Game 15: MIA vs. NYY — #SevySharp in rout

Detroit was rather a disappointing weekend in an unusual way. After their victory on Friday night, the freezing rain and continuous downpour forced Saturday afternoon’s game to be rescheduled to Sunday for a double-header. But then the weather continued to sour and flood the field at Comerica Park. So, the double-header was then rescheduled for their next overlapping free day — June 4. Saturday’s makeup game will be recognized as the first game, and Sunday’s makeup game (including honoring the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s rookie season) will be the night game.

Instead, the Yankees headed back home to face off against the visiting Marlins starting tonight for a quick 2-game micro-series. And no, a certain minority owner and new executive was not and will not be present for the series. Not that he’d want to see how his team did in tonight’s game. Those in the Steinbrenner box had no such problems tonight.

Luis Severino was dominant in his start tonight, throwing 86 pitches in his 6 scoreless innings, giving up just 1 hit and 1 walk, striking out 8 Miami batters. Severino ended up with his 3rd win already this season. But his next relievers got into a couple of jams and then proved they were capable of getting out them relatively unscathed.

In the 7th, Adam Warren gave up 2 singles and a walk to load up the bases before getting that third out to escape the inning. Chasen Shreve came on for the 8th and his first batter made it safely to base on a fielding error, before loading up the bases with a single and a walk with 1 out. A force out at 2nd allowed that lead runner to score an unearned run. Another walk loaded the bases again, but Shreve got a fly out to end the threat. And that would be the only run the Marlins would score tonight — an unearned run. Dellin Betances closed out the 9th inning, keeping the Marlins to that lone run.

Meanwhile, (and how do I say this nicely?) the Marlins pitching and defense left much to be desired tonight. In the 1st, the Yankees quickly loaded up the bases with Gardner’s lead-off single and 2 walks to Judge and Stanton. Gary Sanchez’s 1-out single kept the bases loaded but scored Gardner. Then Tyler Austin worked a 2-out walk to walk in Judge. Aaron Judge later hit a big 2-out solo home run in the 2nd to add to the score.

In the 3rd, Gregorius led-off with a walk and moved to 2nd on Sanchez’s single before they both scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. After Andujar walked, the Marlins decided their poor starter had enough and went to their bullpen. A quick double play made them think they made the right decision. But then the Yankees came back strong again in the 4th. With 2 outs, Stanton was hit by a pitch and then scored as part of Didi Gregorius’ 2-run home run to add more to the Yankees’ growing lead.

Tyler Austin led-off the 5th with a double and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s double. Torreyes’ single and Gardner’s walk loaded up the bases (with no outs), and Judge’s single scored Andujar. After finally getting 2 outs, Sanchez hit a long single to score the speedy Torreyes and Gardner. And in the 7th, Didi Gregorius hit his 2nd homer of the game, a 1-out solo shot into the Yankees’ bullpen to cap off the Yankees’ rout of the Marlins in Bronx Bomber fashion.

It is worth noting that of the 15 total hits and 8 walks, every Yankees starting player tonight made it on base, most more than once and most helping make that 12 run score possible.

Final score: 12-1 Yankees

That home run in the 2nd was Aaron Judge’s 60th career home run. He is the fastest player to ever reach 60 homers, which he did in 197 games. He supplants Mark McGwire who reached 60 homers in 202 games with the Athletics in 1987-1988. He has also hit safely in 17 games, a continuous streak that is worth watching early this season.

Roster moves (warming up the Scranton Shuttle): the Yankees optioned pitcher Luis Cessa back and sent outfielder Shane Robinson outright to AAA Scranton. Jace Peterson was designated for assignment and elected free agency at the end of the waiting period rather than being outrighted back to the minors, and the gamble was worth it because the Yankees re-signed him and added him to the roster prior to tonight’s game.

Injury updates: Greg Bird is recovering well from his ankle surgery, expecting to be back late May or early June. And Jacoby Ellsbury’s oblique injury is healed, and his hip soreness is healing thanks to treatments and cortisone injections. But plantar fasciitis (often in response to overuse of the foot or overstressing the arch) is plaguing him now. Let me just say, that makes basic things like running and walking rather difficult.

Brandon Drury is still dealing with his migraine issues with anti-inflammatories and specialists. Migraine sufferers learn to deal with a number of debilitating symptoms, and Drury’s blurry vision is probably his worst. He even admitted to stepping into the batter’s box in previous seasons with blurry vision due to his migraines, and if you’ve ever done even batting cages, you can imagine that trying to hit a ball traveling 90+ mph with blurry vision and a pounding headache doesn’t exactly help matters.

One more game against the Marlins before an off-day and then a 4-game series against the Blue Jays and a 4-game series against the Twins for this long 10-game (and 1 off-day) home stand. And tonight was a pretty good start.

Go Yankees!

