Game 16: NYY vs. PIT — Warping under pressure in Steel City

No offense to either team, but really, neither one really had a great game tonight. Coming off a pretty game home series, where the Yankees went 8-1, the Yankees were looking for a similar feel to start their road trip. But tonight’s game clearly wasn’t it.

The Yankees kicked off their road trip with a weekend series against the Pirates. CC Sabathia got the start and really had a bit of a mixed bag outing. He only threw 77 pitches in his 5 innings, but gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 3.

His lead-off batter hit his 2nd pitch straight up the middle for a solo home run to kick off the Pirates’ runs tonight. Then consecutive singles put runners in the corners, and 1 out later, another single scored the 2nd run of the inning. Then a lead-off triple in the 2nd scored as part of a 2-run home run to double the Pirates’ score.

Other than that, Sabathia was actually able to keep the Pirates under control for the rest of his outing. Adam Warren came on to sail through the 6th inning and pitching into some trouble in the 7th. With 2 outs, and his only allowed base runner on 1st with a walk, the next batter reached 1st on a sloppy fielding error, which allowed that runner to end up at 2nd and the lead runner to score. It was onto specialist reliever Tommy Layne, who promptly walked the next batter. And Jonathan Holder’s first batter singled to score another run for the Pirates before he got out of the inning. Neither runs scored in the 7th were thus earned thanks to that fielding error.

Tyler Clippard closed things out for the Yankees in the 8th, breezing through the Pirates’ lineup with just 13 pitches, including 2 strikeouts to bump the Yankee strikeout total up to 9 tonight.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the diamond, the Pirates pitchers weren’t exactly having a super clean night themselves. Their starter threw a whopping 102 pitches just into the 5th inning, giving up 7 hits and 2 walks to Yankee batters.

With that statistic, one can tell the Yankees had several key opportunities to do something with those base runners, but there seemed to be only a few times they actually capitalized on them. In the 3rd, Brett Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored thanks to a combination of Chase Headley’s double and a fielding error. And while the Yankees continued to get close, but a sharp fielder’s choice cut down a runner at home.

In the 5th, with 2 outs, Ellsbury and Judge each singled to get on base, and then thanks to yet another fielding error off a ball hit by Greg Bird, both runners scored. That play alone called the end for the Pirates’ starter. And that seemed to turn things around for the Pirates overall. The Pirates’ bullpen seemed to have a better handle on keeping the Yankees off the bases for most of the game. They did give up 3 more hits in the final 2 innings, but better defense won the day for the Pirates in the end, stopping any chance the Yankees had for a late-inning comeback.

Final score: 6-3 Pirates

And in injury/rehab news: Didi Gregorius played in his first rehab game since injuring his shoulder during the WBC. He joined the Single-A Tampa Yankees as they faced the Lakeland Tigers (Detroit’s farm team) tonight, getting 2 of the 5 Yankee hits tonight during his 3 at-bats and playing shortstop on defense. No official word on a time table for Gregorius just yet.

While Gary Sanchez is out working on rehabbing his arm injury, MLB announced top jersey sales, with Sanchez coming it at #9, the highest for any AL player. To be fair, 4 of the top 5 are Cubs’ players, which is pretty normal after a championship, especially with the dramatic flourish of last year’s postseason.

Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I saw an amazing amount of #24 jerseys in the stands at Spring Training on people of all ages, and the Bronx was littered with them. I think people see Sanchez as a symbol of the Yankees future, and people like hoping for the future. It’s why we show up for ball games — because we believe there’s chance to see your team do something amazing and win. But then, I also saw a ton of #99 jerseys too.

Also, unlike a few of the other names on that list, it’s nice to see that there are some good guys of baseball that people are honoring in this way, including Sanchez. Because if you’re going to have your kid be inspired by and aspire to greatness, the player you’re supporting, honoring, and cheering on might as well be a pretty decent personal role model too.

Go Yankees!

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