Okay, so I’m really okay with stadium giveaways most of the time. Like during Spring Training this year, we got pins commemorating Steinbrenner Field’s (formerly Legends Field) 20th anniversary of existence, a Yankees tote bag with some rice and soup sponsored by a local food company, a key chain that looked like an old ticket but was in memory of Jeter’s final game at Yankee stadium, and kids got a couple of fun things like posters and bats and toys signifying some of the Yankees stars. And in the past, I’ve gotten bobbleheads (who by the way never look like the person they’re supposed to portray), hats, drawstring bags, food, a pashmina, and countless other random things through the years — many of which have been graciously received by various friends and family members, especially those from opposing team’s stadium giveaways.
This weekend, at Tropicana Field, they had three giveaways — a bag for ladies on Friday, a Gumby doll with a jersey of a favorite Rays player on Saturday, and a rubber duck for kids 14 & under today. Now, let me clarify that the rubber duck wasn’t just like a yellow duck with a Rays jersey, which would be fine and appropriate in its own right; no, it was formed into another favorite Rays player and then given giant duck lips and a broad chest (as the body of the duck), while still maintaining the overall look of said player. And yes, it’s as terrible as it sounds. (A media link here.)
So, it was the final game in St. Petersburg against the Rays today, and the Yankees were looking to sweep the series after a well-fought home run soaked first game and a very big shut-out game last night. And they got it. Their first sweep against the Rays at the Trop since 2005 (according to the “talking heads”).
Yankees sent Michael Pineda to the mound for this afternoon’s game. Pineda threw 92 pitches over his 5.2 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. In the 1st inning, a lead-off walk quickly scored when the next batter hit a home run into the first row of the left field seats (just over Gardner’s head) to give the Rays a quick 2 runs. Then Pineda kept the Rays from doing further damage until the 5th inning with an RBI double for the Rays’ 3rd and final run.
It wasn’t really the best show I’ve seen from Pineda, but it wasn’t terrible either. The biggest advantage Pineda (and the rest of the pitching staff) has is that really sharp veteran defense. Honestly, it doesn’t matter where you look on the field during a regular game, as you’re going to see some very good defenders at every position (like Headley and Drew), even those coming right off the bench as utility players (like Young and Jones). Add that defense to some pretty decent hitting, and it’s no wonder the Yankees are finally building on that winning momentum to sweep the Rays this weekend.
Reliever Martin came on in the 6th to close out Pineda’s inning and threw to 1 batter in the 7th before it was Wilson’s ball for one out. And then came the closing Dynamic Duo of Betances and Miller — Betances finishing the 7th and 8th with 2 strikeouts, and Miller’s 9th with 3 swinging strikeouts.
But like I said, the Yankees aren’t just good defenders. They hit. And they hit a lot — today’s 11 hits add to the grand total of 26 hits this weekend against the Rays. And they make the most of those hits. In the 1st, Ellsbury singled, advanced to 2nd on a balk and to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly. Down 2-1 to the Rays in the 3rd with 1 out, Gardner singled and Rodriguez doubled, before Gardner scored on Teixeira’s groundout and Rodriguez on Chase Headley’s single.
Then in the 4th, Garrett Jones hit a big lead-off triple and then scored on John Ryan Murphy’s sacrifice fly. And in the 5th, Rodriguez led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on a groundout, and then scored on Headley’s double. No home runs today after a couple of big long balls the last two nights, but the Yankees were able to cobble together a win.
Final score: 5-3 Yankees. Yankees sweep the Rays.
And if I was a Rays’ fan, I’d blame the duck. And today, I’m glad I wasn’t a child 14 & under and don’t have a child 14 & under because the idea of bringing that thing into my house would give me nightmares, a thing they build those spoof horror movies around. Note to whomever does Yankee marketing promotional giveaways — no ball player ducks! Please!
In a less satirical fashion, the Yankees are on their way to Detroit for a 4-game series, their last on this 3-city road trip and their first non-AL East team this season. Detroit has been a big competitor for the Yankees a lot these past few seasons, and rightly so, so I’m hoping (and I don’t imagine I’m alone) that this winning momentum just keeps rolling them through Motor City (poorly placed pun, I apologize).