Spring Game 23: BAL vs. NYY — CC Strong against Baltimore breakthrough

Another beautiful day for a ball game. I feel like I’ve said that a lot this Spring so far, and if you’ve ever wondered why they do Spring Training in places like Florida, this Spring is the reason why. A cloudless blue sky, near perfect warm temperatures, and a packed crowd at Steinbrenner Field set itself up for a great afternoon of baseball.

CC Sabathia got the start today against the visiting Orioles and really threw a pretty good game over all. In his 4 innings, he gave up 3 hits and a walk, but also struck out 5 batters. He was strong and dominant, so his struggles only happened in his final inning. A lead-off double stole 2nd, and then 2 outs later, scored on a single to get Baltimore on board. Then a lingering strike found its home in the outfield seats as a 2-run home run gave the Orioles the confidence they were looking for to carry them into the latter half of the game.

Now, just a half-inning before, in the 3rd, the Yankees finally broke through the strong pitching by the Orioles. Tejada worked a lead-off walk and Choi singled to get 2 runners on base. With 1 out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and scored Tejada. Then Gary Sanchez’s double scored both Choi and Ellsbury.

So with the game tied going into the 5th, the pitching rotation began. Chapman and JR Graham breezed through their 6 outs, each with a great strikeout. Tommy Layne’s lone allowed hit was a lead-off solo home run in the 7th to give the Orioles back the lead. Niese’s 8th inning kept the Orioles from adding to their slim lead.

It would be the young outfielder Billy McKinney that led-off the 8th inning with a monster home run deep into the right field seats to tie up the game again. So it would be up to the newly signed reliever Ernesto Frieri to close things up, and it was a fairly good inning, save a single issue. Frieri’s 9th inning looked like this: strike out looking, a solo home run, strike out looking, strike out looking. Yes, save that pesky winning homer, Frieri had an amazing inning.

It’s worth noting that the Yankee pitching staff got 12 strikeouts this afternoon, thanks mostly to Sabathia’s 5 and Frieri’s 3. All the other numbers were fairly close, but let’s be honest, the only stat that matters is the runs scored.

Final score: 5-4 Orioles

Player of the Game: easy today, it’s Billy McKinney. Someone commented today that McKinney wouldn’t have received an invite to camp if Tyler Austin hadn’t broken his foot. Not that I’m glad for Austin’s injury (because I miss him this Spring), but what a gem we would have missed. McKinney is currently holding a batting average of .412, with an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.059 thanks to his 3 home runs in just 15 game this Spring. The kid is good, really good. And he’s pretty sharp defensively. I’ve called him the “real deal” before, and every game just continues to prove me right. This kid is just something else.

And we’re getting down to the end of the World Baseball Classic. Actually, to keep working, the teams representing Japan and the Netherlands are playing exhibition games against a couple of teams in the Cactus League (in Arizona) and lost — the Cubs beat Japan earlier today, and the Diamondbacks trounced the Netherlands. They will face off with the final 2 teams from the other pool on Monday and Tuesday in Los Angeles to vie for a spot in the final game on Wednesday.

Now, joining them will be the unstoppable team from Puerto Rico who won their game against Team USA last night. The USA team rallied in the 9th inning with 2 runs, but ended up falling short by 1-run, falling 5-6 to Puerto Rico. Today, Puerto Rico continued that streak with a dominant show against Venezuela, winning 13-2. Currently tied in the standings, Team USA and the Dominican Republic face off tonight (at 10 pm EST) to see which of them will join Puerto Rico, Japan, and the Netherlands at Dodger Stadium next week.

You may have done NCAA basketball brackets, but I do a baseball blog, so my bracket was a WBC one. And it got blown out of the water in the last round. Baseball is never predictable, and you just never know when some team is just going to work and dominate and when a perfect “on-paper” team is going to falter. But I have to say, this is still going to be an interesting final four and championship game next week. And honestly, I like our version better!

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video today. Bummer. Pretty good hits and pitching today too. Sorry!}

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