Game 84: NYY vs. MIN — A Twin Cities win

Before the trip to Minneapolis, the Yankees made a couple of roster adjustments. Recent struggles sent Yangervis Solarte back to AAA Scranton. In his place, they signed Zelous Wheeler from AAA Scranton. To make room on the 40-man, they have designated Dean Anna for assignment. Now, all you Solarte fans (like my mom), don’t worry. A lot of rookies get sent back to AAA to work on the things they need to in order to come back stronger and better. Even non-rookies sometimes get that treatment when they’ve slipped into bad habits. I don’t think there’s one current starter that didn’t get sent back at one point early in their career. But don’t worry, Wheeler has already proved he’s MLB-level worthy (more below). And I know Anna will land on his feet somewhere.

Anyway, the Yankees faced a former teammate in tonight’s game against the Twins, one of the Twins’ more solid starters this year — Phil Hughes. But unlucky for the Twins, they faced one of the Yankees’ more solid starters — Masahiro Tanaka. And even though Tanaka wasn’t a flawless in his outing tonight, it was strong enough to give him the win and put him in the lead over all other starters with 12 total wins so far this season. That’s right, Tanaka now leads all of Major League Baseball in wins, and his numbers mean he could win 20 or more games his rookie year.

So tonight, over 7 innings, Tanaka threw just 85 pitches, giving up 9 hits and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. He managed to spread those runs scored out. In the 1st, with a runner on base, a double scored the runner before the batter that hit the double ended up getting caught in a rundown trying to get to 3rd. In the 3rd and the 6th, it was ground outs that scored a run per inning. And an RBI single in the 7th to push in the fourth and final Twins run.

It took the Yankees until the 5th inning to cross the plate themselves. In the 5th, Teixeira and McCann each single to get on base and then scored on Carlos Beltran’s sweet 3-run home run. Two batters later, in his second Major League at-bat, Wheeler smacks his first career home run, a nice solo shot into the Yankees’ bullpen. (I imagine that the same mother in Alabama who screamed when she found out he was called up was screaming as he rounded the bases with a grin as wide as Alabama plastered across his face.)

Then the Yankees decided to hit the Twins hard with another high-scoring inning in the 7th. Ichiro walked, Wheeler singled (and his mother screamed again), and Brendan Ryan doubled and scored Ichiro, which triggered a Twins pitching change. Brett Gardner’s single scored Wheeler (another Alabama scream), and Derek Jeter’s ground out (the first out of that inning) scored Ryan.

By the time, it was time to send in Dellin Betances in the 8th inning, the Yankees were up 7-4 over the Twins, so all the Yankees bullpen had to do was keep the score planted there. And they did. Betances threw a quick 14 pitch 1-2-3 8th inning. And then David Robertson claimed his 19th save of 2014, striking out 3 batters in his 9th inning. And they won.

As I write this, I can hear the echoes of fireworks from nearby celebrations starting early. And the Yankees will be on the road until after the All-Star Game in 12 days right there in Target Field. They took their first of a 4-game series against Minnesota tonight, before heading to another Great Lake state to play 4 games against Cleveland, and then back on the Eastern Seaboard for a 3-game weekend series against Baltimore. It’s a long road trip, but it will be interesting to see if the Yankees can use this trip to get back on the winning side of things.

After tonight’s win, the Yankees now sit at 42 wins-42 losses, or .500 average, currently 3.5 games behind Baltimore and Toronto (who are both struggling as of late). Now’s the time to make up for June struggles, gentlemen.

Also, to all those on the East Coast, stay safe during the storm.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 22: NYY vs. BOS — Show up and play like a team

While tonight’s game was quite a bit better than last night’s game, it wasn’t free of any drama, like most Yankees-Red Sox games tend to be. And before the game, last night’s drama continued to unfold.

Michael Pineda is suspended for 10 games for his use of pine tar last night, something he accepts as his punishment for violating the rules. He will be eligible to return on May 5. The Yankees are to now carry a 24-man roster during the suspension. And in so doing have made some roster moves to make up for an increase need in pitching. They optioned Dean Anna and Preston Claiborne to AAA, while signing pitcher Bruce Billings and recalling pitcher Shane Greene from AAA. (You can also read GM Brian Cashman’s reaction and response to the entire situation with Pineda here.)

