If we were in a relegation league (like European football or soccer), a tie is an acceptable outcome because it still counts for a point. Basically, they run off a points collection system — a win is 3 points, a tie (or draw) is 1 point, and a loss is 0 points. At the end of the season, the bottom 2 teams are relegated to the next level lower and the top 2 teams of that level are promoted. Meanwhile, the four teams with the most points are automatically in the play-offs. (Disclosure: yes, I do also watch the Premier League or the soccer league in the United Kingdom. Sports fans are often diversified in their consumption, and it certainly fills the baseball off-season watching guys in shorts chase around a ball in the sometimes snowy fields around England.)
Anyway, in Spring Training, we don’t get any points for any games. So since the games don’t count and the points don’t matter, a tie is entirely possible. And after today’s game in Tampa, there have been a total of 20 ties so far in Spring Training in both Florida and Arizona. (Note: as of this posting, there are currently 6 in-progress or scheduled games for the rest of today.)
And truthfully, it was kind of the expected outcome on this lazy, cool Tuesday afternoon, under clear blue skies. CC Sabathia was certainly strong in his 4 inning outing today against the visiting Tigers. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo shot in the 3rd inning, but mostly, Sabathia showed that he is continuing his momentum from his strong last season. From there, the rest of the pitching staff mostly continued that momentum for this game.
Adam Warren, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, and Chad Green each took an inning and kept the Tigers to their lone run. But then Giovanny Gallegos, who has had a patchy Spring this year, struggled a bit in the 9th. He gave up a lead-off single that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a long single. But then he buckled down with consecutive strikeouts and a line drive out to 2nd to escape the inning.
However, up until then, the Yankees were certainly just not hitting off the Tigers’ starting pitcher, a veteran starter formerly from the Nationals’ power-packed pitching staff. But then the relievers held off the Yankees’ hitters for most of the game. The Yankees only got 4 hits off Tigers’ pitchers in today’s game. They just really weren’t hitting well again.
It wasn’t until the 8th inning, when Didi Gregorius hit a lead-off big solo home run to tie up the game at that point. Aaron Hicks followed that with a single and moved to 2nd on a ground out. After Lind and Torres worked walks, the bases were loaded. Shane Robinson hit into a ground out at 2nd, but the Tigers were unable to turn two and Hicks scored. With runners on the corners, Robinson was caught stealing (maybe? those questionable calls resumed throughout today’s game too) and ended the rally.
Once the Tigers tied up the game in the top of the 9th, the Yankees had their last shot in the bottom 9th. Jeff Hendrix worked a lead-off walk, and in the process of stealing 2nd, he ended up all the way at 3rd thanks to a throwing error. Two outs later, Wade worked his own walk and then stole 2nd on defensive indifference, putting both runners in scoring position, but a dribbly ground out ended the inning and the game.
Final score: 2-2 tie
O2W: This one was a bit harder to choose today because we’ve reached the part of the season where the Yankees’ starters play longer in the game, giving the up-and-comers less of a chance to show off their stuff. I make it a point of not choosing a veteran, even one technically under a minor league contract like Adam Lind, who certainly showed off a bit today in his attempt to land a spot on the Opening Day roster. So, when I think back on the game, I was impressed with Jeff Hendrix‘s speed and base-running sharpness in that 9th inning today, certainly threatening the Tigers. He was able to read the situation well and respond to his best advantage. That’s a skill that worth watching at the very least.
Next up: the Yankees head down to Sarasota to face the Orioles tomorrow afternoon, one of the few games they’re not playing at Steinbrenner Field this week. Yankees’ prospect Chance Adams is on tap to start that game.
Roster move: after game, catcher Kyle Higashioka and Gleyber Torres were optioned to AAA Scranton and reassigned to minor league camp. With the addition of Walker to the infield competition, Torres will not be making the starting roster, which is really good for the young infielder. Torres can use his time in Scranton to really hone his skills and get himself ready for a potential mid-season call-up or even the 2019 roster. It worked out well for the likes of Judge and Sanchez (and even Jeter and Pettitte) to have some extra time in the minor leagues, so I believe that will work out well for Torres and many of the other guys that will join him over the next two weeks.
I know I said I wouldn’t talk about the standings again, but I have to just do a completely objective update, especially as the Yankees haven’t been as strong in recent games as they were earlier this Spring. Currently, the top 4 teams in baseball are the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, and Brewers — two AL and two NL teams, also two Florida and two Arizona teams. The Cubs have 11 wins, 4 losses, and 3 ties in 18 games (average: .733); the Astros have 13 wins, 5 losses, and 2 ties in 20 games (average: .722); the Yankees and Brewers each have 11 wins, 6 losses, and 1 tie in 18 games (average .647). No comment, just basic statistics, and a reminder that the games don’t count and the points don’t matter.