Happy April 15th or in the baseball world… Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Around the league, every single player, coach, and manager donned a single number to honor the man who helped make both baseball and this country more reflective of the American culture. Before Rosa Parks just wanted to rest her feet, before Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, before the Acts and Amendments changed history and validated humans as equals regardless of skin color, athletes were breaking boundaries and making the world stand up and take notice — Jessie Owens, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson — these few stood for the many who were so spectacular at their chosen field that the world could no longer ignore their existence and paved the way for the larger Civil Rights movement that fought for total equality.
And it wasn’t just a black and white issue. Robinson’s impact on baseball opened doors for other minorities previously ignored or excluded from participating — Jewish, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian players as well as players from across the globe (even from places like Australia and India). Baseball is played around the world by people of all nationalities and races, even by women (perhaps the next boundary to be broken) at the semi-professional level.
So everyone takes one day a year to honor the man for whom we wouldn’t have players like tonight’s starter Luis Severino (or Sabathia or Tanaka or Ellsbury or Gregorius or Beltran or Castro or a good majority of the Yankees roster). (Also, Commissioner Rob Manfred stopped by the Stadium tonight to discuss the impact of Robinson on baseball and America in general.)
The Yankees are back home tonight hosting the Mariners for the weekend. It’s the beginning of a 9-game (over 10 days) home stand.
Brett Gardner got the runs started tonight in the bottom of the 1st with a 1-out solo home run off the facade of the 2nd deck right field seats. Unfortunately, it was the start of the runs scored, and the only one to be scored all night by a Yankee. The Yankees had a bit of a problem (something that echoed of 2015) — getting guys on base but leaving them stranded there (24 total left stranded on the base paths).
But the Mariners didn’t seem to have that problem. At first, Severino kept the Mariners scoreless for the first third of the game, but then got himself into some trouble. In the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a solid single by a certain former Yankee (who still gets booed in the Bronx, by the way) to tie up the game. Then after a sloppy error, Gregorius made up for it by getting a rather snazzy unassisted double play to end the inning — a line drive and flip around to tag out said former Yankee.
In the 5th, a lead-off single made it possible for the Mariners to jump ahead quickly when the next batter hit a 2-run home run. And in the 6th, Severino really got into some trouble. With a lead-off walk and single, the next batter ground to 3rd, where Headley tagged out the lead runner in an almost fielder’s choice. Despite a big strikeout, a single scored a run and put runners on the corners. So that was it for Severino — 87 pitches into the 6th inning, 8 hits and a walk, with just 2 strikeouts (rather unusual for Severino overall).
And it was onto Kirby Yates for relief. He promptly walked his first batter to load up the bases before getting a much-needed strikeout. So Yates came back in the 7th inning, where his lead-off batter singled, stole 2nd, and moved to 3rd on a ground out. He was responsible for this runner when he handed the ball over to today’s call-up Tyler Olson (more below). Olson’s first batter hit a sacrifice fly that scored that runner, but Olson closed the door with a quick pop up.
Olson’s 8th and 9th also featured a similar pattern. A lead-off double in the 8th moved to 3rd on a ground out and scored on a 2-out single. And a 1-out walk in the 9th scored on a solid RBI double to close out the Mariners’ scoring.
When I look at the final line on both pitching staff, the thing that sticks out at me isn’t the 12 allowed hits by Yankee pitchers or the fact they only got the Mariners to strikeout 3 times all night. No, it’s that the Mariners’ pitching staff gave up 7 walks to the Yankees and none of those resulted in runs (thanks in part to the 10 collective strike outs).
Not that the Yankees will be looking forward to tomorrow’s game, as the Mariners’ ace (or “King”) is set to start tomorrow afternoon. Said King is always a problem for the Yankees’ batters. It’s going to be an interesting weekend.
Final score: 7-1 Mariners.
Fire up the Scranton Shuttle! The Yankees called reliever Tyler Olson up (and played him in tonight’s game) and sent reliever Luis Cessa down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. When I think of this rather even exchange, I’m reminded of another sport that does such things within actual games — soccer (or football for you fellow Premier League fans). Within a single game, they do one play down and one player up to exchange a defender or midfielder for fresh legs. And like in baseball, sometimes that exchange works out well (like suddenly scoring the winning goal) and sometimes it doesn’t (they literally contribute nothing). It’s always a gamble.
But then that’s just part of the game. And a very good game at that.