And then they played a game. CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees, throwing 106 pitches over 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, 3 walks, and just 3 hits. And while he was very strong through most of the outing, his weak point was the 3rd inning (and not the 6th, like usual). A walk and a double put runners in scoring position, so that a sacrifice fly and another double scored those 2 runs. But Sabathia was able to keep the Red Sox at just those 2 runs, despite some close calls that inning.

The Yankees opted for Greene in the 7th, but his fresh recall did him no favors as he threw 23 pitches to get just 1 out. A lead-off walk and fielding error (the only one the Yankees got tonight) put runners on the corners, and a passed ball allowed a run to score. He struck out that batter, but then walked the next 2 to load the bases. So they called on Adam Warren to get them out of the inning. A sacrifice fly and a double would score 2 more runs for the Red Sox before Warren got out of that inning. Warren came back for the 8th and got a quick 3 outs. And though it wouldn’t be a closing situation, it was David Robertson in the 9th, perhaps just to give him some pitching time since coming off the DL Tuesday. And he did it in 12 pitches for a quick final inning.

Of course, all this would have been for naught if not for the fact that the Red Sox’s starter wasn’t nearly as sharp as their starter last night. The Yankee bats came alive in the first third and last third of the game and just became relentless. Perhaps they were making up for some recent offensive shortages. But still, it made for that friendly rivalry to flip on its end after last night’s kerfuffle.

Every starting player on the roster made it on base at least once during the game, most actually were on base 3 times. It was basically a pitching nightmare for Boston, not that I’m complaining. The Yankees racked up a total of 14 hits and 12 walks and just 2 strikeouts. It was not a good day to be a Red Sox pitcher.

In the 1st inning, with 2 outs, Carlos Beltran reached on a fielding error (the first of 5 the Red Sox would make tonight) and then scored on Alfonso Soriano’s double. Brett Gardner led off the 2nd inning with the first of 3 total walks, and Brian Roberts reached on a catching error. They both scored on Yangervis Solarte’s double. Solarte would score on a wild pitch, a call that was originally called a hit-by-pitch but overturned on a Yankees challenge.

Mark Teixeira led off the 3rd inning with his first home run of the season, something he did with panache as he let it sail over the Green Monster (the hardest kind of home run to hit in Fenway). Gardner reached on a fielding error and promptly stole both 2nd and 3rd before scoring on Roberts’ single. Roberts stole 2nd base and scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. All this made the Yankees up 7-0 and forced the Red Sox to change pitchers just to get out of the 3rd inning.

Then the Red Sox pitchers seemed to settle in for the next 3 innings, pitching their way out of some situations that threatened to add to the Yankees lead.

In the 7th inning, the Yankees struck again and just messed up any chance the Red Sox had at recovery for tonight’s game, going into the inning 7-2 Yankees. They quickly loaded the bases as McCann singled, Gardner walked (no surprise), and Roberts reached on a fielding error. Solarte’s single scored McCann and Gardner, Ellsbury’s ground-rule double scored Roberts, and Derek Jeter’s single scored Solarte and Ellsbury. And there’s still no outs in the inning, but the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on another bases loaded situation as the Red Sox opted for a new pitcher to get them out of that messy inning.

They added 2 more runs in the 8th and 9th innings. Roberts and Ellsbury on base with a single and a double, Roberts would scored on a wild pitch in the 8th. And with 2 outs in the 9th, the pitcher loads the bases with walks to Gardner, Roberts, and Solarte before walking in Gardner with a walk to Ellsbury. And if you’re keeping up that’s 14 Yankee runs. Yes, the score was 14-5 Yankees. A win indeed, and they won the series against Boston 2-1.

The Yankees had the pitching, the batting, and the defense tonight, and rightly so, they had the game. The same cannot be said about the Red Sox. Sometimes, I wonder how a team that is so clean and perfect one night can just dissolve into a form of chaos the next, but I see it happen all the time in baseball. They call it the human factor. Perhaps, but there is a reason you play on teams in baseball — so that when you’re having an off-day, the rest of the team can help carry you when you can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other. As we’ve seen in this last week, pitching is crucial and a win is not within sight if the pitching’s off, but it’s the team that can carry bad pitching through to the end without dissolving into a mess. That is, if the team shows up for work that day. The Yankees missed a couple of team days this week. Thankfully, tonight, they all showed up for work.

