Game 9: BAL vs. NYY — It may be chilly once again, but it’s always “Sonny” when the bats work.

Well, it seems like just a few hours ago we were talking baseball. Because it was literally just hours ago when last night’s game finally came to a close after 14 innings. But it didn’t seem like it shook the Yankees’ efforts all that much today. In fact, the windy chill of the air in the neighborhood of 42° at first pitch was much more of an issue than lack of sleep for both the Yankees and the Orioles in the third game of this 4-game weekend series.

Neither seemed to faze starter Sonny Gray, who gave the Yankees a strong 6 innings. Throwing 86 pitches, he gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 4 Baltimore batters. In the 3rd, a 2-out single joined the lead-off walk on the base paths, and both scored on a long double to get the O’s on the board. With 2 outs in the 4th, a single then scored on an RBI double to cap off the Orioles’ scoring today.

Adam Warren struggled a bit in the 7th, giving up 2 hits and only getting 1 out, but then David Robertson came in to work his “Houdini” magic, and blast through the next 5 outs, 4 of which were unbelievable strikeouts. Because it’s standard David Robertson. Luis Cessa came on to close out the 8th with a quick 3 outs in just 10 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees offense didn’t seem to realize it was missing hours of sleep, racking up 11 total hits and 7 walks over this afternoon. Andujar led-off the 2nd with a single (his first of the season), moved to 2nd on a ground out, but then was thrown out at 3rd on a fielder’s choice Romine hit into. Romine would move to 3rd on Torreyes’ double before they both scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Down by a run, in the 5th with 1 out, Torreyes singled, moved to 2nd on Gardner’s walk, hustled to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Aaron Judge’s ground out to tie up the game.

But the Yankees weren’t going to let this game go. Gregorius led off the 6th with walk, ended up at 3rd on Austin’s single, and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s sacrifice fly. Tyler Austin later scored on Austin Romine’s single (thanks to a miscommunication of fielders). And in the 7th, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double. Judge moved to 3rd on a fly out before the Orioles intentionally walked Gregorius. Gregorius promptly stole 2nd, which they would need as both runners scored on Tyler Austin’s single.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

After all the injuries yesterday, we all knew roster moves were inevtiable. Today, the Yankees made their moves. They placed Brandon Drury on the 10-day disabled list with his severe migraines, something he apparently has struggled with for about six years. They also placed CC Sabathia on the 10-day disabled list with right hip strain due to his hip soreness during his shortened outing last night. He will probably only miss one start, but the Yankees aren’t taking any chances with their veteran starter.

But then in their place, the Yankees had to make further movies. They optioned Jonathan Holder to AAA Scranton after his 42-pitch outing last night. They selected the contract of infielder Jace Peterson (who actually made the start in the outfield today and did a really good job). They also recalled pitchers Domingo German and Luis Cessa (who pitched a flawless 9th today) to fill out their depleted bullpen.

And in other injury news: the Yankees announced that reliever Ben Heller underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday after being shelved from baseball activities initially due to a bone spur in his throwing elbow. Surgery soon became inevitable, so they transferred him to the 60-day DL this week. He will be looking at that 12-18 month recovery period, with an eye on sometime early in the 2019 season with a return to the mound.

There was a rather moving piece featuring today’s starter in the recent edition of Yankees Magazine (which also serves as the game day program at Yankee Stadium). It’s worth the read, especially for those of you in Yankee Universe less familiar with what kind of player and man Sonny Gray is. He’s clearly been a good addition to the rotation and the clubhouse, and hopefully, he will continue to make his mark with the Yankees for seasons to come.

Go Yankees!

Game 5: TB vs. NYY — Delayed Home Opener, rainy, wind chills, & Didi

The problem with April games is that winter isn’t always ready to give way to the boys of summer. So when it lingers long enough to drop a large amount of snow on the stadium on what should be Opening Day, the grounds crew spent yesterday clearing a layer of the white stuff off the field and resetting it for a postponed game. But it wasn’t exactly a better option, with the City spending most of the day (and tomorrow) soaking wet from the rain.

