Game 55: MIN vs. NYY — Failing a rubber match against former Yankees

I think the biggest story from today was that former Yankee Phil Hughes actually pitched a great game for his new team, the Twins. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery for some pitchers to find their pace and place again. It seems to have worked well for him. And not so much for the Yankees today, well that’s not the whole story.

Chase Whitley took the mound again for what ended up being another no-decision, though he should have been in line for the win. His 83 pitches took him through a solid 5 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, and striking out 6 batters. Whitley is continuing to show his candidacy for a more permanent spot in the Yankees organization, definitely an asset to have. That sole run came in the 3rd inning — with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, an RBI single scored the Twins first and only run for a while.

The Yankees answered back in the 4th inning, deciding to show off their dominance. Brett Gardner led off with a triple (a double for most everyone else, but a triple with his speed) and then scored on Jeter’s single. Ellsbury singled and McCann walked to load the bases, so Jeter easily scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice fly. And suddenly, the Yankees were up and defending their 2-1 lead.

Dellin Betances pitched the 6th and 7th innings just flawlessly, striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced, using just 22 pitches overall. The internet was abuzz again with Betances-love. I don’t think New York fans can get enough of him. He’s like the oasis in the bullpen’s desert, there when it seems like everything else doesn’t work.  The 8th inning belonged to Adam Warren who struggled through his 20-pitch inning, but ultimately made it out unscathed.

Defending that 2-1 lead, the Yankees went into the 9th inning prepared to get those quick 3 outs and go home. And with David Robertson jogging in to the sounds of “Sweet Home Alabama”, it was as good as done. Except it wasn’t. Robertson just didn’t have anything today, and it cost him the save and the Yankees the win. His first batter promptly smacks a home run into the left field seats to tie up the game (blown save). Two outs and two walks later, a double scored a run (3-2 Twins) and an intentional walk loads the bases. Matt Daley pitched to one batter — former Yankee Eduardo Nunez — whose solid double scored two more Twins runs. (5-2 Twins). Matt Thornton came on to get that elusive last out, but a quick single scored two more runs and planted the Twins lead (and ultimate win) at 7-2 Twins. (Small fun trivia note: Nunez lost his helmet running home… again!)

And there was not much you could do about it. The bottom just fell out of the whole game right in that measly half inning. Too bad, because it was a pretty great game up until that point. And I’m not just saying that because the Yankees were in the lead. No, I’m saying that because it was well-fought and earned, rather than essentially some sloppy pitching just handing over the game. Even Robertson admits he kind of stunk today.

One of the things that hit me as I watched the 9th inning unfold, after I got over my initial frustration, was that today’s game showed two sides of the same coin from the bullpen. Today’s game featured two men who are known for their successes, who are really good at what they do, but who are also far from perfect. So I made the comment: “Betances showed us today that he is immortal. Robertson showed us today that he is human.” Some days, you could say the same thing in reverse. How many times have I marveled at Robertson’s magic, calling him “Houdini”? How many times have I been disappointed with some flawed pitching from Betances (though admittedly not as much lately)? But that is the thing about this game — baseball is a game of constant failure played by men who are far from failures.

The best part of failure is learning what not to do again, learning to grow and make different mistakes. A failure is someone who refuses to learn from their failure. A success is someone who isn’t afraid to fail and learn from it. The reality is that failure is always an option. But staying down in that failure isn’t. Strength isn’t ignoring failure but rather overcoming it.

Today, they failed. So tomorrow they learn from those failures and become better players, better men, a better team because of it. They are not, however, failures. Far from it. And that makes me proud to be a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

Game 53: MIN vs. NYY — Losing with pitching and their home runs

Honestly, there was a lot of sloppy pitching on both sides tonight. Neither team really put on their best outing of the season. The Twins in town with a 3-game weekend series and it means the return of a couple of former Yankees to make an appearance at some point this weekend.

Vidal Nuno got the start for the Yankees tonight, 101 pitches, 6.2 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, and 6 strikeouts. Nuno’s biggest issue was poorly placed pitches that lingered just a little too long in that sweet spot because all 4 of those runs were scored on home runs — two solo home runs in the 2nd and 4th and a 2-run home run in the 4th. It was quite enough to push the Twins easily in the lead, something they never let go.