Go Yankees!

Game 19: NYY vs. TB — A 12th inning victory

Finally! The Yankees split their 4 game series with the Rays, bookending their trip with wins. This afternoon’s Easter game was surprisingly better than yesterday’s almost instantly because of the pitching.

But first, the Yankees announced a trip to the DL for Ivan Nova due to a partial tear of his UCL. He will see the team doctor, who will decide if the treatment is rehab or even the dreaded (but oddly popular) Tommy John surgery. Nova was placed on the 15-day DL because a torn ligament, even a partial tear, isn’t something you can just sleep on and hope it feels better in the morning. Plus the Yankees activated Mark Teixeira from his hamstring injury. The corresponding roster moves were Scott Sizemore to AAA Scranton and Matt Daley was designated for assignment. And personally, I don’t think Sizemore’s going very far because his contributions to the team in the interim were rather outstanding.

So with the bullpen practically deflated from the last 2 games and saving some of the more feared starters (read: Tanaka) for the Boston series next week, it was Vidal Nuno to the mound, who was also sort of competing to take Nova’s starting spot while he recovers (though I hope it’s sooner rather than later because Nova is still one of the better pitchers, if you ignore yesterday’s outing). So Nuno went a full 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, 2 walks, and no runs, striking out 6 Rays batters. Let’s just say, Nuno could be an easy fit for that starter’s spot after today’s outing. He was pretty great actually, which really stood in contrast to his Spring.

The Yankees offense seemed a little stifled by the Rays’ starter, but finally found a hole in the 4th inning. Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a double. Two outs later, he’s on 3rd and Brett Gardner is up to bat. Gardner his a long fly ball to right field, which is initially called an out, but was challenged and overturned as the right fielder actually “trapped” the ball and sold it as an out. The ball actually hit the fence above the wall and probably should have been at least a triple if not an inside the park home run, but on a replay overturn, the umpires ruled a double. Something about when the initial umpire call was made, which sounds to me like a cop out for a bad call, but at least it still scored Soriano. And the Yankees were up 1-0 over the Rays for a long time.

So David Phelps got his turn on the mound for 1.1 innings, starting in the 6th inning, and kept the Rays scoreless. In the 7th, with 1 out by Phelps, Matt Thornton was brought on as a lefty-specialist, but promptly allowed a single and a fielding error on a force attempt (which really should have been a double play, by the way). So the Yankees turned to Adam Warren to complete the 7th, a single, a sacrifice fly to tie up the game, and a strikeout. And the Yankees, with Warren at the helm, go into the 8th inning all tied and keep the Rays firmly planted there.

Even Shawn Kelley who gets his turn in the 9th, helped push the game into extra innings to pitch through the 10th. Kelley continues to show why he’s an excellent set-up man and interim closer. Someone made a Twitter joke calling him Shawn KKKKelley because of his 4 total strikeouts, and while that’s a little cheesy on the surface (and would make a decent scoreboard graphic), it does embody how crucial his pitching has become for the Yankee bullpen. It’s always nice to have consistency.

Now, the Yankees just called up Preston Claiborne to fill in the depleted bullpen and threw him into the game for the 11th for a quick 3 outs. Despite having a pretty terrible Spring, Claiborne seems to be back to his 2013 self, and for that, he was on the mound when the Yankees suddenly came alive in the 12th inning.

That’s right, the Yankees decided to go for it with gusto in the 12th. Very quickly, Solarte led off with a walk, Gardner grounded into a force out, and Roberts lined out. So it was 2 outs, and Gardner on 1st base. McCann singled and the Rays intentionally walked Ellsbury to load the bases. And then it’s Dean Anna to work a walk and walked in Gardner to break the tie. (2-1 Yankees) Still 2 outs, Carlos Beltran singled, allowing both McCann and Ellsbury to score. (4-1 Yankees) And Soriano decided to add his own stamp on the game and singled home Anna, for a score of 5-1 Yankees.

