I had to double-check so many things. Yes, the calendar says “June”. Yes, the Yankees are playing in the Bronx. Yes, their opponent is the Phillies. No, this is not Spring Training. A few things have helped the transition to more frequent interleague games — evening out the leagues (moving the Astros to the AL so it’s 15-15), changing up the scheduling requirements, and the demand for more games outside the basic division rivals.
Now, during Spring Training, the Yankees play every team that winters in Florida, but more frequently those who are within a couple hours’ drive of Steinbrenner Field; the Tigers, Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Orioles all play ST within the same area (Tampa Bay). Now, in that group, the Yankees play division rivals Blue Jays and Orioles a lot during the year, and the Tigers for at least 6 games as part of the AL scheduling requirements. They may never meet either Pennsylvania team during the regular season, as both are in the NL (trivia fact: both PA teams are in the NL, and both TX teams are in the AL) and interleague play isn’t a guarantee of meeting every team in the other league, just a handful.
Anyway, it did feel a bit like a Spring Training game tonight in the Bronx. And in more ways that just what uniform/teams were playing ball. It wasn’t exactly one of those games that either team should be proud of… well, with some random offensive exceptions. Neither team had particularly stellar displays from their pitching staff, though I will say that meant they were rather evenly matched.
Starting for the Yankees tonight, Michael Pineda had easily one of his worst outings this season. He threw 76 pitches in just 3.1 innings, gave up 11 hits, a walk, and 8 runs, without striking out a single batter. Not really your typical Pineda-like outing. Things started off okay in the 1st inning — 2 quick outs, a solo home run, and another out. The Phillies were on the board, but a tiny lead for a brief moment.
The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 1st inning. Gardner led off with a bunt single and moved to 3rd on Headley’s single. Brian McCann’s 1-out sacrifice fly easily scored Gardner, and Carlos Beltran’s double scored Headley to give the Yankees a small and temporary lead. They would never find that again tonight.
And then we’re back to hating the 3rd inning. A lead-off single, a walk, and another single loaded the bases so that another single could score the 2 lead runners, leaving runners on the corners and no outs on the scoreboard. Then a really great double play (a 6-3-3-4-6 DP) scored the runner from 3rd, but it really got Pineda out of a jam. In the 4th, Pineda loaded the bases again, this time with 3 consecutive singles. A great defensive play on the next batter got the runner out going home, but kept the bases loaded. That meant that a double scored the 2 lead runners, and a single then scored 2 more.
That was it for Pineda, and the Yankees turned to their newest long-term guy in the bullpen Chris Capuano to give them more innings and fewer runs scored. Capuano quickly finished off the Phillies in the 4th inning before he got himself into his own sorts of trouble.
But first, the Yankees attempted to regain some lost ground in the bottom of the 4th. Despite 2 outs, Young and Drew on base with singles, Brett Gardner’s 8th home run of the season — a 3-run home run deep into the right field bleachers — put the Yankees back into the game. I should remind everyone at this point that the score was 8-5 Phillies, as the game headed into the 5th inning and neither starter remained in the game.
So despite a decent 5th inning and 3 really nice strikeouts, Capuano had a couple of moments in the 6th I’m sure he’d like to take back — a 1-out single and a 2-run home run to push the Phillies into double-digits on the scoreboard. And then the Yankees had a couple of decent pitching outings — newly signed Diego Moreno made his Major League debut in the 7th and Chasen Shreve threw in the 8th, both pitchers keeping Phillies batters from doing much more than a couple of hits and 3 combined strikeouts. And in the bottom of the 7th, the Yankees got a run back with Brian McCann’s lead-off solo home run into the 2nd deck of the right field seats.
And it was on to the 9th inning. Branden Pinder got the nod for the Yankees, getting his first 2 batters to ground out before the third hit a ground-rule double and then scored on a single. The Yankees made a last-ditch rally effort in the bottom of the 9th themselves. Rodriguez led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on Beltran’s single. They both scored on Garrett Jones’ double before 2 quick pop outs ended the game.
To recap the totals (and further prove my point on the bad pitching on both sides tonight): the Yankees got 14 total hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts, and 8 runs scored; the Phillies got 18 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, and 11 runs scored. Basically, there were very few moments most of these pitchers will want on their highlight reel from this game.
Brett Gardner, however, had a near perfect night, including going 4-for-4 at the plate, with a walk, a big home run, 3 RBIs, and 2 runs scored. And his defense in the outfield is just phenomenal, as it always has been. Somebody needs to explain to me the logic of why he’s constantly overlooked. Because if anyone deserves to be recognized as one of the best players in the league (read: All-Star), it’s Gardner.
Final score: 11-8 Phillies.
Injury update: Mark Teixeira hasn’t played in the last 2 games due to some neck stiffness; as a precaution, they sent him to have an MRI, which came back negative, so they began a round of cortisone shots to speed healing process and get him back in the game later this week.
Ivan Nova is officially scheduled to start Wednesday’s game against the Phillies, making his 2015 debut after the long road to recovery following Tommy John surgery. It will be nice to have him back on the mound once again.
Also, MLB announced the passing of former player and frequent broadcaster and on-air contributor Darryl Hamilton. Hamilton spent 13 years as a ball player, including several years as part of the Mets organization during their 2000 World Series run. Hamilton was the victim of a apparent murder-suicide by his troubled girlfriend at their home outside Houston this past Sunday. Their year-old son was taken into protective services. Our prayers are with their families, and especially his three children (two from a previous marriage).