Preston Claiborne was brought into the game in the 7th to get that last out, while Nuno was in a spot of trouble. He did, but his trouble spot was his 8th inning. That and his pitch count — 35 pitches in just 1.1 innings. In the 8th, with 2 outs, a lead-off single and a walk on base ready to score two more runs on two back-to-back RBI singles. One of those singles was by former Yankee Eduardo Nunez, who received some scattered applause on his return to the Bronx. (Nunez was always a fan favorite and a favorite in the clubhouse, but unfortunately, things just didn’t work out to keep him on the roster. Though I’m happy he’s found a new home in a different set of pinstripes.)

Matt Daley took the 9th inning and really gave the strongest performance of his season and of the night as a whole — 14 pitches in that inning, no hits, no runs, no walks, and 1 strikeout.

The bottom line is that even with bad pitching, games are still won by scoring the most runs. And the Yankees certainly didn’t do that tonight. Their sole run came in the 3rd inning. Murphy singled and then out at 2nd by Gardner’s force out; Gardner stole 2nd base; Jeter’s groundout advanced Gardner to 3rd; and Jacoby Ellsbury’s nice double scored Gardner. Small ball paid off there, but not enough to add up to much of anything else.

Like I said before, it wasn’t a great day for pitching. The Twins may have racked up the runs, due mostly to those 3 home runs (scoring 4 of their runs), but they also allowed the Yankees 9 hits and 4 walks, striking out 7 Yankee batters. While the Yankees technically gave up more hits (10), but walked just 2 and struck out 10 Twins batters. It ended up being one of those game. I think even if the score had been closer, based on the performance of the pitching, it still would have been a rather disappointing game overall as the Twins win 6-1.

There was one odd play tonight — a rundown of sorts. For a rather mundane game (as evidenced by the incessant fan use of the “Wave”), it was a rather amusing point in the bottom of the 5th inning, even if it didn’t turn out well for the Yankees. With 1 out and Gardner on 1st with a walk, Gardner then steals 2nd (his 13th stolen base of the season). Jeter singles and the outfielder (in 1 of 2 times he made this play with his ridiculous arm) threw Gardner out trying to get home. Well, actually it was a 9-2-4-2-5-2 to get that out — right field to catcher to try to protect home, catcher to 2nd base to try to get Jeter unsuccessfully, 2nd base to catcher to actually get Gardner out at home, catcher to 3rd base trying to get Jeter running there again unsuccessfully, and 3rd base to catcher to protect the plate in case Jeter tried to go home. All that for 1 out and a single that landed the runner on 3rd. (I wish there was a good video link because it made more sense watching it, so I hope I didn’t confuse you there.)

Unfortunately, they left him stranded there on 3rd unable to turn out anything useful. Which seemed to be the order of the day for the Yankee batters. Like I said, it was just one of those games. Chapter closed, tomorrow is a whole new ball game. Literally and figuratively.

Go Yankees!

Game 1: NYY vs. HOU — Figuratively late to the game, still an Opening Day loss

The Yankees ended their 2013 season in Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros, and they begin their 2014 season here for a 3-game Opener for the Astros. Complete with fireworks, a giant flag, country stars, a former President, and Astro Hall-of-Famers (and almost Hall-of-Famers), the Astros decided after losing over 100 games last year that this year was going to be different. To be fair, they won their home opener last year against the Rangers and still lost 111 games (45 games behind division leader Athletics). And the Yankees lost their Opener to the Red Sox and went on to win 85 games. (Here’s a fun little coincidence: the Yankees lost to Boston 8-2 and the Astros won over Texas 8-2.)

And with an almost brand new roster, except Gardner (who was in a different spot on the field and on the roster), the Yankees went into this Opener under starter CC Sabathia. For the first two innings, the Yankees weren’t playing like the Yankees. Between Sabathia’s hanging pitches and some very sloppy fielding, the Yankees seemed determined to gift-wrap their first game to the Astros. The Astros’ offense capitalized with their lead-off batter in the 1st inning. That lead-off double scored on a strong single by the Astros’ arguably best overall player. A fielder’s choice scored that runner, right before a 2-run home run scored 4 runs in the first inning alone. They came back in the 2nd to tack on 2 more runs with a solo homer and a 2-out RBI single.