Claiborne came back to close out the bottom of the 12th, and despite a lead-off double, the Rays never really got close. And the Yankees had their win. Almost 4 1/2 hours, extra innings, and a whole lot of very excited local Yankee fans, and by the 12th inning, the Trop was electric. Even my brother (a Rays fan) said that this was how you play baseball. And no, Joe Maddon (Rays’ manager), it wasn’t just your lack of offense against “okay Yankees pitching”. Lazy offense, expecting a repeat of the last two games, I’ll accept. But you can’t blame pitching today, sir.

Go Yankees!

Game 18: NYY vs. TB — I don’t want to talk about it…

I really don’t want to talk about tonight’s game. But here’s a very brief recap and you’ll see why…

The Yankees lost tonight’s game to the Rays 16-1. And it was just as brutal as you can imagine.

Ivan Nova, normally a stellar starter, was certainly having an off day. With the bullpen from last night’s disaster basically out of commission, once Nova got in trouble, he had to stay there. He still only lasted 4 innings (plus 2 batters in the 5th), 82 pitches, 8 hits, 8 runs (4 of them home runs), a walk, and just 4 strikeouts. His trouble sort of began when he let 3 home runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings build up to a 4-0 Rays lead, but adding another 2-run home run in the 4th and allowing 2 runner on base in the 5th really sunk the Yankees. The only thing that pulled Nova out of the slaughter was a sore elbow, something they MRI-ed it and it doesn’t look good. We’ll know more tomorrow.

So they brought in yesterday’s call-up Matt Daley, hoping his new arrival will be untainted by whatever seemed to be going around the bullpen yesterday. No such luck. 41 pitches over 1.1 innings, 5 hits, 6 runs (only 4 earned), 2 walks for Daley’s stats tonight. A 3-run home run 3 batters in continued the disaster. Then coming back in the 6th inning, Daley continued to allow 2 more RBIs.

And they turned to Dellin Betances, struggling recently but usually pretty reliable late in the game. Over his 1.2 innings, Betances’ only weakness was allowing 2 walks, but he was not credited for a run scored on a throwing error. Honestly, it was refreshing to have Betances on the mound and being sharp again. His 7th inning was a breath of fresh air, with just 14 pitches for a 1-2-3 out inning. But Betances is a short-term reliever, and the Yankees were out of options.

Apparently, that meant the only logical choice was Dean Anna. (I know, I had to double-check that a couple of times myself.) But really, Anna had a pretty decent outing. He threw 17 knuckleballs (topping out at 72 mph, but hovering around low-60s) to 6 batters, gave up 3 hits, 1 run, and got out of the 8th inning fairly unscathed for not having any MLB pitching experience.

The sole run from the Yankees came in the 5th inning. With 2 outs and Alfonso Soriano on base, Kelly Johnson’s double drove Soriano in for that one run to put on the Yankees side of the scoreboard. Were the Rays pitchers just that much better? Their starter was pretty good, and the Yankees pushed him to 94 pitches into the 7th inning. But the Rays bullpen isn’t known for its clutch ability. I think by the time the Yankees got to face the bullpen it was already too late.

So the Rays were basically handed another game. This one was just a blowout. My brother (who is a Rays fan) even said that he hates games like this because you should really feel like you earned the win if you’re going to win. I agree. Even when our respective teams may benefit from such a game, there’s always something a little unsatisfying about it. Baseball is a competitive sport, so if there’s no real “competition”, it’s kind of a let down. It sucks the fun right out of the whole thing. And if it’s not fun, what’s the point?

And now with some roster moves inevitably coming (especially in light of Nova’s elbow injury), it looks like there’s going to be some Easter changes tomorrow. In better news, it looks like Mark Teixeira may be coming off the DL tomorrow and David Robertson may re-join the team on Tuesday in Boston. Familiar faces packaged with consistent excellence might be just the infusion the Yankees need to keep at the top of the AL East. (Oh, by the way, they’re still 1st in the division, well sharing now with Toronto at 10 wins-8 losses for the season.)

Go Yankees!

Games 14 & 15: CHC vs. NYY — Doubleheader shutout sweep

67 years ago yesterday, Jackie Robinson played in his first MLB game, officially breaking the color barrier and changing the landscape of baseball forever. Recently, MLB has seen a recent downturn in black players on starting rosters and have hosted diversity seminars to brainstorm ways to increase the diversity in the league. There is definitely a presence of Hispanic players in the league, and of course the increase of Asian players seems dripping with a ridiculous amount of international press coverage. But with college scholarships, larger signing bonuses, and societal expectations leading African-American potential players toward other professional sports (football and basketball jump to mind), there has been a steady decline in baseball, which is a shame because we all know baseball is so much better than every other sport.

