Game 101: NYY vs. TEX — Battle to the split

There is no normal any more. I can’t say that I’m all that sad about saying goodbye to Texas. It’s a combination of the heat and the absolute insanity that masqueraded as ball games at Globe Life Park (yes, that is the name of the Rangers’ stadium in Arlington). In what has to be the most bizarre series this season, the Yankees fly to the Windy City, leaving Texas after this 4-game split. Not that the weather in Chicago is going to be any better as much of the country is experiencing this ridiculous summer heat that just won’t go away.

The Yankees struck first in a rather big offensive show in the top of the 1st inning. Jacoby Ellsbury led-off with a triple and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. Mark Teixeira hit his 25th home run of the season, a 2-out solo home run right up center field (there’s a spot of grass over the center field wall). Brian McCann singled and later scored on Chase Headley’s 2-out single. This gave the Yankees a 3-run lead. It didn’t last long.

CC Sabathia took the start tonight (after some initial musings as to a possible substitute proved false) and found his way into and out of trouble through much of his outing — 80 pitches over 5 innings (rather efficient for Sabathia), giving up 9 hits, 1 walk, and 5 runs, and striking out just 3 batters. So with the Yankees up 3-o in the 1st, Sabathia found his first spot of trouble in the bottom of the 1st inning. A lead-off single and a bunt single put runners on base, and then 2 out later, a 3-run home run tied up the score. This would become a terrible pattern for this game.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the Rangers pushed ahead to grab the lead with a lead-off solo home run. But then the Yankees re-took the lead in the top of the 3rd — Teixeira singled and then scored on Brian McCann’s big 2-run home run. And in the 4th, the Rangers hit an inside-the-park home run to tie it back up again. (I think I’ve seen one of those maybe three or four times in my lifetime, by the way.)

All that offense and then nothing for a few innings. Justin Wilson came on for Sabathia in the 6th, but the 7th wasn’t great for either reliever. After the Yankees struck out twice, Mark Teixeira hit his 26th home run of the season (yes, yet another multi-home run game for Teixeira), once again a solo shot to that grassy field over the center field wall.

The Rangers answered back in the bottom of that inning. Wilson gave up a lead-off walk before giving up the ball to Dellin Betances, who wasn’t as Betances (can I still blame the heat?). A single put runners on the corners with no outs, and when a fielder’s choice got the batter out, a run to score to tie up the game once again. After another out and another walk to load the bases, Betances showed off his Betances stuff and struck out the batter with the bases loaded. In the 8th, the Rangers then did the same thing to the Yankees (bases loaded strikeout).

Betances got the 2 outs in the 8th, beautiful strikeouts, before reliever Nick Goody came on to get the final strikeout of the inning. Goody came back out for the 9th with the game still tied and promptly gave up a walk. It was time for Andrew Miller. Then after one out, there was a bit of a weird play — the batter hit the ball that hit the runner and bounced to Drew at 2nd who threw it to a waiting Teixeira, but the umpire called the runner out as he was hit and thus the batter was safe at 1st. (No, I don’t really understand the call, and yes, I’ve read everything from the rulebook to people’s explanations. Some rules/play calls don’t fit my idea of logic, but I’ll take it for what it was — an out.)

Anyway, the next batter was walked, which put 2 runners on base and 2 outs on the board. Then a batter singled into right field deep enough to score the lead runner in a walk-off win for the Rangers.

Final score from Texas: 7-6 Rangers, series split 2-2.

(Think of the Batman theme song, “duh-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…”) ROSTER MOVES! (My creativity this late isn’t great, I apologize!) Michael Pineda was supposed to start tonight’s game but due to forearm muscle strain and placed on the 15-day DL. For awhile, there was chatter about who was going to start (as I mentioned above), but Sabathia’s start got moved up. Bryan Mitchell and Nick Goody were brought back to give the bullpen those arms, and Goody was thrown into the deep end tonight.