That meant the first pitch was delayed an additional 15 minutes and the pre-game festivities were modified or scrapped altogether. But no worries, rather reminiscent to the snowy start to the 1996 season, the game played on, and the Yankees powered through, despite some strong attempts by the visiting Rays to do stop them.

Jordan Montgomery got the start, a rather big responsibility for the young starter, but he continues to prove how necessary he is to the rotation. He threw 80 pitches in his 5 innings, allowing only 2 hit, 4 walks, and a run, and striking out just 4 Rays batters. In the 3rd, he gave up a single and a walk before a fielder’s choice put runners in the corners. A throwing error allowed another batter to reach base as the lead runner scored the Rays’ first run. The next batter hit a long fly ball to center where Brett Gardner fired it in to get the runner out at home for a fantastic double play. (We always say, “Don’t run on Gary!” but we should add “Don’t run on Gardy!” too.)

Jonathan Holder came on in relief in the 6th but really struggled his way through. After a quick strikeout, he then gave up a double and a single to put runners on the corners. A single scored one run and another single loaded up the bases. Now in a jam, the Yankees turned to Tommy Kahnle, who got a strikeout before giving up a 2-RBI double. Kahnle’s 7th inning went better setting up the rest of the bullpen — Robertson and Shreve — who blasted through the Rays’ lineup to close out the game.

In the mean time, the Yankees faced the Rays’ starter, who clearly had a less than ideal day thanks to a very particular Yankee, a Yankee who has Rays’ pitchers’ numbers today. Didi Gregorius led-off the 2nd with a double, moved to 2nd on Walker’s 1-out walk, and then scored on Tyler Wade’s 2-out single. Then, in the 3rd, Gardner and Judge each singled, and then Didi Gregorius smacked a big 3-run home run to put the Yankees in the lead.

But with the game tied in the 6th, the Yankees found another opportunity to advance in the bottom of the 7th. Tyler Austin led-off with a double. Brett Gardner hit into a sacrifice bunt, but made it safely all the way to 2nd thanks to a throwing error that also scored Austin. Judge then singled to get on base, and 1-out later, it would be Didi Gregorius to hit his 2nd 3-run home run of the game to put the Yankees back in a commanding lead.

That wasn’t all. With 1 out, Wade and Austin both worked walks, and after a pitching change, Gardner singled to load up the bases. A walk to Aaron Judge scored Wade, before a 2-out single to (who else?) Didi Gregorius scored Austin and Gardner to ensure the Yankee victory.

Not a bad way to start the Yankees’ home season.

Final score: 11-4 Yankees

Injury update: Jacoby Ellsbury’s comeback is now pushed back thanks to a hip injury. Ellsbury was recovering well from his oblique injury incurred during Spring Training, but now, it looks like he’ll be sidelined a bit longer now. We’re likely to see Aaron Hicks about April 10 if he can stay healthy. Fingers and toes crossed, everyone.

And minor league reliever Ben Heller was moved to the 60-day DL (effectively taking him off the 40-man roster) due to a bone spur in his right elbow. This made room for the Yankees to claim outfielder Trayce Thompson off waivers from the Dodgers. If there’s any further setbacks, calling up Thompson is a real possibility.

Happy Home Opener, Yankee Universe!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 32: NYY vs. ATL — Chilly, soggy Monday in “The Big Peach”

What a change moving Spring Training north 474 miles (about 7 hours) to Atlanta. And yes, “the Big Peach” is one of those random nicknames for the city. My apologies to the family and friends who reside there for such an awful nickname. But then again, I grew up in “the Big Guava“. Let’s just stop naming things after fruit. New York barely tolerates that; it’s not worth copying.

