The Yankees played their first split squad day of the season, a portion of the team staying in Tampa to host the Tigers and a portion traveling across the Bay to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays. Under hot, sunny, clear blue skies, both squads actually played rather well against each of their AL opponents, striking first, hitting monster home runs, and showing off before fans on both sides of Tampa Bay. But there were some minor differences. Like one win and one loss.
Game 1: Tigers at Yankees (Tampa)
Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees at home today, and other than a lead-off triple, Tanaka’s stuff was just nasty today. I think we can safely say that “Tanaka Time” is back for the season. And the rest of the pitching staff continued Tanaka’s dominance — Holder, Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, and Abreu.
The only time the Tigers got the better of Yankee pitchers was in the 5th. Aroldis Chapman made his Spring debut and saw his first pitch of 2019 find its way over the left field fence. But then he found that momentum and fell right back into line.
Meanwhile, Brett Gardner led-off the 1st inning with a big solo home run into the right field seats. And Aaron Judge promptly followed him with a solo home run of his own for the first back-to-back homers of the season. Then in the 2nd, with 2 outs, Brett Gardner continued his “Gardy Party” with another big solo home run into those same right field seats. For whatever struggles he battled earlier this week, he’s clearly turned the page.
Gary Sanchez got in the fun with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd, this one just over the left field corner. In the 5th, Gardner led-off the inning by getting hit with a pitch and was pinch-run by Amburgey. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s second home run of the afternoon, a 2-run homer that bounced off the right fielder’s glove and into that sweet spot in the right field seats. And once all the starters were traded out, despite a hefty lead, minor leaguer Isiah Gilliam smacked a big 2-out solo home run, deep into the right field porch, in the 7th.
Final score: 7-1 Yankees
Game 2: Yankees at Blue Jays (Dunedin)
Meanwhile, the Yankees jumped ahead of the home team early again. Luke Voit got things started with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Lipka technically struck out but made it to 1st on a wild pitch and then stole 2nd. Burns worked a walk, and then both runners moved into scoring position on a ground out. However, DJ LeMahieu only scored one runner with his single. And that would be it for the Yankee hitters.
Domingo German got the start in Dunedin today and threw into the 3rd inning, with scoreless results. But Danny Coulombe had issues closing out that 3rd inning, giving up a solo home run. But then Hutchison got things back on track for the next two innings.
Trevor Stephan came on in the 6th and gave up a single and a 2-run home run to give the Blue Jays the lead. He later loaded up the bases in the 7th with a double, a 1-out walk, and hit-by-pitch before handing the ball to Cale Coshow, responsible for all 3 runners on base. A sacrifice fly scored the lead runner, and then 2 sloppy errors allowed for one more run. Sosebee closed out the game with a flawless 8th inning, including 3 strikeouts.
Final score: 5-2 Blue Jays
One to Watch: The Yankees are making it difficult to select just one player every home game for this category. The minor league guys are just really good this year. So today, I’m selecting infielder LJ Mazzilli. He caught my eye earlier this week just working out before a game, with his zeal and energy, something he did from 2nd base during the game in Tampa today. His fielding was on display, making several key plays and doing so with such gusto. All of this helped today’s infield in the latter part of the game work like a rather well-oiled machine.
Next up: The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow (Monday). They will be back home on Tuesday afternoon to host the Braves.