Spring Game 28: PHI vs. NYY — Friday night fireworks

A final game under the Friday night lights this Spring started with a slight chill in the air and ended with fireworks. Literally. The Yankees set off fireworks over the right field seats for the remaining fans in the cool night to ooh and aah over the short light show.

Of course, this was made extra special because the Yankees notched another win in the Spring tally tonight. After losing both road games, there’s something about that home field advantage that certainly seemed to help the pinstriped players in tonight’s game against the Phillies.

Jonathan Loaisiga made a fairly strong case for consideration for one of the open starting spots on the rotation, throwing into the 4th inning with 7 solid strikeouts. His lone issues were a 1-out solo shot in the 1st and a 2-out solo homer in the 3rd. Zack Britton threw 5 outs to follow him and kept the strong pitching from the Yankees’ side of things. Stephen Tarpley came on for just the final out of the 6th inning.

Adam Ottavino’s 7th inning continued that scoreless momentum, but David Hale had a bit of trouble in his 8th inning, giving up a lead-off single and walk. Two great strikeouts later, the next batter hit a deep single. But thanks to Trey Amburgey’s great arm in the left field and the relay back to the infield, the bases were only loaded, and the defense prevented at least one run from scoring. It was only a questionably called walk that scored the Phillies’ final run before Hale got yet another strikeout to get out of his jam. Then, his 9th was quick and flawless.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took some time to find their moments. Giancarlo Stanton got things started with a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd that just barely made it fair, just right of the left field foul pole. In the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk and then scored on Stanton’s 2-run home run (back to that left field corner) to put the Yankees into the lead.

In the 6th, DJ LeMahieu hit a solid 1-out single, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s big double, and then scored the insurance run on a wild pitch. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, Zack Zehner walked and ended up at 3rd on Trey Amburgey’s big double. Luke Voit’s sacrifice fly scored Zehner and moved Amburgey to 3rd, partly because of an off-center throw from the outfield. A wild pitch then scored Amburgey to cap off the Yankees’ win.

Cue the fireworks!

Final score: 6-3 Yankees

One to Watch: We are getting to the point in the season where the minor league players play less, which makes this category difficult as there’s only so many plays and at-bats that can show off their stuff. But one name sticks out tonight — Trey Amburgey. In addition to scoring the Yankees’ final run of the night by rushing home on a wild pitch, he also showed off some great defense in left field by saving a run in the 8th.

Next up: The Yankees have their final home game of the Spring, hosting the Blue Jays for what should be a lovely Saturday afternoon of baseball.

Roster moves: Before today’s game, the Yankees made some roster moves of note. They reassigned pitchers Rex Brothers, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, and Drew Hutchison back to minor league camp. And they officially optioned Clint Frazier to AAA Scranton. This means that he is not making the 25-man roster. It’s a crowded outfield, even with Hicks still nursing his sore back. But you can imagine he’ll be the first call when something happens to one of those guys. He’ll be back in the Bronx shortly.

Injury news: On Wednesday, Special Advisor and Guest Instructor Lee Mazzilli was struck in the head with a baseball. He was helping with batting practice back in Tampa, while a large part of the team traveled to South Florida. He was immediately admitted to the hospital for tests and observations and was released today, said to be “in good spirits”. We’re all certainly glad he’s doing okay and hope he continues to recover and rest up.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 24: NYY vs. ATL — “Happiest Place on Earth” hosts a Monday night victory

As we begin the final week of Spring Training, the Yankees headed to Kissimmee to visit the Braves in their final week at the sports complex at Walt Disney World. The Braves will move their Spring to their newly built complex in Sarasota next year, after playing an initial game against the Rays next week just before they both begin their 2019 regular season.

So, tonight, Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and held strong through 5 innings, allowing just a 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and collecting 7 stellar strikeouts. Tanaka is looking every bit the eventual Opening Day starter for the Yankees, something he’s clearly earning with outing like this.

Adam Ottavino had a bit of a hiccup when he came out in the 6th. He loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, and a 1-out walk. After another strikeout, he gave up a single that scored just one run. But the bases were still loaded. So Stephen Tarpley came on, and his first batter hit a single that scored 2 more runs, both charged to Ottavino, before he finally got out of the inning.

Tarpley continued through the 7th and came up scoreless. Diehl and Alvarez followed him by closing out the game with a scoreless inning a piece. The Braves were limited to those earlier runs.