By the time the Astros reached the 3rd inning, the Yankees defense and pitching finally showed up. After allowing 6 hits and 6 runs in the first two innings, Sabathia only allowed 2 more hits and a walk, but no more runs in his next 4 innings, racking up 6 total strikeouts. The defense also got their work in and finally started working as a team. But it was too late the damage was done.

In his last Opening Day, Derek Jeter’s first at-bat certainly didn’t go as planned (and by planned I mean reminiscent of his 1996 Opening at-bat where he hit a left field first pitch home run). Tonight, the Astros pitcher proceeded to plunk an 88 mph fast ball on his left forearm. A collective breath held by 40,000 fans, but the Captain continued with the game, I’m guessing with a stinging bruise as his first “war wound” of his final season. Jeter would go 1-for-3, with a hit-by-pitch tonight (more on this later) and make some pretty routine plays at shortstop. (Jeter will be honored before tomorrow night’s game, in his first of many celebrations to come this year.)

Dellin Betances got his name on his first career Opening Day lineup card, coming in relief of Sabathia in the 7th. He continued to show the Yankees why he clearly earned this coveted spot in the bullpen with a very quick 1-2-3, 2-strikeouts, 10-pitch inning. And Vidal Nuno took the 8th, allowing just 1 hit in the middle of 3 strikeouts. And if we ignore the first 2 innings (because if you’re a Yankee fan who wouldn’t want a magic reset button on those 2?), the Yankees pitching staff really did a tight, solid job, giving up just 3 hits and no runs in those last 6 innings. Chalk it up to first day back rustiness or whatever cliché or “excuse” you want, but I’m seeing where consistency finally crept in — the same things I saw in Spring Training. And that’s what showed up in innings 3-9 for the Yankees. Comparatively, the Astros can’t hold a candle and really couldn’t do much of anything.

Towards the end of the Astros starter’s outing in the 7th inning, the Yankees began to capitalize on his expended arm. A Teixeira single, a hit-by-pitch on Gardner (why the pitcher wasn’t pulled out after hitting his second batter, I’ll never understand), and a Roberts walk loaded the bases with 2 outs, so the Astros went to their bullpen. Johnson’s dribbler was enough for the Astros to make a force out and get out of that jam. But the Yankees had found a hole and planned to use the top of their order to do something about it.

So they came roaring back in the 8th, with a lead-off walk by Jacoby Ellsbury. A new pitcher promptly gives up Jeter’s first 2014 single into right field. Beltran (who broke a no-hitter bid by the Astros in the 4th) advances the runners with a ground out, and Brian McCann’s first Yankee hit turns into an RBI single to score Ellsbury. Jeter then easily scores on Mark Teixeira’s single. Suddenly, the Yankees are on the board behind the Astros 6-2. And there they would stay for the next 1/2 inning.

A loss to open the season, but the Yankees have been there before, a lot actually — this will be their 5th loss in 6 years since 2009, with tonight’s game making their overall stats 63 wins-48 losses (and 1 tie) in Opening Day games. And if we’re looking back to the year everyone seems to be comparing this year to (2009), the Yankees lost that Opening Day too, with Sabathia on the mound, 10-5 to the Orioles. And then they went on to win 103 games and the World Series. Yeah, I’m okay with losing this one if we’re going to allow history to repeat itself in that way.

Before tonight’s game, the Astros asked great pitcher Nolan Ryan to throw out the first pitch to Craig Biggio. It was a thrill for the Texas crowd to see their hometown heroes in action once again, though Ryan is definitely more comfortable behind a desk than on the mound nowadays.

And in other Yankee player news…

Eduardo Nunez has been designated for assignment to make room for Yangervis Solarte on the 40-man roster. This means the Yankees have 10 days to trade him or find a spot in their organization for him or he will be released to find another team elsewhere. Unfortunately, this is the side of the business that doesn’t sit well with people sometimes. This wasn’t personal, as Nunez was very well-liked in the clubhouse; but after a mediocre Spring, it wasn’t a wise business decision to keep fighting for him to stay if he wasn’t going to contribute. Nunez could definitely flourish in other clubhouses, and I know he’s going to land somewhere fast.

