Spring Game 30: NYY vs. MIN — Farewell to Florida, with a win

And we’ve reached the penultimate game of the season. The Yankees headed south about 2 hours to Fort Myers to face the Twins on this lovely Sunday afternoon to close out their Florida-based Spring Training.

James “Big Maple” Paxton got the start this afternoon, throwing into the 6th inning and earning the eventual win. In the 4th, he gave up a lead-off single that scored on a double by a former Yankee (one of several familiar faces in today’s game). Later, in the 6th, a lead-off walk (also a former Yankee) scored on a double (another one) to double the Twins’ score.

Luis Cessa closed out the 6th for Paxton cleanly, but found his own spot of trouble in the 7th when a 1-out triple scored on a sacrifice fly (surprisingly, none of which were former Yankees). JP Feyereisen got his shot at Spring for an inning with a flawless 8th inning, and Alvarez closed out the game with a scoreless 9th.

While the Twins got the lead first, the Yankees were quick to answer back. In the top of the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases. Greg Bird’s ground out still moved all the runners up and scored lead runner Castillo. Romine worked a walk to load the bases again before the Twins changed pitchers. Clint Frazier promptly hit a solid bases-clearing double to place the Yankees in a firm lead.

In the 7th, Matt Lipka led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Castillo’s double. It was the insurance run they wouldn’t need with the way they were playing in the second half of the game, a stark difference to yesterday.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankee head north in preparation for the regular season’s start on Thursday with a quick stop in our nation’s capital. They play a final Spring exhibition game at Nationals Park tomorrow night.

This last stop in a big league park gig, something that really began as a way to open new parks (like they did with the Braves’ new home stadium in 2017) is becoming a pattern across the league. It’s kind of a nice transition between Spring Training and the Regular Season. Now, if only we can get them to play all the April games in southern cities so we don’t have to worry about snow-out games…

Roster moves: We have a final 25-man roster. The biggest surprise was earlier today when the Yankees announced they optioned Tyler Wade to AAA Scranton. This means they chose their latest Yankee Mike Tauchman and his veteran versatility in the outfield over Wade’s more natural infielding skills. Certainly a disappointment for the young player, but I can’t imagine he won’t be one of the first called up when something happens.

Here’s the 2019 Yankee roster: catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine; infielders Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and DJ LeMahieu; outfielders Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman; starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia; and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley.

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 25: NYY vs. DET — Sad and soggy vernal equinox

Well, today is the official first day of Spring, though storms slamming the Northeast again and dropping over a foot in some areas certainly lead some to question that term. And here in Florida, we were slammed with our own Spring storm (that actually temporarily closed the airport) — some super heavy rain, a tornado watch, and strong winds. Some local residents are without power as a result, but the storm is continuing its march way across the state as I write this.

And the game between the Yankees and Tigers in Lakeland didn’t escape the storm, with a big deluge in the 5th inning. Two games closer to the Gulf Coast (in Clearwater and Sarasota) were called early or cancelled all together (respectively). The other games in Florida were played on the Atlantic Coast and escaped this afternoon’s mess. But in central Florida, the game played on.

Brady Lail got the start in today’s game, setting a pattern of less than stellar pitching that most of the Yankees’ pitchers certainly continued through this afternoon. In the 1st, Lail gave up consecutive walks that promptly scored on an RBI single and sacrifice fly to put the Tigers in the lead early. Ben Heller came on to finish the 2nd for Lail and kept them to that scored until the 4th inning where he found his own issues. He gave up a 1-out double that scored on a single, and after a double moved runners to scoring position, the Yankees went back to their bullpen again.

Cody Carroll came on to give up a single that scored both waiting runners to push the Tigers further in the lead. He gave up a 1-out solo home run in the 5th just as the rain really started dropped heavily over the open stadium. But despite giving up a couple of hits, Giovanny Gallegos had a scoreless 6th inning to shift the momentum, and JP Feyereisen continued this new wave with a scoreless 7th.