This was especially helpful as the Yankees found a couple of opportunities to hit big and dominated the game. In the 2nd, Luke Voit powered a big lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Wade doubled, Urshela walked, and both runners stole the next base to get into scoring position. They then did so on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Then in the 5th, Lavarnway doubled, Gardner singled, and Judge’s triple scored both runners. Stanton and LeMahieu each worked a walk to load the bases and were pinch-run. Then Austin Romine’s single scored 2 more runs for the Yankees to cap off the night.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will host the Rays tomorrow afternoon. The final week of Spring continues with the Spring home team playing the regular season home team. It’s always a packed game of locals, but it feels like a regular season Yankees-Rays game at Tropicana Field across the Bay.

There is conversation about the Yankees possibly picking up another veteran starter, but until things are settled and signed, it’s just rumors. Maybe there will be news after tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 20: BOS vs. NYY — A rivalry rout

No joke. It was crazy hot today in Tampa. The weather just can’t make up its mind this Spring, but as all my friends elsewhere keep reminding me, at least there’s no snow. Just lots of sweaty, sunburnt people packed into the stadium to enjoy a Friday afternoon of baseball.

Of course, this was no ordinary game. The Yankees hosted their annual Spring rivalry game against the Red Sox. As we all know, there’s nothing ordinary about a rivalry game. And today was no exception. The Yankees dominated from the start thanks to a great pattern set by today’s starter Domingo German, who threw a strong, scoreless 4 innings.

Chapman got to face one batter in the 5th, a warm-up act of sort for Holder to close out the rest of the inning. Adam Ottavino got into the only jam of the afternoon in the 6th. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases, with no outs. But then the next batter hit into a standard double play that scored just one run, and a ground out got the Yankees out of the inning, removing the only Red Sox threat of the afternoon.

Tarpley and Reeves closed out the final third of the game, returning to the strong dominance the Yankees seemed to maintain all afternoon. Because the Red Sox seemed to have a really off-day, with some just sloppy pitching and plays. In fact, of the ridiculous number of runs the Yankees scored today, only half of them were earned.

In the 2nd, the Yankees began their eventual rout of their long-time rivals by loading up the bases with singles to Andujar and Sanchez and a walk to Bird. Then with 1 out, DJ LeMahieu reached safely due to a bad fielding error, which allowed Andujar to score. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Sanchez, leaving runners on the corners. Once the Red Sox pulled their starter, Aaron Judge smacked a solid 3-run home run to give the Yankees a healthy lead.

All the switch-outs and pinch-runners began in the 4th due to the length of the game at this point and the Yankees’ big lead. So with 1 out in the 4th, Tulowitzki worked a walk and replaced by Wade, who then scored on LeMahieu’s double. He was replaced by Holder, who moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single (replaced by Burns) and scored on Trey Amburgey’s sacrifice fly.

It was Stanton’s double that moved runners into scoring position (including his pinch-runner Lipka). Luke Voit’s big double then scored both Burns and Lipka. After a pitching change, Miguel Andujar singled home Voit to officially put the Yankees in double digits.

In the 5th, Bird led-off by getting to base due to a missed catch error. Wade’s single and Holder’s walk loaded up the bases. Burns hit into a grounder that finally snapped the Red Sox into good defense, getting Bird out at home. But then Amburgey’s single scored Wade, Matt Lipka hit into a fielder’s choice to score Holder, and Chris Gittens’ single scored Amburgey.

But the Yankees wanted one more. Gittens hit a 1-out double and later scored on Ryan Lavarnway’s 2-out double to add another exclamation point to the Yankees’ score today.

Final score: 14-1 Yankees

One to Watch: Chris Gittens kept jumping out to me this afternoon. In addition to his solid defense at 1st, he certainly contributed to the Yankees’ offense today in the latter half of the game. Not that they needed it, as Gittens was one of so many hits and runs scored today. But that position is key to any team’s defense, and he did so well. Gittens was signed by the Yankees in 2014 and seen most recently in Advanced-A Tampa and AA Trenton last year in between hip injuries. But he worked well today.

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon in Tampa.

History trivia: Amateur games of the sport were played from early days in America, brought over from European settlers that evolved from a combination of the children’s game of rounders and the still popular cricket. About 15 years before the Civil War, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was formed to help form actual rules like the shape of the field and what constituted an out.