Mandela-Robinson
(at L) Nelson Mandela at Yankee Stadium in 1990, (at R) Jackie Robinson playing baseball, honored for their courage and conviction today and forever in Monument Park (photo via cbsnewyork.com)

Now, last year, on Jackie Robinson Day (and heightened by the release of his Hollywood biopic 42), I thought about how so many players wouldn’t have a career without that day almost seven decades ago, not just the black players but also those of Hispanic, Asian, or mixed heritage. And that got me thinking about the current roster for the Yankees. In fact, their entire starting rotation has benefited from this anniversary — Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Tanaka, and Pineda, arguably one of the best starting rotations in the entire league. Also on the Yankees are players of all sorts of backgrounds and ethnicities to back up their amazing starters. And to me, that reminds me of the very city they play in — New York is a ridiculous melting pot of ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity.

So, in the very city (or rather neighboring borough) that broke the barrier that prevented anyone from playing the greatest sport in the world, we have a wonderfully diverse team that is set on continuing the tradition for excellence in athletics, something Robinson himself certainly sought during his time in New York (albeit in Brooklyn).

In addition to celebrating Robinson tonight before the second game of the doubleheader, the Yankees honored the late Nelson Mandela, who visited New York and Yankee Stadium in 1990, shortly after he was released from serving 27 years in a South African prison for fighting for his country’s civil rights. Tonight, the Yankees unveiled a plaque to celebrate his life and work to help break the barrier in his country and support those around the world who sought to do the same. Robinson’s widow and daughter and Mandela’s grandson were present for the pre-game ceremony.

But today in the Bronx, it was quite chilly for the doubleheader against the Cubs (I’m thinking the players are more than a little anxious to leave the 40-something degree weather for the weekend series in sunny Florida). Because of the storm front yesterday that brought some late spring ice and snow to the area and the chilly temperatures, yesterday’s postponed game was played this afternoon. And it was Masahiro Tanaka‘s turn to dazzle the crowd once again with 107 pitches, 8 innings, just 2 hits (wimpy little bunts), and a walk. But what was spectacular was the 10 solid strikeouts, which set a record for Yankee pitchers at 28 in his first 3 games. No, he was something to watch again, and it just stunned the Cubs. Shawn Kelley came in for the save in the 9th, getting his 4th.

Carlos Beltran got the offense going with his fourth home run of the year right in the 1st inning. In the 4th, with bases loaded, Dean Anna hit a nice sacrifice fly to score a sliding McCann, who got in just under the tag. Gardner, on base with a ground-rule double in the 5th, scored on Ellsbury’s groundout, which came with its own bit of drama. Apparently, it should have been called a “catcher’s interference“, but because a run scored, the Yankees opted to take the out to allow the run to score (and only former catcher Girardi seemed to know and understand this part of the rule); had they gone with the interference call, Ellsbury would be on 1st, but Gardner couldn’t score on that play. It was more important for the run to score than an out to be called.

And so the Yankees sat at 3-0 for the first game.

Of course, the game was not without a little drama. The Cubs challenged two calls. The first one was a bunt in the 2nd inning that was initially called out, but replays and the umpires did confirm the Cubs challenge and overturned it. (It became one of the hits Tanaka “allowed”.) Then in the 7th, a short hopper deflected off Tanaka, which Anna grabbed on the infield grass and tossed to 1st to get the out. The Cubs challenged it, but replays and the umpires denied the challenge, and the out stood as called.

Game over, stadium cleaned, dinner break, pre-game ceremonies to honor Robinson and Mandela, and it was play ball part 2.

This time, Michael Pineda took the mound for his 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and a walk to the Cubs. Phelps, Thornton, and Warren (who would get the save) finished the last 3 innings to keep the Cubs scoreless. Unlike last time, there was no drama with Pineda, but the nail-biting 9th certainly threatened the Yankees lead and made the entire crowd (or whoever was left in tonight’s windy cold stands) groan, then cheer, then groan, then finally cheer.

