What a beautiful day at the ball park for memories and a good ball game. Fans turned out in droves to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 World Series Championship team, complete with a full cadre of former Yankees (more below) before the Yankees took on the Blue Jays in the second game of this celebration weekend series.
Luis Severino got the start today and needed a strong start to reset himself after a recent rough patch. He threw 100 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 8 batters. In fact, he held the Blue Jays scoreless through most of his outing. In the 6th, he gave up a double that ended up at 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on an RBI single.
Severino handled the ball over to Tommy Kahnle, who had a less than ideal outing. After getting one out, he gave up 2 singles that scored one run and then loaded up the bases with a walk and 2 outs. To end that threat the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder, while Kahnle was responsible for all 3 base runners. Holder gave up a long single that scored all 3 base runners before getting the runner out trying to stretch it into a triple.
Britton and Betances had clean, scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th, respectively. And the Yankees needed it after that messy 6th. So, the Yankees sent out AJ Cole for the 9th inning, but he had a bit of trouble. With 2 outs and runners on the corners, a long double scored just 1 run before he found that 3rd out.
But unlike last night’s rain-shortened game, the Yankee offense started big and stayed big. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd base 2 outs later, and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run. Torres hit a 1st pitch single to kick off the 2nd and ended up all the way on 3rd thanks to a wild pitch and throwing error. He would later score on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly.
In the 3rd, Stanton singles and Hicks walked, and then they both scored on a 1-out double by Miguel Andujar. Andujar then moved to 3rd on a throwing error off Torres’ hit and then scored on Greg Bird’s ground out. Giancarlo Stanton hit a nice 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and Andujar followed suit with a 1-out solo homer into the left field seats in the 5th.
Greg Bird led-off the 8th with a solo home run into the right field seats to snap his recent offensive skid. The Yankees then loaded up the bases with a couple singles and a hit by pitch and 1 out. A new Jays’ reliever gave up a walk to Aaron Hicks to walk in the Yankees’ next run. And Gregorius’ sacrifice fly scored Gardner to cap off the Yankees’ runs today.
On a day meant to honor a team that won 114 game in a single season, it’s only fitting the Yankees would win and win big.
Final score: 11-6 Yankees
During the 5th inning, a foul tip hit catcher Austin Romine in the face mask and stunned him a bit. Initially, he stayed in the game, but was replaced by Higashioka when the Yankees took the field in the 6th. Hits like that have been known to cause concussions, so the Yankees were smart to remove him for observation and a full check-up as a precaution. And while Higashioka can absolutely serve as strong back-up for tomorrow’s finale and even into the Miami series, be prepared for Sanchez’s return to be moved up some.
Now, the big focus of today was the celebrations in honor of the 1998 Yankees. Almost all of the favorites from that team showed up for the event, including Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Bernie Williams. Jeter and World Series MVP Brosius sent video messages due to their previous engagements and obligations to other teams (Jeter now owns the Marlins, and Brosius is a coach with the Mariners).
Joe Torre was also on hand to recall that iconic season, throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and spent time with two of his players from that season now serving as YES Network broadcasters Paul O’Neill and David Cone during the regular game. And one of the things Torre said in the broadcast stuck with me.
They were talking about how the 1998 season started out slow and how Torre held a team meeting early on to help the team focus on moving forward. Both former players O’Neill and Cone agreed that Torre never did the hype-man thing some coaches do where they scream and try to drive up that emotion, but rather focus on that he was just disappointed in how they were playing at that point. O’Neill even remarked it was like feeling like you were disappointing your father and how he always felt motivated to go out and be better after a Torre “pep talk”.
But Torre went on to say: “I always wanted to end it on a positive message. I always thought of baseball as 162 [games]. It’s a game of life. You live it every day. And if you start getting too pumped up, it’s not going to last. You can’t maintain that.” So, as we agree with Mr. Torre about this comparison of life and baseball, it’s good to remember old Aesop’s fable and remember that while it’s fun to be the hyper rabbit, it’s the consistency and persistence of the turtle that ends up successful at the mission.