More clubs were formed, playing ball games against each other as rules continued to be ironed out and regulations (like barring players of color and most immigrants by 1867). But it was still just a sport played by club members for fun (or “for sport”), much like people might play racquetball at today’s athletic clubs.

So, on this day (March 15) in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team, facing mostly amateur and semi-professional teams and clubs. An actual league was formed two years later and lasted four years, leading many modern scholars to question its inclusion as a legitimate league in baseball history. The National League (that grew to be the one we still have today) formed in 1876, and the American League became an official league in 1901. (In that same year, the club formed known as the Orioles, later the Highlanders, and then the Yankees.)

In other words, Happy 150th Birthday, Major League Baseball. You don’t look a day over 135.

Go Yankees!

Postscript: Our deepest sympathies to those dealing with the aftermath of the violence in New Zealand. These instances are always disturbing and far too frequent. Camaraderie through outlets like sports and entertainment is often a key to healing. May we continue to push for peace, unity, and celebration of our individuality as we process, heal, and strive for better once again.  May their memories be a blessing.

Spring Game 18: PHI vs. NYY — Another night game, another draw

Another great evening under the lights at Steinbrenner Field. A common conversation among Floridians lately on nights like this is the unattainable desire to have this kind of weather year-round. Of course, having a rather entertaining battle under the cool night sky and bright lights helps pass the time in what was a rather long game for Spring Training (3 hours and 36 minutes).

The Yankees got on the board first in the 1st inning. Gardner led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on Stanton’s single, and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Later, Sanchez’s 2-out single snapped the Phillies into defensive action and got Stanton trying to score a run and ended the innings. In the 2nd, Bird worked a walk to lead off the inning, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s single, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

Now, Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight, throwing into the 4th inning and fending off the visiting Phillies for most of his outing. In fact, his first allowed run was a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. After allowing a single and getting 2 more outs, he handed the ball off to Chad Green. But he promptly gave up a 2-run home run to give the Phillies the lead.

Adam Ottavino came on in the 5th, and in a shift from his previous outings, had a bit of trouble. With 1 out, the recent superstar signee on the Phillies reached on a questionable catcher’s interference. He then stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a single, and watched the next batter work a walk to load the bases. In a bit of a sticky situation, Ottavino and the Yankees’ defense limited the damage when a single scored just 1 run thanks to an on-point throw by Judge straight to Sanchez to get the second runner out at home.

Now, down by two runs, the Yankees needed to rediscover their lead. Giancarlo Stanton hit a scoreboard-clearing home run to lead-off the 6th inning. With a new pitcher, Voit worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and made it to 3rd on a wild pitch. After Sanchez worked a walk, Greg Bird’s single scored Voit and tied up the game. With another pitching change by the Phillies, Urshela hit a short single to load up the bases. Then Tyler Wade worked a great at-bat to walk in Sanchez to score the lead run.

So, the Yankees had to protect their slim lead. Tommy Kahnle continued his strong Spring with a quick, flawless 6th inning, but it was Drew Hutchison that commanded the latter part of the game with 2 strong, scoreless innings.

All that was needed was 3 outs in the 9th inning to close out the game, but minor league reliever Phillip Diehl struggled with his outing. And the coaches wanted to see him get out of his own troubles. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk with just 1 out. The lead-off runner quickly scored the tying run on a wild pitch, and a walk loaded the bases again. Fortunately for Diehl, the Yankee defense kicked in again and got the next batter out to hit into a play to get the out at home before a fly out ended the inning.

The Yankees ran out of outs, and another Spring game ended in a draw.

Final score: 5-5 tie

One to Watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to pitcher Drew Hutchison for his strong 7th and 8th innings, keeping the Phillies from trying to overcome the Yankees lead at the time. The Yankees picked up Hutchison in January, signing him to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, after he played with the Blue Jays, Pirates, and Rangers in the last six seasons. He’s already assigned to AAA Scranton, so the chances are fairly high that the Yankees might pull him up at some point, even if only for the September call-ups.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Once again, there was no broadcast tonight, which is a shame becasue there were some noteworthy moments people would want to remember. Sorry, readers. Yet another reason to anticipate the regular season — all the regular video highlights.}

Spring Games 15 & 16: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — A draw and a win on a sunny Sunday

Another split squad series, another sunny and hot afternoon, another set of mixed results. At least today’s results leaned positive for the Yankees.

