I like rivalry games better than any other games the Yankees play during the regular season. The stadium is always packed, even in Spring Training. The competition is fierce on the field. And the good-natured ribbing between the Boston-New York fans in the stands is rather entertaining.
And today did not disappoint.
The Red Sox came to visit the Yankees today in Tampa, under partly cloudy, somewhat temperate skies, and the fans packed into “The Boss” (formally known as Steinbrenner Field), decked out in their respective red or blue gear, a few shirts dsiplaying some choice fighting words for their opponent. (Personal favorite of the day: “If they call it the World Series, why is it always played in the Bronx?”)
It became very apparent that Girardi wanted to exercise the bullpen a bit today, and that really worked out for the best; 9 pitchers each threw an inning and 6 of them threw a 3-up, 3-down inning. This should tell you how well-pitched today’s game was, and to be perfectly fair, it was on both sides of the diamond. Prospect Tyler Cloyd got the start and got off to a rough start at that — a lead-off triple scored on a single before he buckled down and ended the Red Sox’s attempt to start the game with a big lead.
Chasen Shreve came on in the 2nd inning and started the pattern of most of the Yankees’ relievers today. Nick Rumbelow’s 3rd inning (and eventual earned win) kept the ball rolling and kept the Red Sox to that lone run from the 1st inning. This was continued with the rest of the young pitchers Olson, Barbato, Bleier, and Haynes (all 3-up, 3-down innings). Mark Montgomery’s 8th inning was a bit of a mess for him — a solo 1-out home run got the Red Sox rolling again, a passed ball on a strikeout (which should have been the 3rd out) allowed the runner to make it safely to 1st, so an (unearned) 2-run home run pushed the Red Sox up to 4 runs (3 in the 8th inning alone) before he got out of the inning. Goody closed out the game with another easy-looking 3 consecutive outs.
The Yankees’ offense was rather exciting today. Jorge Mateo led off the 3rd inning with a beautiful solo home run off the bottom of the scoreboard in left-center field to tie up the game. Then with 1 out and Beltran and Rodriguez (who would go 2-for-2 with a walk today) on base with singles, Mark Teixeira’s single plated Beltran, giving the Yankees the lead. But 2 ground outs later, the rally ended.
Until the 5th inning, when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a really solid triple. He then scored on Beltran’s ground out. And in the bottom of the 7th, with 1 out and 2 runners on base with singles, they pulled that double steal move and advanced to scoring position. Not that it was that needed, as the batter Aaron Judge powered the ball over the right field fence for a monster 3-run home run. There was such velocity and strength to that hit that the sound of the contact between bat and ball nearly echoed through the stadium. Honestly, I haven’t seen anything like that in a very long time, maybe ever in my life in person.
The Yankees amassed 10 total hits and 3 walks to the Red Sox’s 5 hits and no walks — again stellar Yankee pitching.
Final score: 6-4 Yankees.
My “one to watch” today isn’t probably a surprise at this point — Jorge Mateo. And I’m so very forced to add Aaron Judge. These two are just something to watch live. In addition to their on-field power and skill, they are also really good guys off the field. Beltran told a reporter that every time one of the veteran guys comes to the cages while Mateo is hitting, Mateo will volunteer to let the veteran go first out of pure respect. And Judge is a friend to so many at various levels of the Yankees organization, and always seems rather shocked and in awe that he’s playing baseball for real. It’s really quite an honor to watch these two, and to see a player like Judge progress since last Spring to the point that I have no doubt we’ll see him in the Bronx this year.
Prior to the game today, the Yankees asked for a moment of silence in honor of Shannon Forde, the Mets’ PR Director and a friend to many around MLB after 22 years with the Mets. She lost her battle with breast cancer on Friday at the age of 44 and leaves behind her husband, two small children, and countless family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with the extended Forde family and friends and the Mets organization as they remember Shannon’s personal legacy and impact.