Spring Game 13: DET vs. NYY — Friday night lights, close but kind of sloppy

There’s an old saying that a bad dress rehearsal means that you’re going to have a great performance. I’m not sure I believe this for a number of reasons that I won’t unpack right now, but I know the heart behind this message is to try to get all the bad out of the way when it doesn’t matter.

When things go poorly in Spring Training, a common sentiment is that the games don’t really matter. But of course it does. Everyone is trying to show they either deserve a shot at the roster or that they are continuing to grow as regular players and don’t deserve to lose their roster spot to a rookie in the wings. (Yes, all those theater references for you fellow theater nerds.)

As we all know, baseball is a game full of failure. The best batter will fail to hit the ball at all about 70% of the time. The best pitcher will still give up runs (for example, Mariano Rivera gave up 340 total runs in his 19 years). Even in a so-called “perfect game”, it’s never going to be 27 strikeouts, and in fact, those with the record 20 strikeouts in a game didn’t have a perfect games.

So bad games are going to happen. People have off-days. You can’t win 162 games. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in tonight’s game against the visiting Tigers and pitched his way into the 4th inning. Actually, he got off to a great start, plowing through the first 4 outs and collecting 5 total strikeouts. In the 2nd, he gave up a 1-out walk that moved to 2nd on a single before he and Torres partnered for a stellar pick-off. But a double scored that other runner to get the Tigers on the board. He also gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd.

Zack Britton got the final 2 outs of the 4th, finding Tanaka’s earlier momentum and handing it off to Dellin Betances. There’s been some talk about Betances lower velocity, but he’s getting the outs, like tonight’s quick clean 5th inning, so I’m not sure there’s much to worry about just yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually were the first on the board in the 1st inning. Judge worked a 1-out walk, and then Giancarlo Stanton smacked his first home run of the Spring, a no-doubter, 2-run home run deep over the left field concourse area.

So when the Tigers tied up things in the 3rd, the Yankees found their pace to defend their home turf and hold onto the tie until they could find their opportunity. But while opportunity came several times, the Yankees didn’t capitalize on them enough to shift things back into their favor for long.

Domingo German got the opportunity for some long-term relief for 3 innings, starting with a scoreless 6th. In the 7th, a lead-off double scored on an RBI single before he got 3 consecutive strikeouts.

The Yankees’ offense found one of those opportunities in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, LeMahieu doubled and was pinch-run by Cabrera. Austin Romine hit a solid 2-out double to score Cabrera, and Lavarnway came in to pinch-run for Romine. Kyle Holder then singled home Lavarnway to grab the lead again.

But German had struggled a bit in the 8th, not helped at all by a sloppy defense. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base with a walk and hit-by-pitch, consecutive singles scored both runners, the last one in part due to a missed catch error in an attempt to get the runner out at home.

Tommy Kahnle got the chance to calm things down in the 9th, but the defense hadn’t found itself yet. A fielding error due to the lights allowed the lead-off batter to make it to 1st. And 1-out double scored the Tigers’ insurance run before Kahnle took control and shut things down.

The Yankees made an attempt at a rally in the bottom of the 9th. With 2 outs, Kyle Holder smacked a big solo home run, the ball landing on top of the roof of the bar in the right field bleachers. A double and walk kept hopes alive before a short pop-up closed out the game, with the Yankees a run too short.

Final score: 6-5 Tigers

One to Watch: I’ve got to give it to the minor leaguer that kept the Yankees alive in those latter innings — Kyle Holder. That 9th inning home run certainly settled things for me in this category, but Holder’s been one of those to watch for some time. He’s a great defender as an infielder, and his bat is clicking in high-impact moments. He could be one of those names to keep an eye on for more than just trade bait one day.

Next up: the Yankees play their first night game away tomorrow against the Orioles in Sarasota (about an hour south of Tampa).

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees formally announced this year’s HOPE Week dates — June 17-21. HOPE Week is the week during the season that the Yankees recognize 5 local non-profit organizations for their impact in their community, gifting them with their volunteering time, a monetary donation, and public recognition. This will be their 10th year of this program.

As they do every year, to kick-off the announcement, they also recognized a local non-profit in Tampa during Spring Training that helps their local community. This year’s honoree is Gigi’s Playhouse, a great center that caters specifically to children with Down Syndrome and their families, including programs that help with therapeutic and educational skills, career development, and global acceptance, all free of cost. Gigi’s Playhouse is an international organization that has centers all over North America, but the Tampa location opened just last August.

Go Yankees!

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