Game 1: Yankees at Detroit
Some of the Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers again in Lakeland and honestly battled their way through the afternoon in an oddly evenly-matched game. Nestor Cortes got the started and pitched his way into the 3rd inning, only giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd.

Then the Yankees and Tigers kept the game close for most of the game, thanks to the great defense and pitching on both sides. The Yankees didn’t find their breakthrough until the 7th. Voit led-off with a walk and was pinch-run by Brandon Wagner. Miguel Andujar then hit a big double, and Wagner made an effort to score the Yankees’ first run. But a great relay got him out at home, with Andujar making it to 3rd on the throw. He was then pinch-run by Cabrera, who finally scored a Yankees’ run on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Another out later, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 walks. But a pitching change and a pop-up ended their attempt to break the tie. But Brandon Wagner broke it in the 8th with a 2-out solo home run, and the Yankees had their lead for the first time all afternoon in Lakeland.

It didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Danny Farquhar came out for the Yankees to try to protect the lead. A lead-off single was quickly caught stealing 2nd for his first out, and after another out, he loaded up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. David Hale came on in relief and promptly walked in the tying and final run.

Final score: 2-2 tie

Game 2: Pirates at Yankees
Meanwhile, back home in Tampa, the Yankees battled the visiting Pirates for the afternoon. JA Happ got the start at Steinbrenner Field, pitching 4 innings and struggling a bit in the middle. In the 2nd, with 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, a sacrifice fly scored the Pirates’ first run. And back-to-back solo home runs in the 3rd gave the Pirates a solid lead.

The Yankees finally found their offense in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with walks to 3 power-hitters — Judge, Stanton, and Bird. Gleyber Torres was then walked to scored Judge for the Yankees’ first run of the day in Tampa. With a new pitcher, Troy Tulowitzki ground into a double play, but it still scored Stanton and moved Bird to 3rd. Clint Frazier’s single then scored Bird to tie up the game in a single inning. Then in the 5th, Gio Urshela led-off with a solo home run to put the Yankees in the lead.

Adam Ottavino’s 5th inning was just filthy stuff, catching the eye of both fellow Yankees and their opponents. It was very much a “blink and you miss it” kind of inning, with the new Yankees just getting 3 straight strikeouts. Chapman followed that up with a solid 6th inning of his own, and things were looking up for the Yankees as they tried to gain some further momentum.

But Dellin Betances had a bit of a struggle in his 7th inning. He gave up a lead-off triple, due in part to some sun-influenced defensive issues. A single then scored that runner to tie the game up again. After a solid strikeout, he walked 2 batters to load up the batters. Jonathan Holder came in to try to save the inning, giving up a sacrifice fly that put the Pirates back on top.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees weren’t going to let this game go just yet. Jackson led-off with a single and then scored on Zack Zehner’s monster 2-run home run over the left field concourse to get the lead back to the home team. Tommy Kahnle’s final 4 outs closed out the game and protected the Yankees’ lead.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

One to watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to Gio Urshela, who’s really been rising in recognition this Spring. And today, in addition to being the Yankees’ starting 3rd baseman, he also hit that great home run in the 5th to put the Yankees in their first lead of the afternoon. He was traded to the Yankees late last year after stints with the Indians and Blue Jays, playing in the big leagues with both previous teams. He’s not really been on anyone’s radar, but he could potentially be some great back-up for the infield should problems arise this season.

Next up: after an off-day tomorrow (Monday), the Yankees will take on the Orioles at home Tuesday night. There’s 15 scheduled games left, just a little more than halfway through the Spring, or about 2 weeks.

In Yankee Universe news: Babe Ruth’s last living daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, died Saturday at the age of 102. Ruth adopted Julia when he married her mother in 1929, but she remained an avid fan of Ruth’s original team, the Red Sox, being a frequent fan in the stands up until a few years ago. Our thoughts and condolences are with her son, two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren at this time.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Neither game today was broadcast, so there was minimal video highlights to share. Apologies, fans!}

Spring Game 12: NYY vs. PHI — Good pitching makes all the difference

In contrast to yesterday’s game, the Yankees certainly found their pitching dominance to shut out the Phillies at their home field this afternoon. Led by two off-season veteran acquisitions, the Yankees proved that being good on paper can translate to being good in reality. Add in some decent offense, and it was a beautiful day for Yankees baseball. Even if they were in Clearwater (rather than at home across the Bay in Tampa).

