The skies were cloudy, overcast with a storm system that threatened but never made it as far inland and south as the stadium this Sunday afternoon. The Phillies in split squad today, so a good chunk of their regulars cross the Courtney Campbell Causeway (the bridge over Tampa Bay from Clearwater to Tampa) to make the trip eastward to Steinbrenner Field to face a good chunk of the regulars in pinstripes.
And it was CC Sabathia’s turn to start for the Yankees. After a strikeout and a line out to kick of the game, the next batter hit a small dribbler just in front of the pitcher’s mound, which Sabathia could not seem to grab from the grass to throw to 1st in time, resulting in a runner on base. A wild pitch then moved that guy to 2nd, and a double from the heart of the Phillies line up scored the 1st Phillies run of the afternoon.
Perhaps, Sabathia was discouraged because he didn’t seem to find his stride again in his 2nd inning. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and scored on an RBI double. That runner moved to 3rd on a really terrible throwing error and then scored on a 2-out single. Another single and another throwing error (yes, that is 3 errors in less than 2 innings) put runners on the corners, and the next batter was hit by a pitch (though I thought it hit McCann first, who was later pulled due to a stiff knee) and loaded the bases. And that was it for Sabathia’s day. After a decent start last week, this wasn’t the kind of home game he was looking for.
Betances came on to get the much-needed final out of the 2nd inning and get out of the jam with a beautiful swinging strikeout. Miller came on in the 3rd and started a new pattern on the scoreboard — zeros for the Phillies. But it was Michael Pineda who came on for some long-term relief — 3 full innings through the middle of the game, giving up just 1 hit and 1 walk, and striking out 4 Phillies’ batters over his outing.
Alrodis Chapman made his second home appearance in the 7th, and while there were some missteps (a throwing error by Chapman and a wild walk allowed), he got out of the inning with 3 really nasty strikeouts, including his last one hitting 100 mph on the radar guns. Then to close out the final two innings were Chasen Shreve and Richard Bleier who escaped somewhat unscathed. I do want to say that Shreve is certainly reminding the Yankees as to why he’s been a valuable member of the bullpen in the past; in fact, I do believe I’ve never seen him sharper or more on point. I hope to see great things from him during the regular season.
In all, Yankees pitchers allowed 8 hits and 3 walks (and 1 hit-by-pitch), but struck out 11 batters. And while the earlier stat isn’t as impressive, their strikeout consistency certainly is something not to ignore. In contrast, the Phillies pitchers were better at keeping the Yankee runners off the bases (just 5 hits and 2 walks allowed) and away from home plate, but the measly 5 strikeouts aren’t nearly as impressive. Most of the outs therefore were reliant on fielding.
And here’s the sum of the Yankees’ offense today: 5 hits (2 of them were by Starlin Castro, by the way, who had a rough defensive day) and 2 walks.
Yep, that’s it.
Final score: 3-0 Phillies
It’s amazing how the course of the game can certainly alter original intentions. Through the better part of the game, I was sure my “one to watch” was going to be one guy. But then, the last part of the game just kind of shifted everything. First, the Yankees were playing better in general, but also Jonathan Diaz was making some absolutely beautiful plays at 2nd base (he and Refsnyder swapped positions to try out Refsnyder at 3rd as possible depth there on the 40-man). But Diaz almost seemed rather natural at 2nd, with snap reflexes and a beautiful show of intuition on defense there, including a near perfect throw home to tag out the runner there.
Finally, I want to say a few words to fans in general. First, I love it when you’re excited (even if it’s for the “other guys”) and passionate and even cheer loudly at games. And I love that you get into the game and care about the outcome of every play. However, I do not love it when you scream directly into my ear. Nor do I love it when you spend the entire game going back and forth between the food stands and your seats and making sure to bump me in the back of the head every time with your giant bags. I also do not love it when you spend the entire time in the seats gossiping about players, wishing certain players physical or psychological harm, and talking about the players as if you know their personal lives intimately (especially when it’s really obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about, by the way).
It’s also a little weird if you are obsessed with particular players personally as an adult, including talks of staking out restaurants in hopes of hanging out with them personally. This isn’t cool or anything. It’s inviting a restraining order. And as an adult, it’s just creepy.
So here’s my little tip for the day: you come to a game to watch the game, and the players come to do their job — to play baseball. When you leave the stadium, you go back to normal life. And honestly, so do every single one of the players you just watched. They have families and friends and want to be able to get their groceries and lattes and eat a meal out just like anyone else. At the ball park, enjoy cheering on your favorite players. Out of the ball park, just enjoy your life and leave everyone else to enjoy theirs. They are public figures in context — the ball park or baseball-related events (like fundraisers, special events, etc.), but they’re are just regular people everywhere else. Just like you.
(Cue the rainbow… “the more you know…”)
Edited: Just as I posted this originally, the release came through that a few players have been reassigned to minor league camp — pitchers Domingo German, Chad Green, Kyle Haynes, James Kaprielian, Brady Lail, and Tyler Webb; catchers Francisco Diaz, Kyle Higashioka, Santiago Nessy, and Sebastian Valle; outfielders Lane Adams, Dustin Fowler, and Aaron Judge; and infielders Jorge Mateo, Deibinson Romero, and Tyler Wade. They also optioned pitcher Jacob Lindgren to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Please note that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of these guys this Spring (or this season in general), just that the majority of these guys will start in the farm system, so the Yankees can focus on building their 40-man and 25-man rosters. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of many of these guys.