Anyway, along the drive to the city more commonly known (and rather ironic tonight) as “Hot-lanta”, the temperature dropped nearly 40-degrees, with first pitch tonight coming in on the thermostat at 47° F at SunTrust Park. The newest professional stadium in the MLB stable (opening just last year) hosted about half its capacity for the diehard fans willing to brave the cold and the eventual rain that plagued tonight’s match-up between the hometown Braves and the Yankees. But the faithful were treated to a pretty good game.

Sonny Gray got the start tonight, throwing 60 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up just 3 hits and a run and striking out 7 batters. His lone allowed run came in the 4th when a lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on another one. Other than that, the Yankee pitchers held off the Braves’ battery for most of the game, with the bullpen showing off their fresh arms and breezing through most of Atlanta’s lineup — Kudos to Betances, Robertson, Holder, Heller, and Chapman who dominated tonight’s game and helped contribute to the impressive total of 14 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees found moments in the Braves’ starter’s night to take advantage of. With 2 outs in the 1st, Stanton worked a walk and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to get the Yankees on the board early. In the 3rd, Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored with Giancarlo Stanton’s 2-run big home run to the 2nd deck in left field to double the Yankees’ lead.

The Braves’ starter came out of the game after struggling through his 3 innings, but the bullpen was much sharper, fending off the Yankees for much of the game at that point. Until the 8th inning. Trey Amburgey made it safely to 1st on a missed catch error and booked it to 2nd on a wild pitch. He then scored on Shane Robinson’s 2-out double to cap off the Yankees’ scoring with an unearned run.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees

This means that the Yankees finish the Spring 18-13-1 (or .581 season average). And I will be posting my reflections, the final standings, and a recap of Spring 2018 tomorrow. So check back for more.

Injury update: after seeing a foot specialist today, the Yankees announced that Greg Bird will undergo surgery tomorrow morning to remove a bone spur that has broken off outside his ankle. If you think that sounds painful, you’re right and it’s why he’s not been playing these last few games. He will need about 6-8 weeks of recovery following the surgery, thus starting another season on the DL. But the depth chart is stacked this year with the likes of Walker, Wade, Drury, Austin, and even Romine to cover while Bird gets healthy again.

Okay, first official 2018 game is this Thursday afternoon (3:37 PM EST). The Yankees kick off the season with a 4-game series in Toronto.

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 29 & 30: NYY vs. ATL & TOR vs. NYY — Double the win, double the fun

Okay, it was a busy day for the Yankees playing split squad games and dealing with a mix of changes and potential alterations to the lineup. A portion of the Yankees traveled over to face the Braves in Kissimmee (on Disney World property), and another portion stayed in Tampa to face off against the visiting the Blue Jays. They will play both teams later next week — the Braves in a final exhibition game in Atlanta on Monday night and the opening series in Toronto next weekend.

Game 1: Yankees at Braves
This game was oddly routine for most of the game this afternoon. Luis Severino got the start and gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs in his 5 innings, striking out 7 batters along the way. Oddly, all of his allowed hits, walks, and runs came in just the 4th inning. He gave up a single that scored on a big 2-run home run to get the Braves on the board. He then gave up 2 walks but then buckled down and got 2 strikeouts and a ground out to get out of the inning.

Chad Green had a great 6th inning, but then gave up a single in the 7th before the Yankees handed the ball to Adam Warren. A sacrifice bunt moved that runner to 2nd and later a 2-out single scored that runner, charged to Green. Warren came out for the first out of the 8th before handing things over to Ben Heller for a flawless 2 strikeouts. Cody Carroll then flew through the 9th inning. Overall, the Yankee pitchers collected an impressive 14 total strikeouts.

The Braves actually kept the score pretty tight and in their favor for most of the game. The Yankees got on the board first in the 4th, with Aaron Hicks’ lead-off solo home run and Ryan McBroom’s 1-out solo shot. After the Braves tied up the game and then took the lead by the top of the 7th, the Yankees didn’t get their next option until the 9th inning. And boy did they pounce. McBroom led-off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Aguilar’s single, and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ 2-out single to tie up the game.