James Paxton (also known as “Big Maple” thanks to his Canadian roots and giant maple leaf arm tattoo) got the start today and powered his way into the 4th inning, setting the scoreless and strikeout momentum for the rest of the pitching staff today. He handed the ball over to reliever Adam Ottavino who plowed through 5 outs with 3 amazing strikeouts.

With recent and lingering injuries, especially with the pitching staff, it’s rather reassuring to have some of the new guys come out and stay strong. A sigh of relief, perhaps, as they sort out how to deal with those pesky injuries and cope with the hole they leave in the roster and state of play.

Relievers Holder, Farquhar, and Hale split the final half of the game and kept the Phillies scoreless through the end of the afternoon. In total, Yankee pitchers got 12 strikeouts off Phillies’ batters.

Of course, Phillies’ pitchers weren’t exactly going easy on the visiting Yankees (including 13 strikeouts). But the Yankee batters found their moments. In the 4th, Miguel Andujar led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk. Two outs and a new pitcher later, a wild pitch moved the runners to scoring position, and another one scored Andujar to give the Yankees their first run.

The Yankees loaded up the bases as Andujar led-off the 6th with another single, Voit walked again, and Bird worked a 1-out walk. Clint Frazier’s sacrifice fly scored Andujar. But it was Estevan Florial’s solid 3-run home run that had everyone talking this afternoon. One comparison was made in the moment to the likes of Reggie Jackson, who happened to be sitting in the dugout today.

Mike Ford led-off the 8th with a solo home run for just one more run for the Yankees today. Unnecessary for the win, but a solid continuation of the great day and win for the Yankees.

Final score: 6-0 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will host the Tigers tomorrow night back in Tampa.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 5: PIT vs. NYY — Battle to a win under sunny skies

To counter the last two days of games, today’s weather decided to remind fans why Florida is called the “Sunshine State”, clearing the skies of clouds and bringing the sun out in full force. And I’ll admit more than a few people went home with a little too much sun.

For the first time this Spring, the Yankees weren’t the ones to score first in a game. Instead, JA Happ stumbled a bit in his Spring debut, giving up 3 runs in his outing and not making it out of the 2nd inning. In the 1st, a 1-out solo home run got the Pirates on the board. Then with 1 out in the 2nd, a single scored as part of a 2-run home run. That was it for Happ, handing the ball over to Stephen Tarpley who got out of the inning without further damage.

Adam Ottavino continues to have struggles this Spring with today’s 3rd inning. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a big double scored both runners. Zack Britton’s 4th inning righted the ship with a near perfect outing for the veteran closer. Cortes had a decent 5 outs, but it was Jonathan Holder’s 4-out outing that earned him the eventual win, despite a 1-out solo homer given up by Rosa in the 9th.

Despite being down early, the Yankees were never out of this one and eventually overpowered the Pirates to the win. In the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, Judge doubled and Stanton walked, and they both scored on Troy Tulowitzski’s big 3-run home run. Three consecutive walks loaded the bases in the 2nd, and after a pitching change, Aaron Judge hit into a double play that still scored lead runner Wade.

It would be Tyler Wade who tied up the game in the 4th with a lead-off solo home run. And once the game was tied up again, the Yankees found momentum in the 7th. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base, LJ Mazzilli’s double scored both runners to edge the Yankees into the lead.

Then in the 8th, Trey Amburgey hit a big ground-rule double that bounced into the Yankees’ bullpen in right field foul territory. He later scored on Thairo Estrada’s single as the Yankees’ insurance run.

Final score: 8-6 Yankees

One to Watch: Trey Amburgey. In a game filled with stellar plays by the younger players, it would be that final at-bat that sealed the deal for me. Add in a ridiculous sliding catch in right field in the top half of the 8th to save a hit (and add a highlight to his player reel) and Amburgey’s fourth Spring Training continues to impress, showing growth worth watching in the young outfielder who spent all of last year with AAA Scranton.

Next up: the Yankees host their first night game of 2019 when the Orioles come to visit Steinbrenner Field tomorrow night. For those of us who sweated through the sunshine today, a night game could not come at a better time in this schedule.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: minimal video available unfortunately. There was no broadcast of the game, so only one highlight from stadium cameras used for replay was released for use.}