yes, even Mickey Mantle had to prove he was worthy of a roster spot at one point. And on March 26, 1951, he certainly made a decent effort in a Spring Training game against USC, going 4-for-5 with a single, a triple, 2 home runs, and 7 RBIs. But it was his second home run that everyone talked about as it flew so far over the outfield fence (set at 344 feet) that it landed in the adjacent football field smack dab in the middle of a football huddle. Estimates place the distance somewhere between 550 and 600 feet (though initial estimates that created the legend had it at 656 feet).
And thus, The Legend of Mickey Mantle was born — the man who would help the Yankees continue their Golden Years into the 1960s, who admittedly found a few balls he “liked enough” to hit them out of the park, 536 career home runs. The great #7. He wasn’t DiMaggio’s replacement; no, he was just Mickey — the guy who carved his own niche in Yankees history like his predecessor and like so many others memorialized in Monument Park.
Because you can’t fill anyone’s shoes but your own. So why bother trying? Be the best you and that’s more than enough to be something special.