Then Billy McKinney’s single then scored Aguilar to put the Yankee ahead, and a wild pitch moved runners to scoring position. Shane Robinson’s single scored Torres, and the Braves called for a new reliever to find that elusive 3rd out. But then Hendrix worked a walk to load the bases, and Francisco Diaz followed that up with a walk of his own to scored yet another run. Back to the top of the inning’s order, McBroom then hit a long single and 2 runners scored thanks in part to a throwing error.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Game 2: Blue Jays at Yankees
Meanwhile, back in Tampa, the game was anything but usual, with both teams going back and forth for much of the game. David Hale got the start with mixed results in his 3 innings. He gave up a 1-out single and a 2-out 2-run homer right in the 1st inning. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out single.

The Yankee batters kept the score close though. In the 1st, with 2 outs, Stanton worked a walk and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to tie up the game. In the 4th, Miguel Andujar worked a walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Austin Romine’s long 2-out double that bounced off the center field wall (just inches from the top off the wall to be a home run).

Judge hit a 1-out single in the 5th and then scored with Giancarlo Stanton’s monster 2-run home run that dented the Pepsi sign on the top left of the big scoreboard in left field. In the 6th, they loaded up the bases with singles by Andujar and Florial and a walk to Romine. With 1 out, Brett Gardner hit a long sacrifice fly and scored Andujar. Then Rashad Crawford hit a solid double to scored Florial. That gave the Yankees a nice lead.

Giovanny Gallegos threw a strong 2 innings, before handing the ball to JP Feyereisen in the 6th. Feyereisen had a fairly strong 6th, despite giving up a 1-out solo shot. But the lead-off batter in the 7th hit a sharp comebacker that smacked Feyereisen’s hand. He was flexing it, and they let him continue. But he struggled with control (an oddity for the young prospect) for the rest of the inning — giving up a ground-rule double, a 2-RBI single, a double play, and a walk.

Young reliever Josh Rogers came on to finish off the 7th for Feyereisen and closed out that inning scoreless before plowing through the next 2 innings and keeping the Blue Jays from adding to their score and chipping away at the Yankees’ lead.

Oddly paralleling the other game, the Yankees had a rather big offensive inning at home. This one in the bottom of the 7th. They loaded up the bases with a single, an error, and a walk. Estevan Florial worked a walk to score a run before Erik Kratz powered a big bases-clearing, 3-run double. One out later, Zack Zehner hit a big 2-run home run off the black screen above center field. Despite loading up the bases and a pitching change, the Yankees weren’t able to add more to their score.

But they really didn’t need it.

Final score: 13-6 Yankees

Ones to Watch: for the final Spring Training nominees, we’ve got outfielder Rashad Crawford and pitcher Josh Rogers. Crawford is consistent in his defense, for a second Spring in a row, and his outstanding offense today (2 hits in 2 at-bats, 1 RBI) helped the Yankees power through toward victory. And the dominance of Rogers’ pitching helped keep the Blue Jays away, throwing 7 solid outs and earning the save in today’s game. Both young players (ages 24 and 23, respectively) are certainly worth keeping an eye on, with a call to the Bronx sometime in the near future.

Next up: the Yankees play their final Florida-based Spring Training game tomorrow afternoon in Port Charlotte against the Rays. It’s almost over, everyone. Opening Day is right around the corner.

Injury: Brandon Drury is nursing a bruised elbow, buying an elbow pad to be worn for all future at-bats, and being grateful there wasn’t something more serious that would deter him from playing in the opening series next week. And Greg Bird was scheduled to start the game against the Braves, but during batting practice, Bird felt a soreness in his foot. And what complicates things is that it’s the same area that troubled him for most of last season that hampered his play time. They are sending him to further testing, while crossing fingers and hoping for the best. The small advantage is the ridiculous depth the Yankees do have now — Tyler Austin, Neil Walker, and even Austin Romine can all play 1st if necessary.