And we have trade news that left many people confused or with mixed emotions. The Yankees acquired Dustin Ackley from Seattle. Ackley was their regular 2nd baseman until the Mariners got Cano two years ago, so Ackley has been playing most of his time in the outfield. In exchange, the Yankees sent pitcher Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores. (And yes, I am sad as you all probably know I like Flores this season from Spring Training through his debut this year.) Ackley quickly shaved off the beard that used to plague his face to show his new loyalty, and Flores tweeted his gratitude to the Yankees and hopefulness for a good future in Seattle.

Sabathia was also sent to the hospital following the game with symptoms of dehydration. (Now that I can blame on the heat!) He won’t be flying with the team to Chicago, but fortunately, he has some time to recover before his next start next week. And Ellsbury rolled his ankle on his last big play, a running catch right at the center field wall, but that just means rest and ice and tape and grin and bear it.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 64: NYY vs. MIA — Um, ouch… can we get a redo?

So basically, if you came into the game late, you missed it. And if you watched the 1st inning, chances are that you missed the rest of the game because you found something else more encouraging on TV — like the news about the tropical storm hitting Texas or who else threw their hat in the 2016 Presidential race or the latest update on the hacking scandal in the MLB world (more on that one at a later date).

The biggest news story (other than the aforementioned scandal) leading into tonight’s game was that the two pitchers that were keys to the off-season trade between the Yankees and the Marlins. The Yankees gave the Marlins reliever/starter David Phelps for Nathan Eovaldi. Phelps has been really good for the Marlins, as Nasty Nate has been for the Yankees. In other words, it’s been a good trade for both teams.

Until tonight. Phelps continued to prove why the Marlins are thankful for the trade, but Eovaldi faltered early and big. Nasty Nate couldn’t pitch his way out of anything tonight, not even making it out of the 1st inning. He threw 36 pitches, got just 2 outs, and gave up 9 hits and 8 runs. (Not a typo.) After a great groundout to lead-off the inning, Eovaldi’s missteps began — 3 singles loaded the bases, a 2-RBI single, then 3 consecutive RBI singles, a 2-RBI triple, a groundout (to his opposing pitcher), an RBI single, and an RBI double.

That was it for Eovaldi. And it was on to Chris Capuano for the long-haul tonight. Capuano got that elusive final out of that terrible 1st inning. Capuano would throw 77 total pitches into the 5th inning, keeping the Marlins from really doing much of anything under his watch.

In the 5th, with 2 (of his 5 total) strikeouts and 2 runners on base, Capuano turned the ball over to Chris Martin to finish the inning. And had Martin not thrown a perfect ball to Miami’s best hitter, things would’ve been just a bit nicer. Instead, that beautiful strike found the bat, that sent the ball over the center field wall for a big 3-run home run (2 of those runs charged to Capuano, unfortunately). A ground out closed out the 5th.

Martin didn’t give up anything else to the Marlins in the 6th and was able to hand over the game to Jose Ramirez for the final 2 innings. His 8th inning had some bumpy patches — a lead-off single and walk put runners on base, a 1-out wild pitch advanced them into scoring position, and then a 2-out single scored the lead runner.

And while the Marlins racked up a whopping 16 hits and 12 runs, the Yankees’ offense fell a bit short — 7 hits and 2 runs. In fact, the Yankees were chasing that big zero around the scoreboard well into the game.

It was the 6th inning that finally there was a breakthrough — with 2 outs, Gregorius singled, Teixeira walked, and then Brian McCann’s single scored Gregorius. “Finally, a run!” (Basically, what Yankees’ fans were saying everywhere, well those who were actually still watching the game.)  And, in the 7th, the Yankees found a hole again. Two strikeouts and Drew and Jones on the corners with a walk and a single, Mason Williams hit a big double and scored Drew.

Phelps was given a bit of a gift of some big hits in that 1st inning and finding his stride (a familiar sight to Yankee fans who remember the young pitcher from recent seasons), throwing 108 pitches over his 7 full innings against his former teammates. Look, I’ve always been big on giving credit where credit is due, and Phelps was really good tonight.