It’s almost time for “Play Ball!”

Okay, so another Spring Training is finally behind us, and there’s less than a day left until the 2018 regular season begins. The Yankees officially ended Spring Training with 18 wins, 13 losses, and 1 tie, with an average of .581 for the Spring. This landed them 4th in all the AL, 5th in the Grapefruit League, and 7th overall.

And oddly, this is a good thing. With a few notable exceptions (like the 2009 Yankees), most eventual World Series winners usually end up middle of the pack in Spring Training. Like last year, the Yankees finished the Spring at the top of the list but ended up falling short to the eventual champion Astros (who finished the Spring 15-15). The previous year’s winners, the Cubs finished with a losing Spring of 11-19 and their series opponents, the Indians, fared better with a finish of 18-12 (still 6th in the AL). In other words, where you finish in the Spring really doesn’t matter, but odds are, middle of the pack might fare better in the end.

But it’s a long season, and we’ve 162 games to go…

The Yankees released a tentative Opening Day lineup for tomorrow’s game, which could be a pretty good idea of where they’re going for the season, setting the tone for those 162 games to come.

  • Brett Gardner, left field
  • Aaron Judge, right field
  • Giancarlo Stanton, designated hitter
  • Gary Sanchez, catcher
  • Aaron Hicks, center field
  • Didi Gregorius, shortstop
  • Brandon Drury, 3rd base
  • Neil Walker, 2nd base
  • Tyler Austin, 1st base
  • Luis Severino, starting pitcher

With the Yankees recalling Tyler Austin, their 25-man roster is now set — starting pitchers Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka; relievers Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren; catchers Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez; infielders Tyler Austin, Brandon Drury, Didi Gregorius, Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade, and Neil Walker; and outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton.

Now, you might notice that there are significant names not on that list due to injuries, and the Yankees had to move them around to make room for active players. Greg Bird‘s ankle surgery on Tuesday went well, removing a spur that broke off the bone. Bird will be out at least 6-8 weeks and was moved to the 10-day disabled list retroactive to March 26 (the standard date coming out of Spring).

Jacoby Ellbsury lingers in Florida to get extended Spring Training, about 40-50 more at-bats after missing most of the Spring due to a strained oblique. The Yankees also placed him on the 10-day DL retroactive to March 26, but he will clearly be back in pinstripes before anyone else.

Clint Frazier, another outfielder, is still dealing with lingering issues from his concussion early in the Spring. But the good news is that he is back doing baseball activities and working back into a momentum that could put him on track to join the AAA Scranton team soon, though no set timetable has been set. The Yankees placed him on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to March 26.

Get healthy, guys, and stay healthy, rest of the guys! We’ve got 162 games to prove the talking heads right for once. If you haven’t heard, the “talking heads” have all proclaimed the Yankees as potential contenders for the postseason. I think the 2017 team surprised them with how far the Yankees (who they dismissed early in the Spring) went — Game 7 of the ALCS vs. Astros. And they’ve only upgraded since then.

But then again, it’s a long season… and Yankee Universe has good reasons to hope.

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 Game 31: NYY vs. TB — Routed in the Florida finale

That was definitely not how you want to end your time in Florida for Spring Training. After a big double win yesterday, the Yankees just couldn’t seem to find their footing in Port Charlotte (about 90 minutes down the Gulf Coast between Sarasota and Fort Myers) in today’s game against the Rays.

Brian Keller had a rough start and set the pace for most of the Yankee pitching today. Throwing just into the 3rd inning, he gave up 8 hits and 5 runs, getting just 1 strikeout in his 8 outs. He gave up a lead-off walk in the 1st that stole 2nd, advanced to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Rays on the board first. In the 3rd, he then gave up a single that scored as part of a 2-run home run. Then a 1-out double scored as part of a 2-out 2-run homer to keep the Rays advancing. Two singles later, Keller’s afternoon was done.

Brady Lail came on and ended the threat with a solid strikeout. With 1 out in the 4th, he gave up a double and a walk to allow his own threat before a strikeout ended his afternoon. Adonis Rosa’s relief began with an RBI single. And his 5th inning sealed the game for the Rays — a single, a 2-run home run, a fly out, 2 solo home runs, and then 2 more outs.

Trevor Lane’s 6th inning was less dramatic. With 1 out, he gave up a solo homer, a walk, and a wild pitch before getting out of the inning without further damage. That improvement was picked up by Raynel Espinal in the 7th whose 3 outs were 3 solid strikeouts, and Andrew Schwaab followed suit in the 8th with his own 3 strikeouts. Collectively, the Yankee pitchers gave up 16 hits and 4 walks, and earned 11 strikeouts.