And the other shortstop contender Brendan Ryan was placed on the 15-day disabled list today, retroactive to March 22. He was diagnosed with a cervical spine nerve injury (a pinched nerve in his neck) and will continue rehab and recovery back in Tampa. We wish him a speedy and safe recovery.

It’s a long season, and games like tonight make me glad we still have 161 games to play…

Go Yankees!

Appreciating the entire business of baseball

After a disappointing end to their preseason (further reading on their rained-out finale) and dealing with what ended up being a very long rainstorm (serious flooding hit a good portion of the area), the Yankees hopped on board their plane and headed 792 miles west (or about 2 hours flying time) to Houston. On a rest day yesterday, a whole bunch of them watched Kentucky beat the favorite Michigan for a spot in the Final Four (sports is sports, people). And then, they spent today working out as a team, taking batting practice, fielding questions from lingering reporters, and generally getting back into the swing of things before their Opening Day tomorrow.

About half of MLB played their first game today (and two NL West teams got a head start in Australia about 10 days ago), and the rest will begin tomorrow. These first 8 days of the season are scattered with home openers all across North America, filled with red-white-and-blue bunting, fireworks, celebrity anthem singers and first pitches, and fans everywhere hoping that this year will be their team’s year for victory. Of course, as we all know, only one fan base will turn out to be right.

Of course, Yankees this year get to watch yet another retirement parade for another of their long-term heroes. Derek Jeter has an inkling of what’s coming because of Rivera’s 2013 barrage of gifts and honors, though Jeter admittedly wasn’t present for most of the ceremonies due to his own injury-plagued season. But no doubt, his honors and gifts and celebrations will be no less of an ordeal, and every home game will feature cheering fans glimpsing for one last moment of the Captain’s playing days.

In the meantime, there is a whole season to be played ahead of us. And for a brief moment in time, anything is possible for any of the 30 teams in baseball. Which means that even after last year’s disappointing season, Yankee fans can start fresh and root for that 28th (and what could be Jeter’s final) championship. Because right now, it’s still very much a possibility. And why not? Jeter started his career with a win. So what could be a more fairy tale ending to his storied career?

But alas, it’s a long season…

And there are 24 other players on the team who are dreaming of that championship. There’s still a few moves to be made, and a final roster won’t be available until Tuesday, or so I’m told. Before they jumped on a plane, the final infield spot on the 40-man Eduardo Nunez and Yangervis Solarte. While Nunez was pulled into the office to be told he was being sent down to AAA (after a disappointing Spring), Solarte thought he was through and asked Jeter to sign a ball and began his goodbyes, when Nunez came out to inform him of the news. I don’t think Solarte has come down off Cloud Nine yet.

Now what all this means for the roster, and where everyone ends up, I still have no idea. They are keeping things pretty tight to the vest right now, which could mean anything. The posted rosters on the Yankees website aren’t really updated yet either because Cashman & Co. are up to something. And it wouldn’t be the start of the Yankees year without something lurking in the works right before the season starts.

It’s funny. Before I started this blog, I never really thought much about the business side of baseball. I mean, there was the transactions and trades, the profits and contracts, and the logistics of baseball operations, all of which even the average baseball fan has some kind of opinion. But I never really dove into each of those areas, until this blog kind of forced it on me.

I was talking with someone today about the recent history of baseball, how it’s evolved over the last 20 years, and what options the sport has in the future to capture the next generation of season ticket holders. What I noticed was that I was conversing more on the business side of the sport rather than as the average fan and wanting to see “my team” win. Now, this was after overhearing a rather interesting conversation at breakfast between two average fans who were convinced they knew how each of their teams were going to win this year’s championship. (Their conclusions, by the way, were based on last year’s team, without recognizing new pitching or trades that affect the offensive production. If either of their teams win, it won’t be for the reasons they were talking about.)

It’s true I think about baseball a lot, probably more than my “average baseball fan” friends think I should or care to listen to me talk about. But this is what I do, so it’s how I’ve come to think. I’ve always been someone who likes the big picture strategy first and then loves putting together all the pieces to make it not just function, but succeed efficiently and excellently (much like the Yankees). And this blog has helped me fine-tune that for baseball in general, and the Yankees specifically. My grandfather called baseball a “thinking man’s game”, and that may be why I don’t ever seem to be bored with the game. Because when you peel back the layer of the game that is the actual 3 hours of playing time, there are hundreds of hours spent and hundreds of people working to get those 25 men on the field, in the bullpen, and in the dugout. And that makes me appreciate the sport of baseball hundreds of times moreover.