Roster: before today’s games, the Yankees sent Domingo German down to AAA Scranton, effectively making Jonathan Holder the extra reliever the Yankees hope to carry into the season. More roster moves are expected this weekend before the Yankees leave for Atlanta, but most of the spots are now pretty set. And that alone should give everyone some really big hope for this season. They’re really good. Their back-ups are really good. This whole team could be something to watch this season.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: limited media available for the home game against the Blue Jays. It was amazing, so I’m sorry you won’t get to see it.}

Spring Game 26: BAL vs. NYY — The Judge is in session tonight

The rain yesterday brought in what could be the final real cold front of the season. Not that I’m complaining much because of how much the Northeast is getting bombarded with snow today as well. I’m also not complaining because the weather in Tampa’s going to get back into the uncomfortable range again next week. So while it’s a bit nippy for a Florida evening in late March, it’s a momentary break from the norm.

So, the Yankees hosted the Orioles for their final evening home game of the Spring, behind Luis Cessa who had a bit of mixed results tonight in his 4 innings. He gave up a 2-out solo shot in the 1st, but really pushed through most of those first 3 innings. He got into trouble, though, in the 4th with a lead-off double, a walk, and a ground out to move runners into scoring position. A sacrifice fly scored the first run and a single scored the other before a runner found out why Yankee fans know: “don’t run on Gary”.

David Robertson had an off night (for him) in the 5th inning. He just really had a hard time finding that first out. He gave up a single that scored on a big double and a wild pitch to move the runner to 3rd. But then he got a nice fly out and that put Robertson back in the right frame of mind and plowed through 2 solid strikeouts to close out the inning.

Jonathan Holder showed the powers-that-be that he deserves a shot at that extra bullpen spot with 2 scoreless and nearly flawless 6th and 7th innings. (More on this after recap.) Aroldis Chapman, however, got into his own spot of trouble in the 8th. A sloppy error allowed a runner reach base, who then moved to 3rd on a long double. After a difficult at-bat ended in a 2nd out, a strikeout, the Yankees needed a fresh arm. They called on minor league pitcher Chaz Hebert, who got a strong strikeout to eliminate the threat. He then shut down the Orioles in order to earn his first Spring Training save ever.

The Yankee batters managed to take control of the game fairly early and stay strong thanks in part to some big bats tonight. In the 1st, down by a run, the Yankees loaded up the bases with Judge’s 1-out walk, Stanton’s 2-out single, and Sanchez’s walk. Didi Gregorius powered a big 2-RBI double to put the Yankees in a lead they wouldn’t surrender tonight. In the 2nd, with 1 out, they loaded the bases again with Torreyes’ single, Gardner’s single, and Judge’s walk. This time, it would be Greg Bird to scored 2 runs with his long single. Stanton hit into a fielder’s choice and moved Judge to 3rd where he could easily score when a throwing error allowed everyone to be safe advancing on Sanchez’s at-bat.

Then in the 4th, Aaron Judge hit a nice 1-out solo home run into the right field seating area. The Yankees were unable to do much for the middle of the game, but then they found another opportunity to advance in the 8th. Avelino led-off with a single and moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single. So it was Aaron Judge again to hit a big, no-doubter, 3-run home run to solidify the Yankees’ win tonight.

Final score: 9-4 Yankees

One to Watch: I’ve got to give it to Chaz Hebert, who had a truly stellar outing tonight. He closed out the 8th inning for Chapman, with a threat sitting right there on base, and proceed to power through a quick 9th inning. Of his 4 outs tonight, 3 were strong strikeouts. This was his first Spring Training appearance ever, so it was also his first Spring save. I had to dig up some old statistics on him because until he set foot on the mound tonight, I’d never heard his name, but his dominance impressed me. Apparently, he’s played mostly Single-A and rookie ball with the Yankees since he was signed in 2011. The 25-year-old pitcher even played in AAA Scranton briefly in 2015 before spending all of 2016 on the DL. After spending the 2017 season working his way back, an appearance like tonight could be a sign of a better 2018 season for him.