But then the 8th caused its own troubles again. Matt Frawley gave up a lead-off walk that scored on a long triple, and that runner then scored on a 1-out single. James Reeves came on in relief and got out of the inning with 2 strong strikeouts. In one of those weird statistical outcomes, the Yankee pitchers gave up 14 hits but also got 12 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually got on the board first behind Tyler Wade’s lead-off triple in the 1st inning. Wade then scored easily on Neil Walker’s single. But the Yankees were held off for much of the game from advancing their score. With 2 outs in the 8th, Peterson singled to get on base, and pinch-hitter Jorge Saez smacked a monster 2-run home run up the middle to add a bit to the Yankees’ score. So far behind at this point, the Yankees eventually just ran out of innings for any chance of a comeback.

Final score: 8-3 Tigers

Next up: The Yankees return back to Tampa to host the Orioles tomorrow night. It’s set to be another chilly, dry night, which will be a nice break from the recent heat this week and today’s rather soggy weather. Luis Cessa is currently scheduled to start the game.

Tomorrow night, the Yankees will also formally announce plans for their 2018 HOPE Week (their 10th season). They will honor 5 individuals or organizations who have impacted their community over the week of June 11-15. To kick off this year’s events, they will honor Computer Mentors Group, a non-profit in the Tampa area that helps connect computer professionals with inner-city youth in a local mentorship program.

Another lighter note: The Yankees’ cheesy ads continue to be rolled out. This time, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman will “bring the heat” in a parody of so many low-budget local repair ads. This one features cameos by Sanchez and fellow relievers Robertson, Kahnle, and Green. I am loving these ads by the way.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video today again. Is anyone else so ready for the season to start?}

Spring Game 22: NYY vs. DET — No St. Patrick’s Day Luck for the Yankees this year

Since 2006, the Yankees have certainly had mixed luck on this day. Including today’s game, they’ve had 7 wins, 5 losses, and 1 rain out. Four of those games were against the Pirates (3 wins and a rain out), two against the Tigers, two vs. the Phillies (both losses), and one each against the Blue Jays, Astros, Rays, Red Sox, and Cardinals. In other words, there’s no consistency that superstitious people could possibly cling to. And today, you might need to drown your sorrows in that awful green beer or cry into your “I only wear green today” shirt. Despite being yet another beautiful day at the ball park, it was not a pleasant day at the ball park.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in today’s game in Lakeland against the Tigers. He did not have the greatest outing only throwing into the 3rd inning. But of his 10 outs, 6 of them were solid strikeouts. The Tigers were just hitting a lot off Yankee pitchers today. The Tigers’ start power-hitter started things with a 2-out solo home run in the 1st inning. But then Tanaka breezed through the 2nd inning, so things were looking up. For a moment.

In the 3rd, Tanaka gave up a big 1-out triple that scored on a 2-run home run to give the Tigers the lead. The next batter made it to 1st safely on a wild pitch, despite striking out. After another out, Tanaka gave up his lone walk before a single scored another run for the Tigers. That was it for Tanaka, handing the ball over to prospect pitcher Cody Carroll. And despite loading up the bases with a walk, Carroll got himself out of that jam and safely through the 4th inning.

Domingo German got his shot for 2 relief innings, but had his own troubles today. In the 5th, he gave up a single that scored on a double. Another single moved runners to the corners, and one out later, a fielding error allowed another run to score. Then in the 6th, he loaded up the bases with a single, a ground out, and 2 walks before a sacrifice fly easily scored yet another run.

JP Feyereisen got his shot to struggle along with the rest of the pitchers today for the final 2 innings. In the 7th, he gave up a lead-off walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to cap off the Tigers’ scoring. It’s worth noting that Feyereisen had 4 solid strikeouts (of his 6 total outs) and breezed his way through the 8th unscathed.

Actually, the statistics for both pitching staffs were nearly parallel — each gave up 10 hits, 4-6 walks, and 12-13 total strikeouts. But the biggest difference is that pesky runs scored stat. The Yankees actually got on the board in the 1st inning. Brandon Drury worked a 1-out walk, moved to 3rd on Bird’s double, and then scored on a balk. Bird later scored on Miguel Andujar’s single to give the Yankees an early lead they clearly couldn’t keep.