And while he lucked out with the run support, he certainly didn’t get it from his defense. Something, I’ve learned over the last couple of days — the Marlins have decent hitting, great pitching, and terrible defense.

Final score in Miami: 12-2 Marlins. (Series shifts to the Bronx for the split.)

Now before you feel too bad about that score, let me reassure you that this wasn’t the worst loss tonight. The Rays lost to the Nationals (at home) 16-4 — a 12-run loss. A 10-run loss doesn’t feel that bad now.

Nope, still stings. Losing always bites. Nevermind.

I sat for a long time trying to find some way to spin this positively on here. Um… it’s time to go home, Yankees. Reclaim your turf and your wins.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 63: NYY vs. MIA — Miami hotter than Tanaka, just barely

The Yankees flew south for the summer… well, for two days, at least. For an odd 4-game split with the Marlins, the Yankees are in Miami for a couple of days before they turn around and host them in the Bronx. Because the MLB schedule said so, I guess. I’ve said this before, but the schedule is rather strange this year for the Yankees, and this 4-game split is just one example to prove my point.

It would have been a much better game for the Yankees if their offense hadn’t dried up — 3 hits and 3 walks, striking out 10 times over the game. The lone run the Yankees scored was a big solo home run in the 2nd by (who else?) Mark Teixeira, his 18th homer of the season. And that was it. The Yankees just weren’t hitting or scoring runs beyond that.

Now, due to some pretty decent planning (nice job, Girardi!), the Yankees will send up their two starters that have pretty decent hitting records (or at least hitting records in the fairly recent history) — Tanaka tonight and Eovaldi (the former Marlin) tomorrow. And why is this important? Because the Marlins play in the NL, which means no DH.

So it was Masahiro Tanaka who got the start today against the Marlins, and he really did a decent job once again — 94 pitches over 7 innings, giving up 9 hits, 2 runs, and no walks, and striking out 6 batters. In the 2nd, a double scored on a deep single to tie up the game. Then in the 7th, a lead-off home run pushed the Marlins into the lead.

Now, then things got interesting. A single was sitting on 1st, and Tanaka threw over for a pick-off attempt. The runner was called safe, the Yankees challenge, and it was rightly overturned. And the game finally got interesting.

In the 8th, both starters were out of the game. And the Marlins called on what has to be their equivalent to Betances. He faced 3 of the Yankees good hitters and struck them all out — his fastballs ranging from 97-100mph and interspersed with curves and sliders in the low-80s. It was really nasty to watch. They have quite the gem in that pitcher.

And then it was Jose Ramirez’s turn on the mound for the Yankees, though he probably wishes he could get tonight back. A single, a hit-by-pitch (to Miami’s version of Jeter), and a walk loaded the bases without a single out. That was it. It’s one thing to lose a game when the opposing team earned their win, but it’s quite another to just give it away and let them run with it. So it was on to Sergio Santos, who desperately needed to redeem himself after his Yankee debut last week. Santos threw 10 pitches to get Miami batters to strike out twice and then line out directly to right field to a waiting Garrett Jones.

Final score: 2-1 Marlins.

For most of the game, it felt like it was just dragging right up until things started getting interesting — that 7th inning challenge and then that really rollercoaster 8th inning. But despite the feeling, it was still just a 2 hour, 41 minute game. And there were 33,961 fans (an almost sold-out crowd) to watch the show, decently split down the middle on loyalties. There were plenty of Yankees fans, often split family loyalties all over the stadium to enjoy the game.

Okay, tonight’s weird discovery (because I don’t really follow any of the other teams for obvious reasons): the Marlins are one of the many teams that have their players’ last names on the back of their jersey. But on the back of #51 isn’t “Suzuki” but rather “Ichiro”. Now, in case you were thinking that because the Japanese reverse the order of their names (surname then first name) that this actually works, you are wrong. His family name (surname, last name, whatever you call it) is Suzuki, and his first name is Ichiro. But I don’t think most people would know who of him would ever think “Suzuki”. I think he’s just “Ichiro” to everyone — like many other one-named phenomenons (Shaq, Jordan, Magic, Tiger, LeBron, Babe).

