Spring Game 2: PHI vs. NYY — One of those days…

Some days, it’s just not your day. And today, at a certain point in the middle of the game, it became awfully clear that it wasn’t going to be the Yankees’ day. Unlike yesterday, where it seemed the Yankees never lost the hunger and effort to keep charging all the way to the end. Sometimes that works out for the best (like yesterday), and sometimes it doesn’t. But there is a feeling that is almost tangible when that feeling is there.

It wasn’t so much today against the visiting Phillies.

Okay, honest opinion first, the Phillies were hitting with some consistency today and their pitching wasn’t that bad in light of things. Between contact and throwing from the mound, they were rather sloppy, but that is to be expected in Spring Training. So I will give them that. And the Yankees certainly weren’t without their sloppiness, but their hitting and pitching wasn’t nearly as consistent. And thus, the outcome of today’s game.

Like I said before, the game started off pretty good for the first part. Ivan Nova got his Spring start today, going 2 innings, giving up 2 hits and a run, and striking out just 1 of his 8 batters — a 1-out single scored on a 2-out double in the 1st inning to give the Phillies an early lead. They didn’t keep it long as the Yankees answered back with back-to-back veteran hits — Beltran’s single and Alex Rodriguez’s solid 2-run home run.

The Phillies tied up the game with a lead-off home run in the 4th inning off reliever Diego Moreno. But the Yankees came back once again with more veteran hitters — Teixeira’s single and Headley’s double put runners in scoring position. Sanchez worked a walk to load the bases, and with 2 outs, prospect Lane Adams worked his own walk to walk in the lead runner to push the Yankees ahead of the Phillies again. A strikeout ended the Yankees’ hopes for a larger lead.

Then in the 5th inning, under reliever Jacob Lindgren, the Phillies began their run rally with 2 consecutive walks to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to scoring position before a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, and a walk brought the game back to that tie with a walked-in run. That was all for Lindgren as the Yankees brought in invitee Swarzak to close out the inning. But he too struggled. His first batter singled and scored 2 runs, and with 2 outs on the board, another single scored yet another run for the Phillies.

The Yankees made a valiant effort to gain back some of those runs themselves in the bottom of that inning. With 2 walks and 1 out, a single scored a run. But even with the bases loaded another out and a walk later, they couldn’t do anything to take advantage of all those runners. And this is where the air went out of their sails.

From there, the Phillies just kept working their lead, much to the detriment of the Yankees’ pitchers. In the 6th, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a flyout, and then scored on a really nice triple (a small hesitation as he turned 3rd made him miss the opportunity for an inside-the-park home run). After a pitching change, a fielder’s choice became a messy play, with the lead runner scoring and the batter ending up at 2nd on a missed catch error. Fortunately for the Yankees, with runners on the corners, they turned a good old-fashioned double play to get out of that inning.

And on into the 7th (which certainly felt like the longest inning of the game), the lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, the next walked, and a single scored the lead runner with the other 2 ending up in scoring position on a throwing error (and resulting messy recovery by the infielders). This triggered another pitching change, and despite a batter doubling home 2 more Phillies’ runs, he was able to shut the inning down with 2 strikeouts.

A new pitcher in the 8th still gave up a run to pad the Phillies’ expanding lead. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 1-out walk, and then scored on a 2-out single. The 9th inning pitcher technically threw the cleanest outing, save a single lingering fastball that a batter knocked a nice solo home run right over the left field fence.

Of the 21 total hits in the game, 15 of those were by the Phillies. Let’s just say there was bit of a pitching problem.

The “one to watch” today was the 9th inning reliever: Brady Lail. He’s a young prospect, 22 years old, having floated around the lower levels of the Yankees since 2012. Last year, he worked his way up to play 7 games in AAA Scranton. Of all the prospect relievers today, he threw the cleanest inning (even better than some of the more established guys), except that lone solo shot. But it was still a good inning, and he deserves a lot of credit for working under what could have been a very depressing and thus messy inning. Instead, the young pitcher just focused in, shook off the run, and got the outs he needed quickly. That says a lot to me.

Final score: 13-4 Phillies.

Tomorrow, the Yankees take their first Spring road trip the 45 minutes up I-4 to Lakeland to visit the Tigers’ Spring home. It’s almost hard to believe it’s already Spring, and the Yankees have 2 games already in the books.

I was chatting with someone today that said something I always say to keep myself positive after games like this. Spring Training doesn’t really count. It’s like a string of exhibition games where we basically pay to watch every team try out various players to see where (and sometimes “if”) they fit in their organization. And after a few years, you kind of pick up on where a player might start the season (like I’m pretty sure a few of the guys today will probably start 2016 in AA Trenton).

Anyway, Spring Training kind of reminds me of that old show Whose Line Is It Anyway? The host would always remind the audience that “everything is made up and the points don’t matter”, usually followed by a joke to emphasize his point like: “That’s right, the points are just like the nutrition facts on a Happy Meal” or “That’s right, the points are just like street signs to a cab driver.” So I add my own: “That’s right, the points are just like any Spring Training game despite a 13-4 score. It just doesn’t matter.”

Literally, the stats in Spring Training have absolutely no effect on the regular season. Spring Training is like live batting practice and workouts and team-building and tryouts that we are privileged to watch. And part of the fun is that you’ll never know if this is the Spring you’ll see a future Hall of Fame great break out and become the player he’s always dreamed he could be. Who knows? Maybe he’s wearing pinstripes this March.

Go Yankees!

{Media Note: the only highlight available from the game was Rodriguez’s home run in the 1st inning. My mother (who goes to nearly all the games with me) noticed that all the cameras were covered at the game, so I knew that the highlight reels were going to be slim. Sorry! But as a Yankee fan, there’s not much you’re going to want to remember except Rodriguez’s homer.}

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