Though they certainly tried. Like in the 4th, Kratz led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Torreyes’ walk, and then scored on Estevan Florial’s single, aided partly by a fielding error. Wade’s walk loaded up the bases, but the Yankees failed to capitalize on that opportunity. And far too many today.

Final score: 9-3 Tigers

Next up: The Yankees host the Marlins tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon behind Luis Severino.

And speaking of pitchers, the Yankees announced their starting rotation for the 2018 season. Luis Severino will be the official Opening Day starter when the Yankees play against the Blue Jays on March 29. The four game series there will feature Tanaka, Sabathia, and Gray for the other 3 games. That leaves Jordan Montgomery to start the home opener against the Rays on April 2. It is interesting the Yankees are looking at their youngest pitchers to fill these key roles. Perhaps, it’s a sign that the Yankees are leaning toward their strong young players.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 19: NYY vs. BAL — Not a good Chance at a W today

It was a beautiful day again in sunny Florida as the Yankees traveled about an hour south to face the Orioles at their Spring home field in Sarasota. The Yankees have been having a mixed bag as far as game results recently, which is a huge let-down after a strong start to the Spring. But today certainly wasn’t going to help turn that in the Yankees’ favor.

Chance Adams got the start today and really just struggled his way through 5 outs, giving up 7 total hits and 5 runs, striking out just 1 Orioles’ batter. In the 1st, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, advanced to 3rd on a ground out and then scored as part of a big 2-run home run to get the O’s on the board early. But the 2nd inning spun out of control for the young prospect pitcher. He quickly gave up a single and double to put runners in scoring position. With 1 out, Adams threw a messy pitch that got past Romine, but they hustled and made the out at home in a great defensive show. But then a single scored a run, and another 2-run home run broadened the O’s lead.

That would be all for Adams today. He was just not having a good pitching day. Cody Carroll came on to finish off the 2nd for Adams, but then he found his own issues in the 3rd. His lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a single. But Carroll was able to minimize the damage and hand the ball over to David Hale to finish that inning.

Hale went on to throw through a clean 4th, 5th, and into the  inning, handing things off to Wade LeBlanc for the final out of the 6th. But then LeBlanc had a momentary blip of his own in the 7th. He gave up a lead-off double and a single, and a stolen base put 2 runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly scored the lead runner before LeBlanc got 2 fly outs to close out the inning. JP Feyereisen threw a beautiful 8th inning, easily the best pitched inning by a Yankees’ pitcher all day. That last opinion is thanks in part to staring at the single statistic of 16 total hits allowed by Yankee pitchers today.

Meanwhile, Yankee batters collected 7 hits (and 5 walks), but only eked out a few runs in comparison to the hefty lead the Orioles racked up so early this afternoon. The Yankees’ biggest opportunity came early in the game, in the 2nd inning. They loaded up the bases quickly as Drury and McKinney worked walks and Romine singled. Ronald Torreyes hit into a little ground out that moved all the runners up and scored Drury. Shane Robinson hit a 2-out single to score the remaining runners, McKinney and Romine. Erik Kratz added one more to the Yankees’ score with a 1-out solo home run in the 4th. But outside of that, the Yankees just weren’t once again capitalizing on their opportunities.

Final score: 7-4 Orioles

Up Next: the Yankees return back to Tampa to host the Pirates tomorrow afternoon. Sonny Gray is to be the starting pitcher.

Before the game today, the Yankees released veteran infielder Adam Lind. Lind is now able to find a spot on another team seeking his skills and veteran presence, which will certainly be an asset wherever he lands. His release comes in part due to the strong Spring for Greg Bird and his assumed back-up Tyler Austin at 1st and with the rest of the infield being dominated by the recent signing of Neil Walker and other strong Springs for Drury, Wade, Andujar, and Torreyes. (And, of course, the lone assured infield spot at shortstop in Didi Gregorius.)