 

Injury update: Ivan Nova will complete one more rehab start before his return in pinstripes. He’s still with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team to do so, but the reports are coming back great. It’s going to be good to get Nova back in the rotation and shake up the pitching a bit. It will be interesting to see how everything falls into place around that move.

Go Yankees!

(And congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks on their Stanley Cup win. I know a ton of Lightning fans who aren’t very happy tonight, but there’s always next year. Or the year after that…)

Game 61: NYY vs. BAL — A single leads to a 2-run home run, apparently three times

I said yesterday that it’s easier to blame the “blackbird voodoo” of Camden Yards in Baltimore than to accept the loss for what it is — a reflection that the Yankees just got out-played tonight by the Orioles. I will say that it wasn’t nearly as terrible of a game as yesterday where it felt more like the Yankees just gave it away. No, tonight it was more a few pitches that favored the Orioles and earned them the game.

CC Sabathia took the mound tonight on a rather warm night in Baltimore, and due to the offensive attempts, wasn’t credited with a loss, but rather a no-decision. He threw 93 pitches over his 5 innings, gave up 8 hits, 4 runs, no walks, and 3 strikeouts. (It’s kind of hard to get used to Sabathia not being a big strikeout pitcher anymore.) Basically, Sabathia’s 3rd and 5th innings were freakishly similar. In the 3rd, the lead-off single scored on a 2-run home run before 2 ground outs and a strikeout. In the 5th, a lead-off single scored on a 2-run home run before a triple (the only anomaly), then 2 ground outs and a strikeout. Giving up home runs are difficult because they’re usually perfectly placed strikes that the hitter just finds and sends over the wall.

The Yankees actually got the jump on the scoring, like previously mentioned. In the 1st, with 2 outs and Headley on 2nd with a double, Mark Teixeira’s single scored Headley before Teixeira scored on Brian McCann’s double. And with the Yankees down 4-2 in the 6th inning, the Yankees earned those back — Headley led-off with a single and then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s home run (this seemed to be the theme of how to score tonight) to tie up the game. That home run was also Alex Rodriguez’s 2000th career RBI. (He’s also now just 5 hits away from the 3000 Hit Club.) The Yankees loaded the bases, changing pitchers twice and couldn’t bring those guys home to push the Yankees up and over the Orioles.

In fact, the Yankees wouldn’t score again the whole game.

Instead, at the bottom of the 6th, the ball was handed over to Chris Martin. Martin struggled his way through the 6th inning, 30 pitches, 4 hits, and 3 runs — a lead-off double, a wild pitch, an RBI single, a fly out, a single, a wild pitch, a 2-RBI single, a groundout, a wild pitch (yes, the 3rd this inning), and a line out. Not exactly the kind of outing you want to have in your first game back.

Then it was the newly acquired Sergio Santos for the 7th and 8th innings. While his pitch count was definitely better (at 31 over 2 innings), he still got a bit roughed up in the 7th. The lead-off batter hit the ball far enough to bounce off the wall near the top. Originally, the call was a standing triple for the batter, but upon an umpire review, they determined that where the ball hit was considered home run territory and thus awarded him a solo home run. Tough break for the first batter faced in Away Greys for Santos. Then with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd with a double, another double scored that runner pushing the Orioles even further on top of the Yankees.

And that was it for the scoring game tonight. But the one thing everyone was talking about was the spectacular catch by Mason Williams in the 4th — he ran 114 feet to catch the long fly ball before slamming into the fence area. Ouch. He’s okay though. They make athletes fairly tough.

Final score: 9-4 Orioles.

