After two consecutive and very disheartening losses, the Yankees needed a win tonight, especially a well-fought, well-executed one. Tonight’s game was played under clear skies and freezing cold (for Florida in March) temperatures. Which was still better than where either team’s regular season home was dealing with tonight — 6 inches deep in snow in Philadelphia, and 7.3 inches recorded at New York’s Central Park. (Of course, some parts of New York State saw 42 inches of snow, so a night of 54° chill isn’t that bad in that perspective.)
Michael Pineda was just amazing tonight for the Yankees against the visiting Phillies. He threw 5 perfect innings, putting a ton of zeroes up on the scoreboard and keeping those Phillies scoreless and hitless. Meanwhile, he showed off his command and power with 8 stellar strikeouts, setting himself up for the win, rightly so.
Aroldis Chapman came on for an inning of relief in the 6th and continued the scoreless momentum, despite giving up a walk (and the Phillies’ first base runner of the evening) during his time on the mound.
In the 7th, the Yankees went to reliever Chad Green. Green got into a spot of trouble with his lead-off single. A wild pitch clipped catcher Austin Romine on the hand; he was in too much pain to continue (more below), so he was replaced by Higashioka. Green powered through a couple of ground outs that ended up scoring the runner before getting out of the inning. Green continued that streak by throwing clean 8th and 9th innings.
Now, with strong pitching by Pineda, Chapman, and Green, the Yankees needed just a handful of well-played offensive moments to win the day. Greg Bird started things off with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning, continuing his amazing offensive Spring. Brett Gardner hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a pick-off error, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s single. And in the 7th, Torres hit a solid 1-out double, moved to 3rd on another pick-off error, and then scored on Dustin Fowler’s sacrifice fly.
The basic reality is that the Yankees clearly out-pitched the Phillies tonight. Yankee pitchers allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk, while the Yankee batters got 7 hits and 3 walks. And the biggest tell is the 2 strikeouts by Phillies’ pitchers compared to the 13 strikeouts by Yankee pitchers.
Final score: 3-1 Yankees
Okay, as I said above, Austin Romine took a bad bounce on a wild pitch off his throwing hand, specifically his thumb. They pulled him from the game when he was still in some pain for further tests, mainly x-rays. Those came back negative, but I’m guessing he will need a few days of rest and some treatment before he’s ready to play again.
And the Players of the Game go to the boys in the corners tonight. In the second half of the game, many of the key plays were made from, by, and between the 3rd and 1st basemen, tonight being Pete Kozma (at 3rd) and Ji-Man Choi (at 1st). Kozma’s strong, quick throws across the diamond were on-target and precise enough for Choi’s fast reflexes (and flexibility) to get the outs needed to continue the dominant pitching momentum. They were quite the team to watch tonight.
Some roster moves today: pitchers Johnny Barbato, Dietrich Enns, and Giovanny Gallegos were optioned AAA Scranton, infielder Miguel Andujar was optioned to AA Trenton, and pitcher Chance Adams was reassigned to minor league camp.
In World Baseball Classic news: last night, Puerto Rico won a rather heated, exciting game over the team from the Dominican Republic 3-1, and the Netherlands continued their dominance, trouncing Cuba 14-1. Early this morning, Israel lost to Japan 8-3 and ended its fairy tale journey in this tournament. (And messed up my bracket in the process.) Tonight, the teams representing Venezuela and the USA will face off in what should be a pretty tight race.
Before tonight’s game in Tampa, the Yankees honored a local organization, Blanket Tampa Bay as a promo for this season’s HOPE Week. Providing blankets and other basic needs to homeless and poor in the area, Blanket Tampa Bay serves over a thousand people year-round. The Yankees honored founders Beth and Ray Ross (Beth also threw out the ceremonial first pitch) and donated $10,000 to Blanket Tampa Bay. The Yankees will celebrate HOPE Week in New York May 22-26.