There’s been a lot of conversation about who would end up making the starting roster after this Spring. And while I do much of it privately and in person at games with other fans, I don’t do much on this blog because I don’t like to publish my speculations. Partly because I would have definite proof of how often I’m super wrong. And partly because I prefer to discuss actual facts and opine about tangible things. However, seeing as we have just 12 days left of Spring Training, one MLB writer came up with a pretty good prediction, adjusted for recent issues with injury and Spring performance. I do mostly agree with his opinions on this, but it still gives enough room for the final two weeks of games before Opening Day. Because stuff happens and baseball is certainly not predictable.

And for all those interested, Reggie Jackson‘s knee surgery yesterday went well and is on the mend. He was scheduled to go home from the hospital today and will have a few weeks before him to rest and heal and get back to walking again. Jackson slipped and fell on his knee during a morning walk on Tuesday. Doctors opted for surgery to repair the damage on the 72-year-old Hall of Famer. Get well soon, Mr. October!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 11: NYY vs. DET — Last chance power again saves the day

Giancarlo Stanton got a second chance in left field in today’s game in Lakeland against the Tigers, and had a pretty good afternoon. No sun distractions, no errors, a bit of a redemption day for the outfielder, who was drafted as a center fielder and moved to right to accommodate a teammate on the Marlins. Sunday’s home game against the Rays was the first time Stanton had ever professionally played in left field, but today’s game was the first time the Yankees can consider it worth considering a possibility for the veteran player. With five strong regular players (Stanton, Judge, Ellsbury, Gardner, and Hicks) and some stellar AAA level guys (like Frazier, Cave, and Austin), the outfield is busting at the seams with some of the best outfielders in the business. Flexibility will be key to juggling the 2018 outfielders, and also heavily weighted in case of injury.

Anyway, Jordan Montgomery got his third start of the Spring, pitching into the 4th inning, but struggling really only in the 2nd. With 1 out, he loaded the bases with 2 walks and a single, before another allowed walk scored the Tigers’ first run. Montgomery was able to keep the Tigers from doing much more than that in his tenure. Jonathan Holder came on in relief to close out the 4th and pitch through the 5th, but there he too had a spot of trouble. A ground-rule double led off the inning, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on a long single.

But then the Yankees’ pitchers breezed through the rest of the game, led by Chasen Shreve for 4 outs in the 6th and 7th. Cody Carroll finished off the 7th and threw into the 8th, all 3 of his outs were strong strikeouts. Trevor Lane’s 2 outs to finish the 8th continued the magic, and prospect JP Feyereisen gave up 2 baserunners, but kept the 9th inning scoreless thanks mostly to a great defense behind him.

Meanwhile, the Tigers’ pitchers really had both the most trouble and the most success against the Yankees’ batters — giving up 12 total hits but getting 14 total strikeouts. In the 4th, Stanton hit a 1-out double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single to tie up the game and get the Yankees on the board. With 2 outs in the 6th, Sanchez worked a walk, moved to 2nd on Hicks’ single, and then scored on Adam Lind’s single.

But it would be the final 2 innings that made the difference of the game. In the 8th, Tyler Austin led-off with a double and ended up at 3rd when Shane Robinson reached safely on a fielding error, and Kratz’s walk loaded up the bases. Estevan Florial hit into a ground out at 2nd, but allowed Austin to score and leave runners in the corners. In a cool double steal, Robinson scored and Florial moved to 2nd. And in the 9th, Wade made it all the way to 2nd due to a fielding error and ended up at 3rd on Torreyes’ single. Despite a stolen base getting Torreyes into scoring position, Billy McKinney smacked a big 3-run home run to clear the bases and solidify the Yankees’ win today.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees continue this away jaunt with a road trip to visit the Mets’ Spring home in Port St. Lucie. PSL is about 3 hours (160 miles) across the state on the Atlantic coast, about halfway between Melbourne and West Palm Beach. The Mets will visit Tampa on Saturday to return the favor for the regular season crosstown rivals.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no broadcast, no available highlights to share. Sorry! McKinney is always wonderful to watch hit, so I imagine we’ll get another chance to showcase his upcoming power via video.}

Spring Game 8: ATL vs. NYY — Tanked out, but a strong comeback for a walk-off

Today started out so overcast and humid, but by game time, the sun was out and shining and the sky was back to its beautiful, clear blue. Plus, the humidity left with the grey clouds, leaving a slight breeze and little puffy white clouds to dot the sky about the stadium as the Yankees hosted the Braves.

