Spring Game 17: BAL vs. NYY — The wrong end of the numbers game

It was almost like nature knew it wasn’t going to be a great night for the Yankees. Mostly cloudy skies plagued the area most of the day, and just about an hour before game time, the 2% chance of rain turned into slight sprinkles over Steinbrenner Field for a grand total of 7 minutes. With a repeat performance about the 3rd inning, I think. Basically, it wasn’t the greatest build-up to what is going to be a rather forgotten game in the scheme of things.

The Baltimore Orioles made the trip up from Sarasota this afternoon to pay a visit to the Yankees and left their mark on the scoreboard. I made an off-hand comment that their innings numbers looked more like a social security number than a score. You’ll see what I mean.

CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees, and right off the bat (literally and figuratively) had his own set of troubles. And it wouldn’t be that bad except the Yankees are trying a couple of guys in newer positions, like Refsnyder (normally a 2nd baseman) at 3rd. The fact is that at a new position their reflexes aren’t the same, so the balls that wouldn’t get by a natural or veteran 3rd baseman (like Headley or even Rodriguez a few years ago) did tonight due to Refsnyder’s slight hesitation and fighting his instinct as the ball came off the bat. It happens. But I can’t tell you how glad I am that this is happening in Spring where it doesn’t count for real (at least on the big league level) and not in say September during a pennant race.

Anyway, Sabathia’s 1st inning was just messy — a lead-off double, an unsuccessful fielders choice, an RBI double, and a 3-run home run all before any outs were recorded. But with the bases cleared, Sabathia had a bit of a fresh slate and plowed through the next 3 batters to get out of the inning. His 2nd and 3rd innings were scoreless, allowing some breathing room.

But it was the 4th inning to bookend this game for Sabathia. With 2 outs and the bases loaded with a single a fielding error and a walk, a single scored 2 runs. Sabathia’s night was over, still responsible for the 2 runners on the corners. Miller came on, gave up a single to score the guy from 3rd before striking out the next batter and getting out of the inning.

And in some much needed relief and to get things righted — Dellin Betances. Betances was in fine form this evening, getting a quick 3 outs, including 2 nice strikeouts. Boy, am I glad he’s on our side of things.

The Yankees called on a young reliever Cessa who allowed the O’s to widen their lead over the next couple of innings. With 1 out and 2 runners on base with a walk and a single in the 6th, a single scored the lead runners before Cessa got himself out of the inning. A lead-off ground-rule double in the 7th scored on an RBI single, though the runner found himself tagged out as he tried to stretch it into a double after the run scored. A double and a single put runners in the corners just before a wild pitch scored another run for the O’s.

James Pazos’ 8th inning was flawless — putting up no hits, no runs, and no walks in his frame. The most important “no”, of course, being the runs. He is certainly carving a space for himself in Yankees relief as he keeps sending up those kinds of statistics.

But Rumbelow’s 9th inning stretched his struggles. A fly out got things off to a good start, but a swinging strikeout on a messy pitch the catcher couldn’t control allowed a base runner before a walked batter joined him on the base path. A nice double scored the lead runner before Rumbelow pulled it together to get a pop up and a ground out to get out of the inning.

When I look at the score, the number that sticks out to me isn’t the number of runs. Runs can be collected any number of ways — hits, homers, walks, hit-by-pitches, sac flies, ground out, random RBIs, the list goes on. But the number I look at is the “hits” as it tells me how bad the other team got to the defense and pitcher. So when you see a number like 14 hits in a game, something went dreadfully wrong. Couple that with 3 walks, and it’s clearly a problem that needs to be addressed and fixed.

In contrast, the Yankees’ offense collected a mere 5 hits (and 3 walks) off the Orioles pitchers tonight, mostly off their starter. Their starter also gave up the Yankees only runs of the evening in the 2nd inning. Teixeira led-off the inning with a walk and Ackley’s 1-out double put them both in scoring position, which they then did when Didi Gregorius hit a deep 2-out single. Refsnyder’s single put runners on the corners, but the Yankees couldn’t seem to do much after that at all.

Call it a timing issue. Call it nature messing with the natural order of things. But the Yankees weren’t hitting successfully much at all tonight outside that 2nd inning. With one very major exception — the 7th inning. With 2 outs, Aaron Hicks (the Yankees’ 4th outfielder) smacked a deep triple into left-center field (right under the big sign out there). It was almost an inside-the-park home run based on Hicks’ speed and how far he hit that ball. Actually, it was just feet from becoming an outside-the-park home run. But a ground out on the next batter stranded him there.

Final score: 11-2 Orioles. (And then there were fireworks over the scoreboard. I love fireworks nights at Steinbrenner.)

Sorry, no “one to watch” tonight. There were a couple of guys in the running but it was a tough game to find someone who isn’t already on the 40-man roster to pay attention to tonight (read: Aaron Hicks, who really just stood out both offensively and defensively tonight, solidifying his spot as the 4th outfielder to platoon the Gardner-Ellsbury-Beltran defense out there).

And before the game tonight, the Yankees recognized their local HOPE Week recipient — the local chapter of Ainsley’s Angels. A nationwide organization, Ainsley’s Angels helps the special needs community build awareness and experience endurance events through donated jogging chairs. They host local chapter and events like races that volunteers and parents help their special needs friends and family participate in athletic ventures. Like tomorrow, they host a 5K/10K race in a Tampa suburb and will host their main annual event the Iron Girl half-marathon next month. The Yankees recognized the Tampa ambassador and her local volunteers and participants tonight and gifted them with a $10,000 check.

As announced earlier this week, the Yankees annual HOPE Week event will be held June 6-10 in the New York area. (To see HOPE Week recipients and links to their stories over the past few years, click the HOPE Week tag below and check out my past posts from previous HOPE Weeks.)

Go Yankees!

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