Game 21: TB vs. NYY — KKKKKKKKKKKK (that’s 12 K’s) and McCann

Chase Whitley is back in the Bronx just in time to win his first game. Whitley was recalled from AAA Scranton in exchange for Gregorio Petit. An additional starter turned out to be good news as tomorrow’s scheduled starter Masahiro Tanaka showed up for work today with a sore right wrist; further tests showed tendonitis in his wrist and a grade 1 strain in his forearm, shutting him down for 7-10 days to rest and placing him on the 15-day DL.

The Yankees initially thought to bring in a 6th starter due to the upcoming busy schedule so as to give their starters an extra day’s rest. With Tanaka’s injury, that option is no longer available, so it will become Whitley in Tanaka’s spot (tonight) and then Pineda tomorrow on regular rest (Sabathia, Eovaldi, and Warren round out the rotation like always).

But Whitley is back and his time in Scranton clearly just kept him ready and sharp for tonight’s game against the Rays. Overall, he threw 93 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run, striking out 5 batters. His really only sticky inning was the 3rd — after leading off with a strike out, he gave up his lone walk and then an RBI double before grabbing those last 2 outs to get out of the inning.

Once again, the Rays attempted to drive up that pitch count to dip into the bullpen for a weakness. But the Yankees are just so much stronger than anticipated. Except on weird nights. Tonight was a weird, off night for reliever Chasen Shreve. He came on in the 6th and just had some trouble almost instantly — a lead-off walk followed by a long RBI triple. He finally found his momentum with a strike out, but reliever Rogers was ready to go by then and came in to finish off the 6th without allowing that pesky runner on 3rd to do much more than dance on and off the bag.

Rogers pitched through the 8th inning, striking out 5 batters in the process. Giving Miller (and Betances) the night off, it was reliever Chris Martin in the 9th inning for his 1st career save. In total, the Yankee pitching staff struck out 12 Rays batters over the course of the game, working out to be over 1 per inning. It wasn’t the normal pitching staff, which may have confused the Rays a bit.

Or maybe it was because it was a beautiful night in the Bronx, with another glorious sky as the sun set. Or maybe it’s just because the Yankees just played better baseball tonight.

In that spirit, the Yankees had some fun on the bases. In the 1st inning, Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, stole 2nd, ended up at 3rd on a throwing error, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s groundout. Teixeira doubled and then scored on Brian McCann’s double. This gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. And in the 5th, with 2 outs and Ellsbury and Gardner in scoring position with singles and a stolen base (Gardner to 2nd), it’s McCann once again with a double to drive in 2 more runs.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees.

In broader AL East news: in light of everything happening in the city of Baltimore, the Orioles have cancelled their last 2 games (meaning yesterday and today) against the visiting White Sox and will be making them up in a single-admission doubleheader next month. Tomorrow’s scheduled game will be closed to the public but will still proceed and be broadcast for its fans. They are scheduled to face the Rays this weekend at Camden Yards, but have relocated the games down to the Rays’ stadium in Florida for safety reasons. The Orioles will still technically be the home team — pitching first and batting last while playing at the Trop this weekend. Fans holding tickets are able to get refunds or transfer their tickets to another home game this season through the Orioles box office.

I don’t usually bring politics or negative views onto this blog, let alone discuss the schedule or decisions of teams other than the Yankees, but if baseball is a family, the Orioles are the Yankees’ first cousins. Families stick together. And I applaud the Orioles efforts to keep their fans and players and stadium staff and even the opposing teams safe during this time.

What I found odd as the reaction to this announcement was that people on both sides of the debate seemed less concerned with safety and more concerned with either missing the game or the value of the game at all. First, if the concern is missing the game, watch it on TV or online or at your neighborhood sports bar. Your safety is more important than seeing the game first hand.

And second, the value of the game is that it is very important. I think of the value of the game in the city following other tragedies like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings. People who spent their days cleaning up rubble at Ground Zero or treating patients in the hospitals could talk about something other than the constant trauma in front of them. It gave them a sense of normal life, that life still exists in the wake of chaos. It was an escape, a blip of blissfulness, a modicum of surreal out of the darkness that filled every other waking moment. For the people who must walk through this time and deal with this new reality, it’s not just some game — it’s a breath of fresh air when the outside world is suffocating and oppressive and fearful and unsure. Baseball speaks the language of steadiness and childhood and memories when you really need to remember what is and was and can be good in this world.

Go Yankees!

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