Today started out so overcast and humid, but by game time, the sun was out and shining and the sky was back to its beautiful, clear blue. Plus, the humidity left with the grey clouds, leaving a slight breeze and little puffy white clouds to dot the sky about the stadium as the Yankees hosted the Braves.
Masahiro Tanaka got his Spring debut today, and it certainly didn’t go as planned. After a strikeout to the lead-off batter, he walked the next guy who ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out ground-rule double to put the Braves in an early lead. It didn’t help that the next batter hit a big 2-run home run to solidify that lead. Tanaka came back out for his second inning to give up a lead-off double that scored on a 1-out double. That would be it. Not exactly the greatest start to the year, more in line with his 2017 regular season and the opposite of his 2017 Spring (where he was just dominant).
Chasen Shreve came on in relief for the final 2 outs of the 2nd and kept the Braves scoreless through the 3rd, which set a pattern for the rest of the afternoon. Showing off further reasons as to why he belongs in the starting rotation again, Jordan Montgomery took 3 innings and certainly helped keep the Braves’ offense from advancing, with 5 strikeouts across his 9 outs. Tommy Kahnle and Jonathan Loaisiga continued that scoreless streak in the 7th and 8th, both with 2 strikeouts of their own. But it was prospect pitcher JP Feyereisen who breezed his way through a quick 3 outs in the 9th inning for an impressive close of today’s “bullpen”, setting himself up for his 2nd win of the season so far.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense had quite the lead to chip away at this afternoon. In the 4th, Bird worked a 1-out walk and moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single. They would both then score on Miguel Andujar’s deep double to halve the Braves’ lead. In the 5th, the Yankees sent Russell Wilson (yes, that one) lead-off with a pinch-hit and unfortunately strikeout. I haven’t heard a crowd give such a cheering applause for a strikeout of the home team since Billy Crystal‘s famous Spring Training strikeout in March 2008. He leaves camp on Sunday, so fans today were in for what may be the only time they could see him take an at-bat outside of some minor league games this summer.
Anyway, after Wilson’s celebrated strikeout, Stanton hit a nice double to get on base, and Bird worked a 2-out walk. The Braves’ lead then narrowed as Didi Gregorius singled home Stanton. So going into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees were down by just one run. Wade led-off the inning with a single. Torres hit into a grounder to short, and the Braves got the first part of the double play with Wade out at 2nd but a sloppy throw to 1st allowed Torres to make it safely. It would be Tyler Austin’s monster 2-run home run up the middle that would win the game in that amazing walk-off fashion.
Final score: 5-4 Yankees
One to watch: I debated all game and on the way home as to who I would pick today. But I’m going with pitcher JP Feyereisen. This was his 2nd win of the Spring already, and his flawless, quick 9th inning helped keep the Yankees’ momentum going and set them up for Austin’s great walk-off home run. Don’t get me wrong — those monster hits and home runs are always fun to watch. But as they say: “if you don’t got pitching, you don’t got nothin’!” The stark difference between Tanaka’s brief outing today and every successive pitcher proves that so very true. Feyereisen came with fellow stellar pitchers Ben Heller and Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier in the July 2016 trade that sent closer Andrew Miller to Cleveland. While I do miss Miller, the Yankees got 4 outstanding players that are certainly making their mark and already building their Yankee legacy, including my O2W today.
Injury news: about 30 minutes before the game, Jacoby Ellsbury was scrapped from the lineup due to tightness in his right side, later diagnosed as a “mild oblique strain”. It doesn’t seem serious (as say Frazier’s still lingering concussion symptoms), but there’s no set time-table yet as to when he might be back in the lineup.
And just before the game, the Yankees announced that they signed free agent veteran 1st baseman and outfielder Adam Lind to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and an opt-out option after the Spring. Lind is a 12 year MLB veteran, spending most of that with the Blue Jays (2006-2014) before bouncing to the Brewers, Mariners, and Nationals the last 3 seasons. Lind gives the Yankees potential veteran options in the roster should they choose to go that route.
Next up: The Yankees travel about 2 hours (or 140 miles) down the Florida Gulf Coast to face off against the Red Sox at “Fenway South” in Ft. Myers. #2 Yankee Prospect Chance Adams is on tap to start the rivalry game.