Spring Game 24: TB vs. NYY — 9th inning heroics… by the other guys

Look, tonight’s game was going really well for most of the games for the Yankees. They held off the Rays’ batters for most of the game consistently, their pitchers dominating the ironic “hometown” visiting team. And things looked great for setting up the Yankees for a win. Right up until that 9th inning under an unlikely reliever.

Sabathia was to start tonight, but instead was pulled this morning to throw a simulated game. Many of the regular starters seem to be doing this or pitching in minor league games to hone their skills leading up to next Thursday’s Opening Day. Instead, that leaves the game to minor league starters and a plethora of relievers to show off the depth of the Yankees organization. One of those, David Hale, got the start tonight, going 3 full, scoreless innings, and getting 5 great strikeouts (of his 9 outs).

Tommy Kahnle continued this momentum through the 4th and 5th innings, handing things over to Chad Green for a flawless 6th inning. Dellin Betances jumped in for two strong innings he’s more comfortable with — the 7th and 8th — and added 4 strikeouts of his own. (The Yankees pitchers would get 10 total strikeouts tonight off Rays’ batters.)

Leading up to this point in the game, the Yankees chipped away at the Rays’ pitchers in small ways, working 7 walks and getting just 6 total hits. In the 2nd, Gregorius led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Tyler Austin’s single, and then to 3rd when Romine hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd. So with runners in the corners and 2 outs, Ronald Torreyes singled and scored Gregorius to get the Yankees on the board. But then they started a familiar song — Gardner walked to load the bases, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity with a little grounder to 2nd to end the inning with those bases loaded.

They got another shot in the 6th. Hicks worked a lead-off walk, and Gregorius singled. Austin’s ground out moved both runners into scoring position, and Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly scored Hicks to double the Yankees’ score. But that was it for the Yankees tonight. Plenty of opportunities, but nothing that was tangible on the scoreboard.

Anyway, so the Yankees pitchers and defense had completely shut out the visiting Rays going into the 9th inning. Literally, they just needed 3 outs, and everyone could go home. So turning to reliable Adam Warren to close the game seemed like a logical step. Except he wasn’t so reliable tonight, in a weird turn of events. He gave up consecutive singles that scored as part of a big 3-run home run to suddenly put the Rays in the lead with a single swing.

He gave up another home run, a 1-out solo shot to roughly the same outfield section to add one more Rays’ run. After another out and a single, the Yankees had seen enough and called on another fairly reliable reliever, Chasen Shreve. Fortunately, Shreve wasn’t having a flukey night like Warren and was able to wrap things up quickly with a nice strikeout. But the Yankee batters got a quick 3 outs in the bottom of the 9th, handing things over to the Rays in a single inning.

Final score: 4-2 Rays

O2W: Once again, there wasn’t much playing time for the farm team players. But with Bird solidly at 1st for the regular roster, the chances we’ll see the likes of Tyler Austin for much of 2018 are slim. (If Bird stays healthy. Fingers crossed.) That makes Austin on my radar consistently. They’ve played him a lot this Spring, and rightly so. He is a stellar ball player, great on defense, contributing to the offense, and (most importantly) consistent. And that consistency makes him worth watching once again and for the rest of this season. I have no doubt he’ll make a Bronx appearance at some point in 2018 because that’s how things work. But he’s already earned the spot and the consideration.

Next up: The Yankees head back to Lakeland again to face the Tigers. However, there is a cold front (hallelujah!) on its way tomorrow night, so heavy storms will be ushering that front in, making tomorrow afternoon look rather unplayable and could be the first (and only) cancelled game for the Yankees this Spring. Like Sabathia this morning, the Yankees originally scheduled Sonny Gray for the game, but he will pitch in a minor league game instead. They haven’t announced a replacement just yet.

On a lighter note: the Yankees released their first commercial for the 2018 season, they cheekily called “Little Toe Has Big Dreams“. It stars Torreyes and features Stanton and Judge and a very special jar of pickles. Enjoy!

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast, no highlights. Sorry!}

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