So as we embark on yet another season, another time of possibilities and opportunities, I’m sending a personal thank you and note of appreciation out to everyone who works year-round to make this business of baseball into the greatest game America ever played. We may never meet, but you are certainly appreciated.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 32: NYY vs. PIT — On track for a strong 2014

If you’re following any other blogs or stories covering Spring, you may discover that my numbers don’t line up with some of the other numbers. I’ve been counting all the games the Yankees have played this Spring, like the exhibition game against Florida State last month and the two games down in Panama against the Marlins and the rained out one a couple of weeks ago and each split squad game as their own game. The funny thing is that none of the numbers exactly line up. Today, before the game, I was looking at the standings and the Yankees are 15-12, meaning they’ve played 27 games, but they also have 2 ties, so it’s 29 games. I’m at 32 by my count (which includes a no-decision rain-out), so I know some of those exhibition games aren’t in the stats.

But then again, because it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. MLB says the Yankees are (now) 16-12 and that’s the stats that will go on the team’s site and one each player’s information under the Spring Training heading. But as we all know, Spring Training is practice for the “big boys” and a month-long audition for the “replacements”. So it doesn’t matter how many games and who has what number. It just matters where everyone ends up on April 1. Like Cervelli: despite Romine being sent back to minor league camp to get ready for AAA, he’s not waiting around on his laurels assuming that back-up catching job is his, until he sees his name on a locker at the Astros’ visitors’ clubhouse on April 1.

In the mean time, there’s still 2 more games for the Yankees, after today’s overcast win over the Pirates in Bradenton. CC Sabathia got in 4 innings of work before his next start (April 1 against Houston), throwing 44 pitches and giving up just 3 hits and no runs. His Spring ERA is 1.29, which is really outstanding and should be a great sign for both him and the Yankees as they gear up for 2014. Dellin Betances came in to rock the 5th inning, giving up just a single hit. Betances is certainly proving himself worthy of one of the 4 coveted bullpen spots left. As is Vidal Nuno, by his display in the 6th, including 2 dynamic strikeouts by the lefty. Adam Warren’s 2 hits allowed in the 7th came up empty for the Pirates, and he eked by without a dent.

Before we go into the 8th, the Yankees made their dent in the first half of the game. In the 1st, Ichiro Suzuki hit a lead-off single, moved to 3rd on Eduardo Nunez’ single, and scored on Mark Teixeira’s ground out. Nunez would score on Zoilo Almonte’s single, pushing the early Yankee lead to 2-0. In the 4th, the Yankees came back to add to their total (and give them the cushion they would need to hang onto the win). With 2 outs, Adonis Garcia doubled and then scored on Ichiro’s single. Ichiro would then advance on a wild pitch and score on Nunez’s single. And the Yankees stayed at those 4 runs for the game.

Into the 8th inning, the pitchers so far doing a great job holding off the Pirates. But David Phelps seemed to struggle almost immediately, quickly loading the bases with a single, a double, and a walk. A really pretty double play still scored the Pirates’ first run, and a triple (yes, the Pirates were collectively a home run short of the cycle in this inning) scored the second. Cesar Cabral came on to get that last out for Phelps that inning, coming back in the 9th to close out the game for the save, giving Sabathia his third win of the pre-season. Final score: 4-2 Yankees.

If you’re wondering how the pitching display (consider it another audition for those last 4 bullpen spots) went, so far this Spring, Cabral hasn’t allowed a single run, Warren’s ERA is under 2.00, Betances’ is under 1.00 (like I said before), and both Phelps and Nuno are tied in the ERA at 3.38 (which really isn’t terrible for a relief pitcher over a long season). This decision, as Girardi and others have said, will definitely go down to the wire. It’s going to be a tight race, and whomever gets sent down will probably see some major league action at some point this season because something always happens (injury, drastic dive in production, trade, etc.).

