Game 109: CLE vs. NYY — The Force is strong in the midst of the grand slam of “Texit”

What an emotional day! And I have to say that Star Wars night was almost completely overshadowed. Which is a feat in and of itself means that “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

First things first, Mark Teixeira announced in his pre-game press conference that as his contract is up with the Yankees at the end of the 2016 season, he will officially be hanging up his cleats for good. Yes, as of March 2017, Mark Teixeira’s duties will include driving his kids’ carpool, playing bad rounds of golf, complaining about Georgia Tech’s next terrible season, and figuring out who to back in March Madness. Folks, we are in the middle of “Texit”. (And if you don’t get international political jokes, expand your reading from sports blogs.)

But there was also the weekend opener against Cleveland, “one of the best teams in baseball”, as certain family members keep reminding me. And I will say that tonight probably both explained why they were on top of the AL Central and why my relatives may not have many bragging rights at Thanksgiving. Basically, they did hit a lot (11 total hits) and get on base and score plenty of runs (which doesn’t say a lot for the Yankee pitching staff, I know), but they just didn’t count on the Force that drives the Yankees sometimes.

We’ll get to the Yankee offense in a minute, but it was certainly enough to give Michael Pineda a little breathing room. Not that he needed it much as he certainly fended off the Indians’ offense for the most part until the 5th inning. With 2 outs and a runner on 1st, a double moved runners to scoring position where a 3-run home run got the Indians on the board finally. A lead-off double in the 7th ended Pineda’s rather stellar night — throwing 97 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 6 hits and a walk, responsible for 4 runs, and struck out 6 Cleveland batters.

With Bleier now in for Pineda, that runner moved to 3rd on the first out and then scored on the next (hence, the 4 earned runs). Clippard came on to get 2 runners on base with a single and a hit-by-pitch but got out with a quick pop up to close the 7th inning.

Johnny Barbato had much less luck in the 8th inning. Though “in my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” Barbato gave up a walk and 2 singles to score the next Indians’ run, before loading up the bases and passed the ball off to Adam Warren to clean up the no-outs mess of the 8th inning. A single scored another run but kept the bases loaded. A strikeout gave the Yankees a new hope, and despite a sacrifice fly that scored yet another run, the “Evil Empire” struck back with a nice strike out to end the threat of the 8th inning, which Goody carried through in the 9th to keep the Indians from adding to their hefty score.

And a giving up 7 runs to their opponent on a normal night would seem rather detrimental, but this is Star Wars night and the beginning of “Texit”. And on a night that featured an R2-D2 and other characters and the opponents pictures as stormtroopers, tonight was bound to be a bit different.

In the 1st inning, with 1 out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, moved to 3rd on Teixeira’s double (in the midst of a big cheer and standing ovation from the crowd), and then scored on Brian McCann’s ground out to get the Yankees on the board early. And in the 3rd, again with 1 out, Ellsbury doubled and ended up at 3rd on Teixeira’s single before scoring on McCann’s double. The Indians’ starter intentionally walked Headley, and in hindsight might have been his worst move all night. Because the player with the word “star” in his name had to do something awesome on Star Wars night. In this case, it would be Starlin Castro’s 1st career grand slam right into section 103 over the right field fence.

Then into the 5th inning, with 2 outs and Castro on base with a walk, he scored on Gary Sanchez’s double and forced the starter out of the game early. But it was time to go, having the Yankees dent into his rather nice statistics. But the Yankees didn’t seem to notice the change, and in the 6th, with 2 outs and Teixeira and McCann on base with walks, Chase Headley’s singles scored Teixeira, and Castro’s walk loaded the bases. Another walk to Sanchez walked in McCann before the Indians got out of that inning.

Aaron Hicks led-off the 7th inning with a solo shot to left field, and after Brett Gardner tripled, the Indians went again to their bullpen. Ellsbury’s single then scored Gardner due to some sloppy fielding. In the 8th, with 2 outs and Castro at 2nd after a single and wild pitch, the reliever intentionally walked Refsnyder and then balked to moved both runners to scoring position. He then unintenionally walked Hicks to load the bases. Then Gardner’s single scored them both to cap off the Yankees’ scoring tonight, which read: 1-0-5-0-1-2-2-2-x. (I was told later that 10501 is a Westchester zip code, part of the tri-state area of New York City.)

27 total hits, 12 walks, and 20 runs. Not exactly a good reflection of either pitching staff if you think about it. But the true phantom menace was the Yankee staff that got 10 strikeouts to the Indians’ mere 4. Every single Yankee starter tonight contributed to the Yankee offense, all but 1 scored at least 1 run, and only 2 didn’t earn RBIs. Bascially, for all the “best” the Indians are this season, the Yankees showed they were still rather fierce competitors. Never underestimate them. I mean, if a beat-up old ship like the Millennium Falcon can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, anything is possible.

Final score: 13-7 Yankees.

Yes, Teixeira is retiring, and when I heard the news today, I was really sad. And with all the recent retirements over my tenure doing this blog, the only one I can compare it to is Andy Pettitte (who was on hand today to throw batting practice again, and can someone give this man a job as a coach with the Yankees already?). As the broadcasters seem to all agree, Teixeira is one of those good guys in baseball, both on and off the field, and he and his family will be greatly missed as fixtures in Yankee Universe.

{Media links: Teixeira’s full press conference here.}

On Monday, a guest blogger will do a special post on Teixeira and his contributions to baseball as a Yankee. Check back on the off-day for more on “Texit”.

(Also, kudos if you caught all the Star Wars references; there would’ve been way more, but Texit kind of consumed most of the day, which is ironic as there’s no way the 1980’s fanatic Teixeira would ever want to do anything to take away from the iconic franchise.)

Go Yankees!

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