There’s a reason why Yogi Berra’s quote “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” rings true to people. Because no matter how deep you’re in the losing category, you haven’t really lost the game until that final out is called. And it says a lot for both teams today as they fought to the bitter end for the win. At one point, it was clear that whichever team won it, the other was not going to be that far behind and certainly wasn’t going to let the other team off easy.
CC Sabathia got his first Spring start today against the visiting Rays. He certainly had a rough 1st inning, loading the bases with 2 singles and a walk, but then went “vintage-CC” and got out of the inning scot-free. He then plowed right through the batters in his 2nd inning to start his season off right. But following him, only 2 pitchers had the same kind of luck today in what became a rather back-and-forth kind of game.
To back up Sabathia, the Yankees started their offensive attack in the 1st inning. Sanchez hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on Holliday’s single, and then scored on Chris Carter’s single. And in the 4th, Andujar and Fowler each singled, and then Ronald Torreyes singled home Andujar to give the Yankees a nice lead.
It didn’t last long. Adam Warren was keeping things under control until his third inning, the 5th, where he got a bit rattled giving up consecutive solo home runs to allow the Rays to tie up the game. Ben Heller’s 6th inning didn’t see much of a better outcome, as he loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk that allowed the Rays to jump ahead on a sacrifice fly that scored a run.
But then the Yankees came back in the 7th. With 1 out and Refsnyder on base with a single, Kyle Higashioka smacked a big 2-run home run to put the Yankees back on top. Reliever Chasen Shreve, however, found that the Rays weren’t about to give up that easily and saw a batter smack a 2-out solo home run to tie the game up again. By the way, other than that lone pitch, Shreve threw a pretty good inning, including 2 stellar strikeouts.
Neither team was willing to give way or took the opportunity to advance in the 9th, so the game went into the requisite 10th inning. Now, in Spring Training, games only play into the 10th in the event of a tie. At the end of that inning, if it’s still tied, the game ends in a tie. Yes, it’s the only time these days that baseball games can end in a tie. So, either the teams needed to push through and end it in a tie or someone needed to break it up with a run or two. Or three.
But baseball isn’t really that easy. The Rays found reliever Brady Lail on a bit of a bad day. With 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out, the next play was just a mess. First, the runner made it on a fielding error, and then all the runners moved up and the tie-breaking run was scored on a throwing error. Yes, that’s 2 errors in a single play. A sacrifice fly scored another Rays’ run to give them a bit of breathing room.
However, this game was not about breathing room or giving each other a break at all. The Yankees came raring back as Bird led things off with a single, and then was pinch-run by the young, speedy Zehner. With 1 out, McKinney singled, and then both runners moved into scoring position as the 3rd baseman dropped the ball on the catch. Pinch-runner Mateo came in for McKinney to put more speed on the base path. Ruben Tejada’s sacrifice fly scored Zehner to put the Yankees within one run.
Then, with Pete Kozma on base with a walk, Rashad Crawford’s ground-rule double (just inches from a home run, by the way) scored the tying run (Mateo). So it would be down to Tyler Wade for the final out or the final run. It would be the latter on a nice walk-off single.
Truthfully, it was both a power show for the offense and the pitching for both sides as they each racked up pretty high in key stats categories — 12 total Rays’ hits, 15 total Yankees’ hits, 8 Rays’ strikeouts, and 12 Yankees’ strikeouts. So everyone was hitting, but everyone was also not hitting too.
Final score: 7-6 Yankees, in 10
Player of the Game: This was a hard one because the young guys all came together at the end to fight and then win. So, I went through the game again, and I found the lone contribution for the Yankees that made an overall difference would come from young catcher Kyle Higashioka. Not only did he keep the offense alive with that big 2-run home run in the 7th, but his consistency behind the plate kept the young relievers, who struggled against the advancing Rays, from falling completely apart. People always underestimate a catcher’s impact and effect on a game.
World Baseball Classic news: last night’s late game ended up with Team Israel just trouncing the Chinese Taipei team 15-7. Early this morning, the team from the Netherlands blanked South Korea 5-0, and the Yankees’ (and Netherlands) Didi Gregorius hit a nice 8th inning single to contribute to their victory. Team Japan beat the Cuban team 11-6. Later tonight, China will take on Cuba, and early tomorrow the Netherlands take on Chinese Taipei and Australia faces home team Japan. It’s just getting started, folks.
I should point out that today’s quote is taken from a popular misquote by Winston Churchill. Churchill made a speech just 10 months into World War II (October 29, 1941), after London had been just pummeled in the Blitz, he implored British citizens to hang on and persevere and to recap the unexpected (and often doubted) progress. The speech was actually about 2 pages in length and this particular quote was buried in the middle: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
And that works entirely for the show on the field today. No matter what, you just can’t ever give up.