And it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if we ended up with another Nova situation because a similar situation seems to happen every year. As a brief refresher, Nova struggled to find his pitching at the beginning of 2013 in the bullpen, got sent down to AAA to work on it, got recalled and came back as a starter, better than ever, something that certainly played into his solid campaign for that 4th starter this year. Cervelli had the same experience, sent down in 2012 after the Yankees acquired Stewart as back-up. He came back fired up about his role in 2013, even earning the spot for Opening Day, but an injury and suspension cut his 2013 season short; now his 2014 season is off to an amazing start, leading the team in so many offensive areas and providing solid, consistent defense behind the plate. It’s not really an “if” situation, but really a “who” and “when”.

One thing’s for certain, more often than not, they come back stronger and better than ever. And that’s the kind of players that make up a team that make up a championship-winning team. And that’s the kind of team I can get behind.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 28: NYY vs. MIN — A replay, a save, and a streak

Today’s game at the Twins’ Spring home felt like a game we might see come this regular season. It wasn’t just pitching or hitting, but rather a combination of all of them for both team trying to claw their way to the win. Fortunately, for Yankee fans, it came out the way we’re always hoping, and today’s win pushed their winning streak up to 7-in-a-row.

Masahiro Tanaka got a chance to pitch to another AL team (note: Girardi has scheduled his outings so that they never coincide with AL East, keeping his pitching at least with a small element of surprise). Tanaka went just 5.2 innings, book-ending his outing with a total of 3 allowed runs, but just 5 hits and a walk, and 6 strikeouts. In the 1st, he allowed a lead-off double to score on a ground out, putting the Twins up 1-0 for a few innings. And then in the 6th, he really seemed to lose some steam, allowing a single, a hit-by-pitch, RBI double, and RBI groundout. So Lewis came on to get that last out of that inning. Tanaka will probably develop into a tighter pitcher as he learns how good of an infield the regular starters can be, something that Andy Pettitte really came to rely on.

Meanwhile, the Yankees fell into a scoring pattern beginning in the 4th inning. With 1 out, Eduardo Nunez singled, Kelly Johnson singled, and Francisco Cervelli got hit by a pitch to load the bases. On a wild pitch, Nunez scored the first Yankee run, which Scott Sizemore added to with his 2-run single. Sizemore ended up scoring on Zelous Wheeler’s double.

Going into the 7th, the Yankees were ahead 4-3, so before even knowing that they needed an insurance run, they got one. Zoilo Almonte doubled and scored on Herrara’s single later in the inning. So Herndon and Greene took the 7th and 8th for the Yankees, ensuring the Yankee lead remained. That left the 9th and the save opportunity for Yoshinori Tateyama, and except for a solo home run, shut down any real hope of a Twins’ last minute rally. So the Yankees won 5-4.


And we finally got some good “instant replay” action. In the 3rd, the Twins tried to steal 2nd, something Cervelli saw and threw to a waiting Dean Anna at 2nd who swept down and applied the tag. But the umpire initially called him safe, Girardi decided to test the system. And boy, did it pay off. After a quick review, they heard what anyone with eyes on the screen at home saw — the runner was out. (Warning: the media covering the game are Twins-based, so they don’t really understand why or how the runner was out. So much for unbiased media!)

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I really don’t miss the screaming managers. I was a little concerned about how the replay thing worked in a real game, and honestly, I’m still a little confused on the exact rules of how managers can use their “challenges”. But I’m already liking the transition. I know it won’t always go the Yankee way, but I think it’s going to clear up a lot of the “close calls” that fans argue over for years and years.

I mean, how many people still argue over the Yogi Berra-Jackie Robinson play at home in the 1955 World Series? Every team has a story that instant replay could clear up. And while they might be so ingrained in fans’ psyches that you couldn’t ever imagine a world without them, there’s still a lot of other things for fans to argue about with their rivals. Legacies, championships, history, and favorite players top the list and none of those could ever be affected by instant replay.

(For the record, Robinson was out; sorry, Dodger fans.)

Go Yankees!

Spring Games 21 & 22: ATL vs. NYY & NYY vs. MIA — Winning internationally is also an art

Well, today essentially erased yesterday’s losses in one fell swoop. 7 would be the Yankees “lucky number” on this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, as both in Tampa and in Panama, the Yankees split-squad each scored 7 total runs. And while the players are busy crossing international waters to head back to regular Spring Training, we take a moment to pause and consider the offensive victories of this Sunday.

