Spring Game 21: NYY vs. TOR — Shaky start, catch-up and excel

Another lovely Spring day for baseball. Sunny, clear blue skies. A second day of cool weather, even a bit chilly in the shade. Rowdy Canadians in their Spring home stands, and quite the game on the field.

Luis Cessa got the start for the Yankees today in Dunedin (about 20 miles or 30 minutes west of Steinbrenner Field, across Tampa Bay) against the Blue Jays, and had quite the shaky start. In the 1st, after 2 quick outs, Cessa gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position, something they did on another single. After a walk, another single scored a third run that inning to give the Blue Jays an early lead. In the 2nd, a nice 1-out triple scored on another single, so after a stolen base and strikeout, the Yankees decided Cessa needed to call it a day.

Ben Heller came on in relief for the Yankees, closing out the 2nd and keeping the Blue Jays from adding to their lead in the 3rd. Then, the ball went to Bryan Mitchell, who’s been having a pretty good Spring so far. Mitchell threw 3 innings and kept things pretty tight for the most part. In the 6 (his final inning), he gave up a lead-off walk that scored on a 1-out triple. But then the Yankees teamed up and got the out in the next play making the out at home in a beautiful, sharp fielder’s choice.

Okay, in the mean time, the Yankees played a bit of catch-up as the Blue Jays’ offense kept itself alive. In the 1st, Torreyes and Castro each singled and moved up to scoring position on a wild pitch, before Torreyes then scored on Chris Carter’s ground out to kick of the scoring today. Then in the 3rd, Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro hit a pair of solo home runs over the right field fence to close in on the Jays’ lead. It would be Rob Refsnyder’s 4th inning lead-off solo home run to tie things up at that point in the game.

Down a run going into the 7th, Clint Frazier took care of that with a monster lead-off solo home run. In the 8th, McKinney kicked things off with a walk, moved to 3rd on Castillo’s single, and then scored on Ji-Man Choi’s ground out to give the Yankees the lead. Castillo then scored on Mason Williams’ single.

But it would be the 9th inning that the Yankees came into full force. Solano led things off with a single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, ended at 3rd on Wade’s single, and then scored on a fielding error Billy McKinney hit into. Then a walk loaded up the bases. Choi’s single scored Wade, and Williams’ sacrifice fly scored McKinney. After Tejada’s hit-by-pitch loaded the bases again, Frazier’s single capped off the scoring as Castillo crossed the plate. A new pitcher for the Blue Jays left the bases loaded, but it was enough to keep the Yankees’ lead hefty and secure.

Yankees fans seemed to anticipate watching the young prospect James Kaprielian, but he’s been limited this Spring until today’s game. He threw a near-flawless 2 innings, including 3 stellar strikeouts. And JR Graham was just outstanding in his 9th inning, with all 3 of his outs being great strikeouts.

We should note that the Yankees’ pitchers certainly had their issues today, giving up 8 hits and 4 walks, but their 15 strikeouts was just a phenomenal statistic to celebrate today. In contrast, the Yankees’ batters hit 14 hits and worked 4 walks off 9 Toronto pitchers. Though, to give them credit, they still got the Yankees to swing at 10 strikeouts today.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees

Some roster moves today after some outstanding contributions from some key players. After the game, the Yankees optioned outfielder Mason Williams to AAA Scranton and reassigned him to minor league camp. And James Kaprielian was reassigned to minor league camp. The Yankees also signed reliever Ernesto Frieri to a minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training. His last MLB appearance was with the Rays in 2015, but he seemed to catch scouts’ interest during his stint with the Colombian team in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

And speaking of the World Baseball Classic, last night, in one of those great games, the teams representing Venezuela and USA faced off and made it a close game. After a surprising 3-run 8th inning, Team USA came out on top 4-2. Tonight, Venezuela will battle the team from the Dominican Republic at 10 pm EST.

I don’t know why, but this WBC is really one of the more exciting, edge-of-your-seat tournament. Not that I’m complaining. Actually, I’d love to see more of that kind of game. If you want to “fix baseball” (though I’m not sure why you would or how that’s even possible), this is how. It’s why people love real rivalry game and those walk-off moments. A close game is almost always better than a blowout or rout. That nail-biting nervousness and adrenaline rush right up to the very end… those are the stuff of dreams and legends.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: No cameras or video links today, unfortunately. Not that there’s much to say about the stadium in Dunedin, but the play today, especially in the latter half of the game, was pretty good. I guess you’ll have to use your imagination. Or, you know, plan to see a game in the future.}

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