In the Yankees first extra-innings game this Spring, today was really all about the home runs. Kevin Youkilis got 2, Travis Hafner scored a solo (his 2nd homer of the Spring), and the big one came in the 10th from Ronnier Mustelier. Plus, the team had 10 hits, including Eduardo Nunez’s RBI triple. A fielding error by Youkilis in the 4th allowed for Tampa to run up extra runs, but the Yankees, like the always do, keep on fighting all the way to the end.
As Yogi famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And all those fans who left when it rained for 12 seconds in the 5th, or ran out early to miss traffic in the 8th, missed what every team and baseball fan waits for — the walk-off home run, today’s run brought the final score 7-6 Yankees. Honestly, as Spring Training games can end in ties after no score is reached in the 10th, I would have been okay with that. But there’s nothing like a crowd roar and a team celebration at home plate for their new hero. A solid win is infinitely better than a tie.
Also worth noting today was the defense behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli was really excellent as starting catcher today, throwing out 2 runners at 2nd base and providing really outstanding backstop play his entire 8 innings. He has been consistent, if not increasingly better, throughout Spring, something I think helps Girardi and the entire coaching staff breathe a sigh of relief, and perhaps reassure the front office of their decision to not head-hunt for some star catcher.
Again, I really try to stay positive on this blog (and in real life), but I have to mention umpire issues again. It’s a shame that there isn’t more training or accountability or something that would help umpires make better calls. And while no person can ever be 100% perfect, calling outs when it’s obviously safe (and vice versa) really isn’t hard to determine and can spare those men the wrath of players, coaches, and especially the fans. I think it’s really crucial when it affects scoring and game outcome, which it almost did today. I don’t think we would have had extra innings if some blown calls hadn’t been made. But perhaps, it got the Yankees into a fighting mood: “You may try to cheat us out of our game, but there’s no way we’re going down like that.” (Or at least, that’s what I think they’d say.)
And a final note on the team: after his stint playing a minor league game yesterday (grounding out his 4 at-bats), Derek Jeter showed up to camp today with a sore ankle. He’s to rest the next few days and see what it looks like middle of the week. But as of right now, it looks like he will begin this season on the DL and miss Opening Day. In his 18 years of professional baseball, this will be his 2nd not in the starting lineup and playing shortstop (in 2001, he was out due to another injury). And the Yankees have made it really clear that they will not activate him until he can play 9 innings at shortstop, which means stints as DH are out of the question. Honestly, this tells me they don’t want to rush him back and risk any further set-backs, making April 6th the new goal (the backdated option if he goes on the DL). It’s still better that we get all these injuries out of the way in March/April than in September/October when we really need our guys at their best. And besides, like Cashman said today, no matter how many guys are on the DL, they can still compete because “it’s a team”. In the mean time, we wish a “get well soon” to all the Yankees in need of various healing.