Masahiro Tanaka got his Spring debut today, and it certainly didn’t go as planned. After a strikeout to the lead-off batter, he walked the next guy who ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out ground-rule double to put the Braves in an early lead. It didn’t help that the next batter hit a big 2-run home run to solidify that lead. Tanaka came back out for his second inning to give up a lead-off double that scored on a 1-out double. That would be it. Not exactly the greatest start to the year, more in line with his 2017 regular season and the opposite of his 2017 Spring (where he was just dominant).

Chasen Shreve came on in relief for the final 2 outs of the 2nd and kept the Braves scoreless through the 3rd, which set a pattern for the rest of the afternoon. Showing off further reasons as to why he belongs in the starting rotation again, Jordan Montgomery took 3 innings and certainly helped keep the Braves’ offense from advancing, with 5 strikeouts across his 9 outs. Tommy Kahnle and Jonathan Loaisiga continued that scoreless streak in the 7th and 8th, both with 2 strikeouts of their own. But it was prospect pitcher JP Feyereisen who breezed his way through a quick 3 outs in the 9th inning for an impressive close of today’s “bullpen”, setting himself up for his 2nd win of the season so far.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense had quite the lead to chip away at this afternoon. In the 4th, Bird worked a 1-out walk and moved to 2nd on Gregorius’ single. They would both then score on Miguel Andujar’s deep double to halve the Braves’ lead. In the 5th, the Yankees sent Russell Wilson (yes, that one) lead-off with a pinch-hit and unfortunately strikeout. I haven’t heard a crowd give such a cheering applause for a strikeout of the home team since Billy Crystal‘s famous Spring Training strikeout in March 2008. He leaves camp on Sunday, so fans today were in for what may be the only time they could see him take an at-bat outside of some minor league games this summer.

Anyway, after Wilson’s celebrated strikeout, Stanton hit a nice double to get on base, and Bird worked a 2-out walk. The Braves’ lead then narrowed as Didi Gregorius singled home Stanton. So going into the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees were down by just one run. Wade led-off the inning with a single. Torres hit into a grounder to short, and the Braves got the first part of the double play with Wade out at 2nd but a sloppy throw to 1st allowed Torres to make it safely. It would be Tyler Austin’s monster 2-run home run up the middle that would win the game in that amazing walk-off fashion.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees

One to watch: I debated all game and on the way home as to who I would pick today. But I’m going with pitcher JP Feyereisen. This was his 2nd win of the Spring already, and his flawless, quick 9th inning helped keep the Yankees’ momentum going and set them up for Austin’s great walk-off home run. Don’t get me wrong — those monster hits and home runs are always fun to watch. But as they say: “if you don’t got pitching, you don’t got nothin’!” The stark difference between Tanaka’s brief outing today and every successive pitcher proves that so very true. Feyereisen came with fellow stellar pitchers Ben Heller and Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier in the July 2016 trade that sent closer Andrew Miller to Cleveland. While I do miss Miller, the Yankees got 4 outstanding players that are certainly making their mark and already building their Yankee legacy, including my O2W today.

Injury news: about 30 minutes before the game, Jacoby Ellsbury was scrapped from the lineup due to tightness in his right side, later diagnosed as a “mild oblique strain”. It doesn’t seem serious (as say Frazier’s still lingering concussion symptoms), but there’s no set time-table yet as to when he might be back in the lineup.

And just before the game, the Yankees announced that they signed free agent veteran 1st baseman and outfielder Adam Lind to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and an opt-out option after the Spring. Lind is a 12 year MLB veteran, spending most of that with the Blue Jays (2006-2014) before bouncing to the Brewers, Mariners, and Nationals the last 3 seasons. Lind gives the Yankees potential veteran options in the roster should they choose to go that route.

Next up: The Yankees travel about 2 hours (or 140 miles) down the Florida Gulf Coast to face off against the Red Sox at “Fenway South” in Ft. Myers. #2 Yankee Prospect Chance Adams is on tap to start the rivalry game.

Go Yankees!