Next up: the Yankees travel down to Fort Myers to face the Twins. Jordan Montgomery is scheduled to face off with a former Yankees’ starter (now the Twins strongest veteran on their rotation).

Roster moves: Before tonight’s game, the Yankees continued winnowing down their roster by optioning pitchers Giovanny Gallegos and Ben Heller, infielder Tyler Austin, and outfielder Billy McKinney to AAA Scranton (and camp). The latter two were obvious decisions, but there’s been much talk about who will fill out the bullpen and both Gallegos and Heller were contenders. And now, that leaves the final spot to either Jonathan Holder (who had a stellar outing tonight) or Domingo German. However, it’s worth noting that because of how long the season is and how frequently injuries do happen, that we will be seeing many of those names (if not all) in the Bronx in 2018.

It is worth noting that one particular player has made a lasting impression and officially made the starting roster — Tyler Wade is on the team. Boone made this clear after yesterday’s game, and rightly so. Wade has been absolutely outstanding this Spring, undoubtedly earning a spot on the team. We’ve been watching Wade since his non-roster invitee days for the last three Springs, but had a really big Spring last year (.357 batting average). However, he struggled some when he got his MLB call up in the middle of the year (and bounced back and forth a bit). But with consistency this Spring earning him a regular spot (and a batting average of .316 so far), that could help improve his MLB average (.155 last year).

Another lighter note: another new ad was released today. This one features Didi Gregorius and his trademark smile as he greets teammates Aaron Hicks, CC Sabathia, and Sonny Gray hanging out around the batting cages. Gregorius’ positive outlook certainly causes him to see things differently.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast, so minimal video links. And tonight, I’m really sorry because there were some great highlights.}

Spring Game 25: NYY vs. DET — Sad and soggy vernal equinox

Well, today is the official first day of Spring, though storms slamming the Northeast again and dropping over a foot in some areas certainly lead some to question that term. And here in Florida, we were slammed with our own Spring storm (that actually temporarily closed the airport) — some super heavy rain, a tornado watch, and strong winds. Some local residents are without power as a result, but the storm is continuing its march way across the state as I write this.

And the game between the Yankees and Tigers in Lakeland didn’t escape the storm, with a big deluge in the 5th inning. Two games closer to the Gulf Coast (in Clearwater and Sarasota) were called early or cancelled all together (respectively). The other games in Florida were played on the Atlantic Coast and escaped this afternoon’s mess. But in central Florida, the game played on.

Brady Lail got the start in today’s game, setting a pattern of less than stellar pitching that most of the Yankees’ pitchers certainly continued through this afternoon. In the 1st, Lail gave up consecutive walks that promptly scored on an RBI single and sacrifice fly to put the Tigers in the lead early. Ben Heller came on to finish the 2nd for Lail and kept them to that scored until the 4th inning where he found his own issues. He gave up a 1-out double that scored on a single, and after a double moved runners to scoring position, the Yankees went back to their bullpen again.

Cody Carroll came on to give up a single that scored both waiting runners to push the Tigers further in the lead. He gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 5th just as the rain really started dropped heavily over the open stadium. But despite giving up a couple of hits, Giovanny Gallegos had a scoreless 6th inning to shift the momentum, and JP Feyereisen continued this new wave with a scoreless 7th.

But then the 8th caused its own troubles again. Matt Frawley gave up a lead-off walk that scored on a long triple, and that runner then scored on a 1-out single. James Reeves came on in relief and got out of the inning with 2 strong strikeouts. In one of those weird statistical outcomes, the Yankee pitchers gave up 14 hits but also got 12 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually got on the board first behind Tyler Wade’s lead-off triple in the 1st inning. Wade then scored easily on Neil Walker’s single. But the Yankees were held off for much of the game from advancing their score. With 2 outs in the 8th, Peterson singled to get on base, and pinch-hitter Jorge Saez smacked a monster 2-run home run up the middle to add a bit to the Yankees’ score. So far behind at this point, the Yankees eventually just ran out of innings for any chance of a comeback.