In Tampa, on this very sunny, very hot, sometimes breezy afternoon, it was Masahiro Tanaka’s start today. And though he still managed to be fairly good, he still had some struggles and was not his usual “Tanaka-ness”. Over 4.1 innings, he allowed 3 hits, 1 run, and 2 walks, while striking out 6 Braves batters. But it still wasn’t until the 4th inning that the Braves managed to find a hole in Tanaka’s pitching, when a walk scored on a double to tie up the game. Backing up to the 2nd inning, Ramon Flores singled to lead-off the inning and scores later in the inning on Ichiro Suzuki’s single.

Going into the 5th inning, after Tanaka struck out a batter, he was replaced by Matt Thornton who struggled a bit, allowing a double, and an RBI single before getting those last two outs. Thornton, despite allowing the Braves to jump ahead, was technically the pitcher on record when the Yankees jumped ahead in what ended up being a gift-wrapped inning from the Braves.

Ichiro and Eduardo Nunez each walked and scored on Brian McCann’s double. Kelly Johnson singles, then Flores scores McCann’s pinch-runner. O’Brien walks to load the bases. A wild pitch scores Johnson and advances Flores and O’Brien. Mason Williams’ sacrifice fly easily scores Flores, as O’Brien lands on 3rd on a throwing error. Castillo reaches on another error, which allowed O’Brien to score. Suddenly, the Yankees are up 7-2 by the end of a very long half-inning.

Shawn Kelley dazzled in the 6th, complete with 2 strikeouts and no hits allowed. Shane Greene took the 7th and 8th, and only gave up a single hit, a solo home run; Greene struck out 4 batters. It was Dellin Betances’ turn for the 9th, and he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, allowing a walk, a hit by pitch, and a single to load the bases with one out, so a ground out could score a fourth and final run for the Braves. Betances got that final out with a signature strikeout, and the Yankees were gifted with a 7-4 win in Tampa today.

Meanwhile, only an hour behind their Tampa crew, the rest of the Yankees played their second game against the Marlins in the exhibition series in Panama. Last night, they were hitless, and today, they more than made up for that off-night. CC Sabathia took the mound and proved once again why he’s the cornerstone of their starting rotation, with 5 hitless, scoreless innings and 5 strikeouts. Robertson took the 6th, Claiborne the 7th (allowing the only hit the Marlins would get all day), before Cabral and Leroux polished off the 8th and 9th, handing the Yankees their second victory of the day.

Well, of course, in order for their to be a victory, there has to be some hits and runs on the other side of the field. And there certainly was, beginning in the 2nd inning. Francisco Cervelli and Yangervis Solarte each singled, before Cervelli scored on Zelous Wheeler’s ground-rule double. In the 5th, Corban Joseph doubled, Jeter walked, Carlos Beltran singled home Joseph, Cervelli singled Jeter home, and Solarte’s single brought Beltran and Cervelli to punch the score up to 5-0 Yankees.

So in the 9th, the Yankees wanted to secure their win, so they added 2 more runs. Antoan Richardson singled and then scored as Gary Sanchez homered out to right field. And the Yankees flew away from Panama with a one-hitter shut-out win against the Marlins, winning 7-0. So in total, the Yankees had 15 total hits in Panama and 7 total runs, all in today’s game (plus 12 hits and 7 runs in the game in Tampa). Today was the Yankees being the Yankees, hitting, scoring, and finding the holes in their opponents’ game.

Ones to watch (having only watched the Tampa game, I’m limited to those I saw): Ramon Flores and Shane Greene. Flores may be my personal favorite player to watch this Spring, and he continues to prove he’s worth watching with his Granderson-like defense in the outfield and his consistency in the batter’s box. Greene has had his ups and downs, but he was pretty great to watch today, and except for the random solo home run, he threw 4 strikeouts in just 2 innings.

I have to point out two regular players that have been outstanding, especially in today’s game — Mark Teixeira and Francisco Cervelli. Teixeira had an absolutely amazing outing on defense at 1st base today, something that reminds me of pre-injured Teixeira days. Cervelli clearly has one of the highest batting averages of the Spring and continues to prove his mettle as an ardent defender at the plate. The Yankees are coming off strong this Spring, and that’s a really good sign.

Go Yankees!