 

Roster moves: The Yankees found they needed right-handed pitchers in bullpen. So they moved the rookie Jacob Lindgren (a very good lefty) back AAA to make room for righty Jose Ramirez; and after outrighting Esmil Rogers to AAA, they had a spot to fill. Fortunately, the Yankees signed recent FA Sergio Santos to a minor league contract this past Tuesday, so they called him up today to take Rogers’ spot on roster and fill in another right-handed bullpen job. Unfortunately, Santos’ debut with the Yankees wasn’t exactly ideal, but once the Orioles had a solid lead, it didn’t seem to matter.

One more game in Baltimore tomorrow, and here’s to hoping against a sweep. Then, the Yankees head South to Miami for an odd 4-game split with the Marlins — 2 games in Miami, then 2 games back in the Bronx.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYY vs. KC — CC-sharp over “Midwestern Kings”

It was mentioned somewhere I read yesterday that the Yankees were very much looking forward to Saturday’s game due to the schedule pitcher. CC Sabathia has always done really well against the Royals, perhaps going back to his division rivalry days as an Indian a decade ago. But even in pinstripes, Sabathia seems to be able to stymie any attempt at a big offense by the Kansas City team.

And after whatever nightmare was last night, the Yankees were clinging to whatever hope they could. But prior to this weekend’s series, there was an overlying threat of some severe storms working their way into the area. I have some friends in Kansas City who are (I know, gasp!) Royals fans (or rather have been recently due to their AL Championship status last year), who were talking about both the game and the weather this weekend — two topics that are linked due to the outdoor, weather-susceptible atmosphere that is your standard baseball stadium.

So while the storm system (that, yes, carried a high potential for heavy rain and pesky tornadoes because it’s the Midwest) crept its way into the area, the Yankees sent Sabathia to the mound to start the game against the Royals. Sabathia proved that all that was suggested about his “superpower” against the Royals continues its accuracy. In his 7 sharp innings, Sabathia threw 87 pitches, gave up 6 hits, no walks, and 1 run, striking out 5 batters. The lone run of the Royals came in the 3rd inning, Sabathia’s weakest inning — 3 consecutive singles loaded the bases before a run scored on a sacrifice fly. But then Sabathia got back-to-back strike outs to strand the runners and get himself out of trouble. It was nice watching Sabathia find that old “CC Magic”.

To finish off the flair that was a great start in CC-World, the Yankees sent in their Dynamic Duo — Betances in the 8th, Miller in the 9th, each for 12 pitches with their pure pitching consistency.

I should also mention that the rain came along in the 5th inning and just poured for a good majority of the rest of the game. While the fans headed up to the concourse and inside the lounges for cover, the game kept playing, those players just plugging on through, dealing with whatever might come their way. Well, the Kauffman faithful donned their ponchos and other rain gear to stick it out with their boys, just in case their boys felt like playing better offense. But they didn’t, so that worked out in the Yankees’ favor. (And I’m really okay with that!)

Just before it started really raining, the Yankees had their own productive 3rd inning. The Royals starter struggled with location on his last outing (not against the Yankees), and tonight those struggles continues. Like in that 3rd inning, he walked Ellsbury, Rodriguez, and Teixeira before getting a sacrifice fly from Carlos Beltran that scored Ellsbury. The Royals starter managed to get out of the inning, but his struggles continued through his outing, driving up his pitch count.

In the 5th inning, after 2 quick outs, with Teixeira and Beltran on base with singles, Chase Headley hit a giant 3-run home run into the Royals’ bullpen. I should note this was in the heart of the driving rain. Yes, with the rain coming in and weighing down the pressure, Headley’s 394 foot homer still made it out of the park; imagine how far that ball might have gone without the precipitation.

That inning (but mainly that home run and his pitch count of 113 pitches) forced the starter out of the game and onto their long-term reliever, who did a better job at keeping the Yankees offense from doing further damage. That is for the first 3 of his innings. A 3-run lead just wasn’t enough, at least not after last night. The Yankees just wanted a bit of a twist in their win. So in the 9th inning, Alex Rodriguez hit his 10th home run of the season, a solo shot to right-center field.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees. (Yes, a much better night all around. Well, except for that pesky rainstorm.)