On the other side of things, the Yankee batters worked 12 strikeouts and just 4 total hits. This reflected the mass of zeroes by their name that stretched across the scoreboard for most of the game. It wasn’t until the 9th inning that they determined they weren’t going to be so badly shut-out of today’s game. Diego Castillo led off with a nice double, and 2 outs later, Trey Amburgey’s easy single scored Castillo to end the shut out. Despite a walk to Jorge Saez, the Yankees were unable to chip away at the Rays’ large lead any further.

Final score: 11-1 Rays

Up next: the Yankees play their final pre-season game against the Braves in Atlanta, a repeat of last season that helped inaugurate the Braves’ new stadium. Tomorrow night’s game will feature Sonny Gray on the mound.

Injury news: Greg Bird will be one player not making the trip to Atlanta. He’s on his way to New York for more tests on that sore foot after feeling some discomfort during pre-game batting practice yesterday. He was examined by team doctors yesterday, given an MRI and CT scan, which revealed inflammation but nothing further. He will see a foot specialist tomorrow in the City who will hopefully have a clearer diagnosis and time-table for Bird’s treatment, recovery, and return to baseball activity.

We’re still waiting on a finalized 25-man roster, but that’s pretty much set based on where they’ve optioned everyone over the last week or so. Technically, nothing is set until they make the announcements on Opening Day. And I have a feeling they are waiting on the results from Bird’s appointment before determining who they might need to pull up, like Tyler Austin (who is currently on the 40-man, but not the 25-man), who could certainly cover 1st base while Bird recovers. Beyond that, there is still a question mark on Jacoby Ellsbury’s readiness and whether the 12-13 split will favor the bullpen or the bench.

In other words, there’s still time to sort out details. So be prepared for an onslaught of information once there is information to share.

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 28: BOS vs. NYY — Shut out at home again

It’s really only fair. The Yankees totally beat the Red Sox in their Spring home earlier this month, so they decided to return the favor. It was a nice day for baseball, fairly comfortable weather, clear skies. Of course, there were the requisite rowdy fans (on both sides) who try to liven up the rivalry hype without understanding the basic parameters of the long-standing rivalry. (In other words, fair-weather fans who don’t really understand words like teamwork, cheering, and baseball.)

Anyway, the Red Sox paid the Yankees their annual visit, watched by a passionate sold-out crowd, and helmed by Masahiro Tanaka. Today was easily Tanaka’s best start of the Spring, throwing into the 6th inning and getting 6 strong strikeouts. His lone allowed run was a lead-off solo shot in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs, he gave up a couple hits in the 6th, and the Yankees called in Tommy Kahnle for that inning’s final out.

Chasen Shreve came on in the 7th and had a bit of struggles, starting with a solo shot to lead-off the inning. A double then scored on a 1 out single, but then that runner got tagged out trying to stretch the hit into a double. (Seriously, Gardner’s arm is not to be tested.) Dellin Betances celebrated his birthday by having some trouble on the mound in the 8th inning. He gave up a walk and a single before finally getting a strikeout.

Brady Lail came on in relief and got his own strikeout, but then a single scored Betances’ lead runner before another strikeout got him out of the inning. And two more strikeouts later in the 9th, he gave up consecutive strikeouts, unable to find that 3rd out. Reliever Andrew Schwaab came on and gave up an RBI single before finding that 3rd out to end the Red Sox’s rule today.

Yankee pitchers gave up 13 hits today, and still struck out 11 Boston batters. But Yankee batters had much less luck, only collecting 5 hits and striking out 9 times. And, the biggest stat of the day — no runs scored. Shutout again at home. Bummer.

Final score: 5-0 Red Sox

One to Watch: Angel Aguilar came into the game in the 5th (see below) and really did a stellar job at 3rd base covering for Drury. The young infielder could certainly hold his own with veterans on the field.

Next up: the Yankees play their only split squad games of the season. Part of the team will play the final home Spring game against the Blue Jays, while another part of the team will travel to Disney to play the Braves. Pitchers on the schedule are David Hale and Luis Severino, respectively.

Injury: Brandon Drury was hit by a pitch on the elbow in the 5th. He continued the game, even ending up at 3rd on Walker’s ground-rule double. But while the Red Sox were making a pitching change, the Yankees trainer noticed Drury wasn’t moving his left arm well. So they pulled him and sent him for tests, specifically x-rays, which thankfully came back negative. Angel Aguilar filled in for Drury and proved an excellent back-up (see above).

Another lighter note: the Yankees released another ad. This one revised a previous ad they did parodying American Idol, calling it “Roll Call Idol“. In this version, Greg Bird “auditions” to change up his response to Roll Call, being judge by Yankee veterans Gardner, Gregorius, and Sabathia (or their impressions of Simon, Paula, and Randy).

And if you’ve been following all these ads this week, there’s also a ton of outtakes and bloopers to laugh at. (The links for: Roll Call Idol, Didi’s World, Relief Heating Company, and Catch and Release.)

Go Yankees!

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.}