And just like that, the Yankees are back in the game, easily righting the ship after the messy Opening Day on Sunday. Continuing the opening series against the Rays, the Yankees called on veteran CC Sabathia to lead them back into the win column, something he did quite well tonight actually.
Over his 5 innings, Sabathia threw 85 pitches, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2 Rays’ batters, and allowing zero runs to score. A fairly successful outing overall, and a precedent he set for the rest of the pitching staff tonight. Bryan Mitchell breezed through the 6th inning with just 9 pitches before handing things off to Clippard for an easy 7th.
But nothing can be so easy, so the Yankees upped the drama factor in the 8th. After a quick strikeout, Jonathan Holder gave up 2 singles, so the Yankees went to Dellin Betances. But he amped things up with a walk to load up the bases before he got a nasty strikeout and then a dribbling ground out to get out of the jam unscathed. Chapman closed things out in the 9th with 14 pitches (11 of them strikes, by the way), including a big swing to close out the game as the batter literally lost his bat in the stands. (There’s something poetic or metaphorical about that somewhere that I can’t find tonight.)
The Yankees’ offense certainly dinged into the Rays’ pitching staff tonight, getting their starter to throw a lot of pitches (107 in his 6 innings). But the Yankees were just hitting tonight and hitting well against the shifts and Rays’ defense. In the 3rd, Judge led off with a single and then scored as part of Ronald Torreyes’ big 2-run home run. (Did anyone have Torreyes as the Yankees’ first home run of the season?) Gardner then doubled and scored on Matt Holliday’s 2-out double that got lost in the roof of the big dome for a moment to give the Yankees a nice lead early in the game.
Chase Headley added another run in the 6th with a monster solo shot straight up the middle that had the Rays’ centerfielder literally climbing the wall to try to make the out (unsuccessfully). Then in the 8th, Ellsbury hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on Castro’s line out, and then scored on Headley’s nice single against the shift. Headley then stole 2nd and moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, but was left stranded by the end of the inning.
Final score: 5-0 Yankees
After 2 games, the standout player is most certainly Chase Headley. In his last 8 at-bats, he has 5 hits, 3 runs scored, 2 RBIs, and a home run. Add that to his sharp defense, and I think most people would think I was talking about one of the old stars or one of the new hotshot up-and-coming stars. He mentioned recently that he wanted to take advantage of teams when they put the shift on him, and he’s been certainly hitting into the Rays’ defense in that way these last 2 games.
And there is some poetic justice in this because I sat through far too many overheard conversations in Spring Training from so-called fans who were all too happy to wish Headley would be traded away or felt like the team would be better without the veteran 3rd baseman. I wonder how they feel today, eating a little crow, as it were.
It’s why I might privately second-guess decisions on strategy or business made by the Yankees, but publicly, I’m pretty mum. Because chances are, the people who get paid the big bucks to make those decisions certainly know a whole lot more about the reasons behind those decisions than I do. Arm-chair coaches and message board managers are good as seat-fillers and comment board trolling, but there’s a reason why they pay to watch games and not be paid for their ideas.
Just be positive and cheer for the team. Someone will surprise you by doing something unexpected and amazing. Like Torreyes. And isn’t he something!