Roster moves: (just in the pitching category tonight) Jose Ramirez was optioned to AAA Scranton; for a fresh arm, Bryan Mitchell was called up; and Jared Burton was released from minor league contract.

Go Yankees!

Game 37: NYY vs. KC — Okay, Apathy, you win this Friday night. Whatever…

You know it’s not going to be a good night in baseball when the most interesting thing of the game is watching your Twitter feed compete for the wittiest comment on the awfulness that is the display on the field.

I did mention yesterday that the Royals are currently on the same kind of streak this month that the Yankees hit last month at this time. Though I don’t think anyone predicted the Yankee crumble as much as tonight’s game.

Actually, the game certainly wasn’t terrible until the latter half of the game. It wasn’t a memorable game until then either. Michael Pineda started tonight’s game for the Yankees, and despite not having the usual sharpness of his slider, still threw a decent game — 104 pitches over 5.1 innings, giving up 10 hits (off that bad slider mostly), no walks, and 5 runs, striking out just 1 Royals batter.

In the 1st, back-to-back doubles scored the Royals first run. And a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly. The Yankees offense answered back in the top of the 4th inning. Rodriguez hit a lead-off double, moved to 3rd on Teixeira’s single, and then scored on Brian McCann’s sacrifice fly to slice the Royals early lead in half.

Like I said, standard baseball stuff for the first half of the game. Both starters struggled in their own ways, and both ducked out in their own 6th innings. And that’s when things got weird.

So Pineda comes back for the 6th inning. A batter led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a triple. That runner easily scored on a single, and that’s when Pineda got pulled in favor of reliever David Carpenter. Carpenter’s lone batter reached on an unsuccessful fielder’s choice — runners safe at 1st and 2nd.

And onto Justin Wilson we go. A ground out moved the runners to scoring position, before they both scored on a deep single. A walk put runners on 1st and 2nd again. Then two back-to-back singles scored 2 more runs. And finally, it was time to call on newly recalled (more later) Jose Ramirez to get a pop out to mercifully end the inning.

But were the Royals content with an 8-1 lead? Of course not!

So onto the 7th inning… where 2 quick outs look promising for Ramirez. And then he can’t get an out to save his life — a walk, an RBI double, an RBI single, a wild pitch, another walk, and a 2-RBI double. And then it’s Branden Pinder to the rescue with a strikeout. Pinder’s 8th inning kept those pesky Royals from adding to their bloated score.

Final score: 12-1 Royals. (And I wish with all of my being that was a typo.)

When I look at both the Rays and the Royals and hold them in comparison to other recent opponents, the biggest difference I see is that the Rays and Royals are technically a “good team” and their pitching staff isn’t really their best quality. Especially when I think of recent teams like the Tigers, the Orioles, the Blue Jays, even the Mets — all have pretty good offense and pretty good pitching (with some glaring exceptions). The Royals are still riding their AL Championship high, and the Rays get an early season thrill of being the perpetual underdogs.

I don’t know. It’s still too early in the season to be making these kinds of conclusions and assumptions about how things will end up. I mean, there’s 125 more games to play until the postseason. That’s a lot of streaks to break, pitches to throw, bases to run, runs to score.

Whatever…

Chase Whitley’s MRI came back and showed a partial tear of his UCL, usually a direct line into the surgeon for Tommy John surgery. But he stayed behind in Tampa to confirm the tear with the Yankees’ medical staff there and will see the team head doctor in New York on Monday to make plans. This places him on the 15-day DL until more a permanent treatment plan is in place.

In his place, the Yankees recalled Jose Ramirez from AAA Scranton, but Ramirez is a bullpen guy. Whitley’s starting spot will be filled by Chris Capuano, beginning with Sunday’s game against the Royals. Hopefully, I’ll have written a much more positive post by then. Maybe even 2.