Now, for the evening game, the Yankees racked up the hits with a total of 12 against the Cubs’ pitchers. But out of that, they only cobbled together 2 runs — a Gardner RBI single in the 4th and a Sizemore RBI single in the 5th. And that put the Yankees solidly at 2-0 for the second shutout of the day, and sweep of the Cubs during their 2-game stint in the Bronx.

Two amusing plays tonight: Alfonso Soriano made a long run into the side wall to catch a fly ball in the 6th that some grabby fans tried to reach over and take out of play, but Soriano grabbed it first and made the out with flair and panache that can only be described as “Sori-style”. And in the 3rd, Derek Jeter hit what should have easily been a groundout, but the 2nd baseman literally let the ball pass between his legs and slowly roll into the shallow infield; Jeter jogs his way all the way to 2nd, before anyone even laid hands (or glove) on the ball.

Okay, Scott Sizemore is looking more and more like a great grab for the Yankees, who went 2-for-3 at bat and made some very good defensive plays at 3rd. But with all the newer talent on the roster, it certainly seems like quite an upgrade (Solarte, Sizemore, Tanaka, Pineda, Johnson, and Beltran, just to name a few). Everyone (even those just “filling in”) seems to be contributing far and above expectations, and that gives me an early (and fairly solid) hope for October.

And on Jackie Robinson Day, it’s good to see a tradition of excellence continue in such full force.

Go Yankees!

Game 10: BOS vs. NYY — Trying to avoid distractions isn’t always easy

Rivals in town, nearly a full house, a chilly and windy night in the Bronx. It’s the beginning of one of the most storied baseball weekends in the season — the first meeting of the year between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Michael Pineda took the start tonight, his first outing in the Bronx as a Yankee and facing their 113 year rivals. Actually, Pineda did a pretty great job over his 6 innings, allowing just 4 hits, 2 walks, and a run, and striking out 7. His only allowed run came in the beginning of the 7th, with a lead-off solo home run. Cabral came on for a couple of strike outs in relief, before David Phelps took over for the next 2.1 innings. Phelps went on to keep the Red Sox off the board and earn his first career save tonight.

And the Yankees decided to make sure Pineda won his first Yankee start in the Bronx. So after 3 scoreless innings, they struck first in the 4th. Former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielding error, Beltran singled, and then Ellsbury scored on Brian McCann’s single (snapping his recent offensive slump). Soriano grounded into a double play, but Beltran still scored. In the 5th inning, Dean Anna tacked on his first Yankee solo home run, officially earning his pinstripes tonight. With 2 outs, Derek Jeter hit a ground-rule double and then scored on Ellsbury’s single, though Ellsbury was later thrown out at 2nd in that same play.

So the Yankees ended up defending that 4-0 score, that became 4-1 in the 7th. Though tonight was not without some measure of controversy. About halfway through Pineda’s start, the NESN (the Red Sox’s broadcasting network) started noticing something on Pineda’s palm and started zooming their cameras in to try to figure it out, assuming it to be pine tar (the sticky substance used on bats to get a better grip). In fact, it began to take on a life of its own and really began distracting from the game itself. Though the Red Sox had been made aware of it, they chose not to do anything because they didn’t see how pine tar on the palm of a pitcher’s hand (if that’s what it was) could actually help a pitcher who wanted to throw the ball. Pineda was asked what was on his hand, and he said his palms were sweaty, so he put some dirt on them. Neither team seemed nearly as concerned as the media seemed to be about the situation. And honestly, both sides had plenty of time to do something about it if there was really an issue, but neither team acted on it because it really was a non-issue.

And I cannot begin to tell you how much I hate talking about non-issues on here. It’s one reason I don’t mention the “on-field delays” (like when some idiot runs onto the field only to get arrested) or most personal stories that appear (like who might be dating someone semi-famous) or even the illusions of scandals (like who’s been accused of PEDs today). It’s because they’re non-issues (for the most part). I might mention a birthday or a congratulations on the birth of a child, but that’s about as personal because I’d rather focus on the game than the stuff around it.

I’m not big on controversy or gossip or scandals or general idiots because their sole focus is to distract from the game itself. And a blog on baseball should pretty much stick to baseball. I’ll only mention something along this line, like I’ve done in the past with the Biogenesis scandal, when it directly affects the game (like doling out suspensions) and never again. Today’s non-issue spun into its own amoebic life form practically taking over the entire outing, so it’s worth a mention, a dismissal, and then never addressing again.

