Time for some interleague play in the Bronx this weekend, as the Cardinals come to town. Interleague play isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be, with the rule changes that insist on regularly scheduled interleague play, something now a requirement due to the odd number of teams in each league. For those of you too young to remember, interleague play was introduced in 1997 (yes, that was just 20 years ago) and eventually became a normal part of every season. But for those of who remember, like many things that have evolved in baseball, it’s still lingers as part of the nostalgia of the game.
Masahiro Tanaka got the start for tonight’s opener against the Cards, throwing 103 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and striking out just 5 batters. The Cardinals wasted no time getting on board with a 1-out single who scored as part of a 2-run home run to the right field seats in the 1st inning.
Then after shutting down the Cards for most of the game, Tanaka struggled some in the 7th inning. The lead-off batter singled, and the next batter hit into a little grounder that could’ve been a double play, but the Yankees’ infield only got the out at 2nd. (And why the Cardinals decided to challenge that out, I’ll never know.) A walk put 2 runners on the base, and a double scored the third run for the red birds, spelling the end for Tanaka’s night.
He watched closely as Tyler Clippard came on in relief to close out the 7th inning. In 8 pitches, Clippard shut them down with 2 fly outs, including one just shy of a home run thanks to the effective fielding of right fielder Aaron Judge. Dellin Betances gave up a walk in the middle of his 3 solid strikeouts in his scoreless 8th inning. And Aroldis Chapman continued that with a 2-out walk and double that certainly threatened a rally before a standard ground out finished the game and gave Chapman his 3rd save of the season.
The Yankees meanwhile grabbed the lead and kept it by the skin of their teeth at times. Gardner led-off the bottom of the 1st with a walk and scored on Starlin Castro’s big 2-run home run to kick things off for the Yankees and quickly tie up the game. In the 2nd, Austin Romine got his 1st home run of the season, a big solo shot into the right field seats to give the Yankees the slim lead.
In the 5th, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a 1-out single and then scored on a really messy play as part of Chase Headley’s double. The ball went into the right field corner, and Ellsbury rightly held up at 3rd, but the right fielder threw the ball into home off the mark, sending it meandering through the grassy area behind home plate. So Ellsbury quickly sped home and scored because the fielder throwing it to a waiting catcher threw another off-the-mark throw and the ball dribbled its way around the dirt around home plate as Headley made his way to 3rd.
It would be the messy insurance run the Yankees needed to hand Tanaka his first win of the season.
Final score: 4-3 Yankees
Tomorrow’s matinee will also recognize Jackie Robinson, with the annual Jackie Robinson Day. You know what that means — Sabathia (who gets the start tomorrow) will be donning #42, rather than his usual #52. Oh, and so will Bird and Headley and Gardner and every other player on both teams. It’s the only day I’ve heard people complain about the Yankees not having names on their backs so that you can tell who’s who from a distance.
And without getting into it yet, it was pointed out to me recently because of Robinson’s excellence and integrity, acceptance and integration of baseball evolved into the sport we know today, where players of all colors and ethnicity populate every team. For example, 4 of the 5 starting pitchers on the Yankees are playing today because they are excellent players and were signed to major league contracts regardless of their skin color or ethnicity. By removing factors that have no real significance on someone’s playing ability (things like race, ethnicity, relationship status, religion, etc.), teams and fans can truly embrace players of excellence and integrity, just solidly good players to build a solidly good team to cheer onto a championship.