Tonight, I’m rather apathetic. So whatever…

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 25: NYY vs. TB — A bit of tug-of-war

Tug-of-war is probably a better description for the back-and-forth of the game today. And in spite of the power struggle for the win, it was a rather laidback kind of game.

Adam Warren took the start today for the Yankees in Port Charlotte against the Rays. Warren is currently the leading contender for that 5th starters’ position, and despite today’s outcome, he still maintained the game fairly well. He threw 3.2 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 walk, and just 1 run, striking out 5 Rays batters. That run was a solo home run in the bottom of the 2nd to the Rays’ best power hitter. The crowd loved it, but it gave Warren a no-decision (which is still better than a loss).

At the top of the 2nd, Refsnyder on base with a walk, Slade Heathcott’s solid double scored the first Yankees run. So by the end of the 2nd, the game was tied 1-1 — the tug-of-war was on. In the 4th, the Yankees grabbed the lead with 2 runners on base due to a single and walk that scored on Ramon Flores’ double. The Yankees were up 3-1. It would be the last time the Yankees held the lead in the game. (Cue the ominous music.)

Reliever Jose Ramirez took over for Warren to get the last out of the 4th inning and threw the 5th inning. It was in that latter inning he got himself into trouble and credited for a blown save. A single and a walk put runners on base, so the next two singles could score them both. Funny moment: on the last single, the batter ended up on 2nd on the throw home, but the lead runner (the previous single) stopped at 2nd to see if the throw would end up trying to get him out. Yes, there were 2 Rays players standing at 2nd for a brief moment before the Yankees tagged out the lead runner. Oops. And what’s worse (for the Yankees), it was the first out of that inning.

Chris Martin took the mound in the 6th inning and promptly gave up a solo home run, putting him on track for the loss. The next batter singled, stole 2nd and 3rd, and then scored on a wild pitch. 5-3 Rays.

But the Yankees weren’t about to let the Rays run away with the game. I mean, they are the Yankees after all. Flores led off the 7th with single and later scored on Didi Gregorius’ double (what was with the doubles in this game — the Yankees had 4 doubles of their 9 total hits). Then reliever Danny Burawa took over for the Yankees in the bottom of the 7th and gave up a triple and a sacrifice fly RBI. 6-4 Rays.

Again, the Yankees made a final attempt in the 9th inning. Figueroa, on base with a single and a stolen base (on defensive indifference), scored on Jake Cave’s solid line drive single into right field. A quick two outs later, the Rays emerged victors in a 6-5 win over the Yankees.

Roster moves: the Yankees officially released pitcher Jared Burton from his minor league contract.

And a fun fact for the day, to make up for the loss and celebrate the great history of the Yankees: 64 years ago, a young 19 year old kid from Oklahoma was in Yankees camp to see if he had the stuff to take over for the veteran outfielder, the great Joe DiMaggio. Yes, even Mickey Mantle had to prove he was worthy of a roster spot at one point. And on March 26, 1951, he certainly made a decent effort in a Spring Training game against USC, going 4-for-5 with a single, a triple, 2 home runs, and 7 RBIs. But it was his second home run that everyone talked about as it flew so far over the outfield fence (set at 344 feet) that it landed in the adjacent football field smack dab in the middle of a football huddle. Estimates place the distance somewhere between 550 and 600 feet (though initial estimates that created the legend had it at 656 feet).

And thus, The Legend of Mickey Mantle was born — the man who would help the Yankees continue their Golden Years into the 1960s, who admittedly found a few balls he “liked enough” to hit them out of the park, 536 career home runs. The great #7. He wasn’t DiMaggio’s replacement; no, he was just Mickey — the guy who carved his own niche in Yankees history like his predecessor and like so many others memorialized in Monument Park.

Because you can’t fill anyone’s shoes but your own. So why bother trying? Be the best you and that’s more than enough to be something special.

Go Yankees!