Continuing the string of evening games this week, the Yankees hosted the Blue Jays tonight at Steinbrenner. And coming off the win against the Red Sox yesterday, the Yankees were hungry for another one, and things looked hopeful with Brett Gardner making his Spring debut and Nathan Eovaldi with the start.
Eovaldi’s first inning was simply flawless, showing off that “Nasty Nate” stuff that made the Yankee fans love him. Even when he struggled through his 2nd inning, he was still pretty solid despite 2 walks, as he was able to get the other batters to ground out, strike out, and fly out to get out of the inning scoreless, a pattern most of the Yankees pitchers would continue through the evening.
Pestano’s 3rd inning relief gave up a hit, but kept the scoreless streak alive, something Chapman continued in the 4th inning (his best all Spring so far) with 2 nice strikeouts in 3 consecutive outs. Reliever Diego Moreno’s 5th inning was flawless with his own 2 strikeouts. Then Pinder racked up 2 strikeouts of his own in the 6th inning, and James Pazos joined the parade with his own strikeout in his own flawless inning.
However, in an outing out of the ordinary for the reliever this Spring, Bleier struggled his way through the 8th inning some. A lead-off ground out opened the inning, but a pair of doubles (one scoring the other) chipped away at the Yankees’ scoreless hold over the Blue Jay before a solid strikeout closed the Blue Jays’ attempt to make something of this inning.
Yates came on to close out the game in the 9th, and despite a nice strikeout to start things going, the next batter’s solid triple (the ball went deep into the corner of right field) and a walk, Yates buckled down (thanks in large part by some excellent catching and game calling by Carlos Corporan behind the plate tonight) and got a strikeout and a fly out to end the game. Though for a second, it looked like the slight collision might cause some trouble (this is why you call the ball, guys!), but it all worked out in the end. And believe me, it was that kind of game, that kind of moment where you really weren’t sure what was going to happen when Sinatra started playing over the PA system.
The Yankees did their offensive damage early in the game, and because of some just phenomenal pitching tonight, kept the Blue Jays from doing much more than that pesky 8th inning attempt. In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs and Headley on base with a single, Starlin Castro hit a solid home run right over the right-center field fence to put the Yankees up early and as it turns out just enough for the win tonight.
Look, I really do want to recognize the Yankee pitchers tonight who were just amazing — 13 combined strikeouts (to the Blue Jays’ 3, by the way). Just great command from nearly everyone on the roster tonight.
Final score: 2-1 Yankees.
The Ones to Watch tonight: I’ve got to give it to the star reliever Moreno and the infielder Pete Kozma. Moreno, as I’ve already mentioned was just flawless on the mound tonight, coming in and commanding the game from first to final pitch of his outing. And Kozma worked the “Hot Corner” (3rd base) tonight with some snazzy defense. There wasn’t much that got by him, and his arm to get the outs at 1st (for example) was spot-on accurate, quick, and efficient. Nice going, guys!