Final score: 8-3 Tigers

Next up: The Yankees return back to Tampa to host the Orioles tomorrow night. It’s set to be another chilly, dry night, which will be a nice break from the recent heat this week and today’s rather soggy weather. Luis Cessa is currently scheduled to start the game.

Tomorrow night, the Yankees will also formally announce plans for their 2018 HOPE Week (their 10th season). They will honor 5 individuals or organizations who have impacted their community over the week of June 11-15. To kick off this year’s events, they will honor Computer Mentors Group, a non-profit in the Tampa area that helps connect computer professionals with inner-city youth in a local mentorship program.

Another lighter note: The Yankees’ cheesy ads continue to be rolled out. This time, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman will “bring the heat” in a parody of so many low-budget local repair ads. This one features cameos by Sanchez and fellow relievers Robertson, Kahnle, and Green. I am loving these ads by the way.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video today again. Is anyone else so ready for the season to start?}

Spring Game 20: PIT vs. NYY — #ElGary is back and it’s awesome

Apparently, the local schools are on Spring Break this week, which could explain why there was a nearly sold-out crowd for a lazy Thursday afternoon at the park against the Pirates. I mean, the Pirates only play their Spring home games about an hour south, so their fans could certainly make the trek northward for a game on a good day. Regardless of the reason, the fans certainly saw an entertaining game.

Sonny Gray got the start this afternoon, throwing 3 innings with a few mixed results. In the 1st, he gave up a lead-off walk who scored on a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Pirates on the board first. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a passed ball and then scored on a ground out to add one more run for the visitors. Adam Warren got 2 outs in the 4th before handing things over to Tommy Kahnle to complete the inning and throw through the 5th.

Dellin Betances got his chance in the 6th. He gave up a lead-off single who stole 2nd and moved to 3rd on a strikeout. A 2-out 2-run home run added a bit more for the Pirates’ score. But it is worth noting that all 3 of Betances’ outs were strong strikeouts. Chasen Shreve and Ben Heller split the final 3 innings, adding 2 more strikeouts of their own. In total, Yankee pitchers struck out 12 Pittsburgh batters.

That could certainly seem like a huge blow to the Yankees’ attempts to turn the game in their favor. But with the Yankees, you just never know. In the bottom of the 1st, down 2-0 already, Gardner led-off with a walk and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big double to get on the board. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, and Stanton was hit by the next pitcher to get on base. So it would be Gary Sanchez’s big 3-run home run into the stands in right field to push the Yankees into the lead.

In the 4th, the Yankees loaded the bases with 1 out, 2 walks, and a fielding error. Then Aaron Judge worked another walk to walk in a run (Bird). After another new pitcher, Giancarlo Stanton hit into a little ground out that moved up all the runners and scored Tyler Wade. So it would be Gary Sanchez again, this time with a double to score both runners (Gardner and Judge) to really push the Yankees deep into the lead. Tyler Austin added an exclamation point to the scoreboard with his 8th inning lead-off solo shot.

Final score: 9-5 Yankees

One to Watch: easy today again — Tyler Wade. He’s got it all really. But he certainly shines at defense at 2nd base, perfectly in sync with his right infield partner Greg Bird in fielding those grounders and setting each other up for successful defense. Wade is something to watch on a lot of levels, but he’s certainly proving his worth to the organization in general and this team in particular.

Next up: the Yankees continue their hosting duties this week as the reigning World Series champions, the Astros, come visit tomorrow night (6:35 pm EST start time). Jordan Montgomery is to start the game, and fireworks are to end it.

Before the game, Chance Adams was optioned to AAA Scranton and sent to minor league camp. Adams, the Yankees’ #2 prospect certainly got roughed up this Spring, so it gives him something to work on this season, work out the kinks, challenge himself further, and prepare for a potential breakout in 2019.

Go Yankees!