Game 45: KC vs. NYY — Nasty Nate, Memorial Day, and a remembered offense

It was Nasty Nate back on the mound for this afternoon’s game against the visiting Royals. And it feels really good to say that on so many levels. Not only was Nathan Eovaldi as sharp as ever, but he had the defense and the run-support to show his true capacity as a pitcher. Eovaldi threw 103 pitches over his 7 full innings, giving up all 8 of the Royals’ hits and their only run, striking out 4 batters. Kansas City’s lone run came in the 5th inning. A double scored on a 2-out RBI single before the inning ended in dramatic fashion — the runner made a dash to steal 2nd, so McCann threw the ball spot-on to the waiting Gregorius who went in for the tag; the original call was safe, but on a Yankee challenge, the call was overturned to out and the inning was over.

After Eovaldi maxed out his pitch count today, the Yankees turned to newly called up Jacob Lindgren, who threw a beautiful 26 pitches through the 8th and 9th innings, keeping the Royals at that lone run scored. It was his MLB debut, and he did a spectacular job. Welcome to the Show!

Now, that all sounds like amazing news, especially in light of the fact that whatever spark was missing from the Yankees offense and defense just showed up and set the place on fire today. Yes, the Royals got 8 hits and 3 walks, but the Yankees racked up 14 total hits and 7 total walks. And that seems awfully nice until you find out the amount of runs the Yankees pulled in today.

In the 1st inning, the Yankees just found every hole in the Royals starter. Brett Gardner led-off with a double and then quickly scored on Chase Headley’s 2-run home run right into the Bleacher Creatures (a really cute little kid at his first ball game got the ball, by the way). Rodriguez, on 2nd with a single and wild pitch, and Teixeira, on 1st with a walk, both scored on Brian McCann’s 3-run home run. Two outs later, with Gregorius and Heathcott on the corners with a hit-by-pitch and a single, they scored on Gardner’s 3-run home run. Yes, that’s 8 runs scored off 3 home runs in this inning alone — 13 batters, 7 hits, 2 walks, and a whopping 8 runs.

In the 2nd, McCann walked and ended up on 3rd when Jones singled and landed at 2nd on a fielding error. They went on to score on Stephen Drew’s big 3-run home run into the 2nd deck in right field. And with no outs and hitting 60 pitches already, the Royals mercifully pulled their starter and opted for a long-reliever who did a much better job of keeping the Yankees off the bases (only 1 base runner, a walk, under his 3 inning watch).

A new pitcher in the 5th was like a small gift to the Yankees to add to their ridiculously expanding lead. Gardner, on 2nd after a walk and wild pitch, scored on Headley’s double. A new pitcher in the 7th got into even more trouble with Gregorius’ walk and Slade Heathcott’s first MLB home run, a 2-run home run. The Yankees forced a pitching change before the end of the 7th, and that one lasted through the end of the game so the Yankees could threaten but do nothing more.

Every Yankees starter made it on base at least once in the game and scored a run. It was like watching a game from a few weeks ago. Everything just worked. Of course, it helped in part that the Royals’ pitching was just terrible today. After awhile, it was almost painful to watch. Well, if you were a Royals’ fan.

Final score: 14-1 Yankees.

Today was Memorial Day. And while it was a great time for a day-off, a backyard barbecue, a pool party, family picnic, or afternoon ball game, we remember our veterans and active service members and their sacrifice for our country and our freedoms. At 3:00 pm today (in the bottom of the 5th inning for the game), all across MLB, there was a collective moment of silence in honor of Memorial Day. Perhaps rather fitting, it was Fleet Week in New York and the stadium was filled with many men and women in their Navy Dress Whites, especially today. A big thank you to all the veterans (and their families) for their service.

And today would have been my grandfather’s 83rd birthday. He went to be with my grandmother almost 7 years ago, but his memory and legacy live on even to this day. I think of him often because of his love for baseball and how he passed on that to my mother and indirectly to me. Like myself, he loved all the nitty-gritty, the random trivia, the history, the collective scope of the game. And my mother and I often think of him every Spring, and how he would’ve loved seeing baseball so close and personal like you can for Spring Training. We think of him at every game, wondering how he would’ve liked a certain play, or marvelled at the grace or tenacity of that snazzy catch (like Headley’s freakishly amazing snag in the 4th today), or predicted how a team or player might do over the course of the long season.

And I think of him often, almost every time I write my blog. I didn’t get to talk to him much about baseball, which is my own loss, one I grieve more and more as I dive deeper into the baseball world in this daily endeavor. But I remember his love of the game and the passion what made it a great game and what made players great players. My three-tiered system for judging a great player (ability, teamwork, and character) comes from listening to him talk about the mechanics and the instinct of a ball player.

I was talking with my mother tonight about some of the current players on the Yankees roster. We always shake our heads when the talking heads continually discount a certain player, especially early on in the season. A lot of the predictions are based on either numbers or reputation, and both are ridiculously faulty methods to judge in competitive sports. Ability, teamwork, and character. Numbers only line up with the ability category, and reputation is so very often the magic of some publicist or social media popularity contest. But what makes a team is teamwork. And what makes a man is character. All the talk just adds up to nothingness anyway.

(And if you were wondering, the particular player we were discussing is most definitely a great player on all three counts. And it’s an honor to watch him in pinstripes and look forward to seeing his career continue in that mode.)

Go Yankees!

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