Because the point of a positive blog is to be just that — positive. And allowing in negativity via distractions and non-issues is just a waste of everyone’s time, especially when there’s a whole lot of pretty great baseball to talk about.

Go Yankees!

 

Spring Game 31: NYY vs. TOR — 5th inning reversal of fortunes

Well, there was good news, a very large chunk of bad news, then some good news, and an unfortunate end to today’s story in the Yankees’ game against Toronto.

The Yankees really gave a beating to Toronto’s starter for the first 3 innings. In the 1st, Derek Jeter walked, Carlos Beltran singled, Alfonso Soriano singled to load the bases, and Kelly Johnson’s single scored Jeter and Beltran. So the Yankees were up 2-0. Then in the 2nd, Brian Roberts’ lead off single advances him all the way to 3rd on a throwing error and then scores on Dean Anna’s double. Brett Gardner walked, Jeter singled to load the bases, and Beltran’s double scored Anna and Gardner. And Jeter scored on Soriano’s sacrifice fly. So the Yankees were up 6-0 in the 2nd inning.

Meanwhile, Chris Leroux was busy at work on the mound on his first start of the Spring. In the bottom of the 2nd, his first slip was to allow a solo home run. And then he seemed to get nicked by a couple of line drives in the 3rd, which certainly affected his performance (though he seemed physically okay, just a little bruised), allowing 4 singles, one that scored an additional run for the Blue Jays. But still the Yankees were up 6-2 going into the 4th inning.

Pitchers Daley and Lewis split the 4th inning and kept the Yankees lead solidly intact. Things were looking up indeed, and the usually heated (albeit a little chilly today due to the recent cold front) Canadians seemed quite subdued.

But like I said in the beginning, a very large chunk of bad news was about to happen in the bottom of the 5th. When 3 different pitchers decided to hand over the game to 12 Toronto batters. Lewis was up first, giving up a double and an RBI single. (6-3 Yankees)

So the Yankees turned to Preston Claiborne, who had a really stellar 2013, but has really struggled this Spring. Today was no exception. He promptly gave up a double and loaded the bases with a hit-by-pitch. A single then scored 2 runs, and a ground-rule double scored another, and a walk loaded the bases once again, before a single scored 2 more runs. (8-6 Toronto)

Oh, and there were still no outs. So mercifully, they decided to go with another pitcher, bringing in Jim Miller. A sacrifice fly scored another run. The next batter flied out. A fluke double scored another runner, before another fly out got that final long-awaited out of the half-inning. And it was 10-6 Toronto, due to the 8 runs scored in that single inning. (If you are feeling a little curious, you can peruse some of the videos of Toronto beating up on the Yankees today here.)

Fortunately (here’s the next piece of good news), the combination of Betances, Burawa, and Tateyama in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings (respectively) and the tight defense of the “replacements” kept the Blue Jays from adding to their score, though they threatened. Unfortunately, the deficit was too much for the Yankees to overcome, so they kept planted at that 10-6 loss (the bad news again) for the rest of what felt like a very long game (though it was still under that 3 hour standard).

I expect the last round of cuts and the final 40- and 25- man rosters within the next couple of days, and it’s going to be interesting to see where everyone I’ve been watching ends up. (Perhaps, I’ll do a “Ones to Watch” wrap-up with where they’ll be starting their 2014 season.)

In odd news, Fortune released its list of 50 most influential leaders, with names like Pope Francis (#1) and the Dali Lama (#9), Warren Buffet (#4) and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (#10), Bill Clinton (#5) and Michael Bloomberg (#15). Of course, the big surprise (and why I might talk about it on this particular blog) is who placed #11 — Yankees Captain Derek Jeter. On a list with spiritual, political, academic, and financial leaders, it’s both odd and fascinating that someone like Jeter would make the list. Of course, Yankees have known for years how important his leadership is to the team and to the city and those affected by his foundation, and there are a handful of important sports coaches on the list. But I take this a sign for great things to come in the future from Jeter.

Plus, it helped me end this post on an uplifting, positive note. Congrats to the Captain (and indirectly the Yankees)!

Go Yankees!