Game 20: NYY vs. BOS — A rainy Tanaka is still an amazing Tanaka

Okay, bad news first: after initial tests, the doctors recommended that Ivan Nova should have surgery (the old Tommy John kind), which means he could be out 12-18 months, essentially the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. He is wisely (and perhaps hopefully) seeking a second opinion before making his decision, but that is the usual route in these cases. It’s not great, especially because he’s been so on point, but he’s young enough to make a good recovery and comeback. Continued prayers and wishes for good health.

Oh, and it was pouring in Boston for tonight’s game. Just a little bit at first, but by the 9th inning, I was wondering when Noah was going to stop by with his ark.

Good news? Well, it’s always good news when the Yankees beat the Red Sox. And thanks to some truly outstanding pitching by the Yankees, they beat them solidly. The Red Sox got a firsthand view of Masahiro Tanaka tonight and figured out rather quickly why he’s been hyped up. Tanaka threw 105 pitches over 7.1 innings, allowed 7 hits and 2 runs, striking 7 batters. Those 2 runs came courtesy of 2 back-to-back solo home runs in the 4th inning. And other than that, it was a standard Tanaka outing. Even the talking heads calling the game (not from YES Network, but the “other guys”), who are usually part of the anti-Yankee media crowd, couldn’t stop gushing over Tanaka.

Dellin Betances came on in relief for Tanaka in the 8th and carried his unshakable consistency into the 9th. His two flaws were 2 doubles in the 9th, one added another run, giving the Red Sox a total of 3 runs. But he closed the game as the rain continued to pour, chasing the Fenway Faithful up under the overhangs.

Both Tanaka and Betances were certainly aided by the Yankees offense that seemed to chip away early at the Red Sox ace. Leading off, Jacoby Ellsbury (incessantly booed throughout by his former fans) tripled, halted at 3rd by fan interference (and a minor dispute). Derek Jeter singled him home before advancing to 3rd himself on a passed ball. He would then score on Carlos Beltran’s single. In the 3rd, 3 back-to-back-to-back doubles by Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann scored 2 more runs.

After the Red Sox gained brief momentum in the 4th, the Yankees came roaring the next inning to ensure their lead. Teixeira and McCann on base with a walk and a single, and 2 outs on the board, Brian Roberts reached on a fielding error as Teixeira comes jogging home. Ellsbury then doubled home both McCann and Roberts and then made it home himself on Jeter’s 3,333 hit (a single). Beltran would add one more in the 8th with a deep solo home run into the right field seats. And the Yankees slogged their way off the flooded field with a 9-3 win.

Look, I said this in Spring Training, and I’ll say it again after watching tonight’s game, these Red Sox are not the 2013 Red Sox. I’ve already heard someone blaming the weather for their sloppy fielding, lack of offense, and weak pitching. Honestly, that’s a cop out. Inclement weather (be it rain, snow, cold, heat, or otherwise) is always terrible and it does affect play and playing ability. But a great team still pushes through and makes the best of it. You can still be a team in terrible weather, you can still hit the ball in terrible weather, and you can still make basic plays in terrible weather. No one’s expecting “The Avengers in the Outfield” (I claim residuals for my idea, Marvel), superhero-level strength and ability when it’s pouring rain, but at the professional level, people expect the professional. You can’t magically create a team in bad weather if you’re not a team in good weather.

But this isn’t 2013, and for that, especially as a Yankees fan, I am truly grateful. The Red Sox can have 2013, and honestly, the city of Boston needed that. But this is our year…

Go Yankees!

 

Games 14 & 15: CHC vs. NYY — Doubleheader shutout sweep

67 years ago yesterday, Jackie Robinson played in his first MLB game, officially breaking the color barrier and changing the landscape of baseball forever. Recently, MLB has seen a recent downturn in black players on starting rosters and have hosted diversity seminars to brainstorm ways to increase the diversity in the league. There is definitely a presence of Hispanic players in the league, and of course the increase of Asian players seems dripping with a ridiculous amount of international press coverage. But with college scholarships, larger signing bonuses, and societal expectations leading African-American potential players toward other professional sports (football and basketball jump to mind), there has been a steady decline in baseball, which is a shame because we all know baseball is so much better than every other sport.

Mandela-Robinson
(at L) Nelson Mandela at Yankee Stadium in 1990, (at R) Jackie Robinson playing baseball, honored for their courage and conviction today and forever in Monument Park (photo via cbsnewyork.com)

Now, last year, on Jackie Robinson Day (and heightened by the release of his Hollywood biopic 42), I thought about how so many players wouldn’t have a career without that day almost seven decades ago, not just the black players but also those of Hispanic, Asian, or mixed heritage. And that got me thinking about the current roster for the Yankees. In fact, their entire starting rotation has benefited from this anniversary — Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Tanaka, and Pineda, arguably one of the best starting rotations in the entire league. Also on the Yankees are players of all sorts of backgrounds and ethnicities to back up their amazing starters. And to me, that reminds me of the very city they play in — New York is a ridiculous melting pot of ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity.

So, in the very city (or rather neighboring borough) that broke the barrier that prevented anyone from playing the greatest sport in the world, we have a wonderfully diverse team that is set on continuing the tradition for excellence in athletics, something Robinson himself certainly sought during his time in New York (albeit in Brooklyn).

In addition to celebrating Robinson tonight before the second game of the doubleheader, the Yankees honored the late Nelson Mandela, who visited New York and Yankee Stadium in 1990, shortly after he was released from serving 27 years in a South African prison for fighting for his country’s civil rights. Tonight, the Yankees unveiled a plaque to celebrate his life and work to help break the barrier in his country and support those around the world who sought to do the same. Robinson’s widow and daughter and Mandela’s grandson were present for the pre-game ceremony.

But today in the Bronx, it was quite chilly for the doubleheader against the Cubs (I’m thinking the players are more than a little anxious to leave the 40-something degree weather for the weekend series in sunny Florida). Because of the storm front yesterday that brought some late spring ice and snow to the area and the chilly temperatures, yesterday’s postponed game was played this afternoon. And it was Masahiro Tanaka‘s turn to dazzle the crowd once again with 107 pitches, 8 innings, just 2 hits (wimpy little bunts), and a walk. But what was spectacular was the 10 solid strikeouts, which set a record for Yankee pitchers at 28 in his first 3 games. No, he was something to watch again, and it just stunned the Cubs. Shawn Kelley came in for the save in the 9th, getting his 4th.

Carlos Beltran got the offense going with his fourth home run of the year right in the 1st inning. In the 4th, with bases loaded, Dean Anna hit a nice sacrifice fly to score a sliding McCann, who got in just under the tag. Gardner, on base with a ground-rule double in the 5th, scored on Ellsbury’s groundout, which came with its own bit of drama. Apparently, it should have been called a “catcher’s interference“, but because a run scored, the Yankees opted to take the out to allow the run to score (and only former catcher Girardi seemed to know and understand this part of the rule); had they gone with the interference call, Ellsbury would be on 1st, but Gardner couldn’t score on that play. It was more important for the run to score than an out to be called.

And so the Yankees sat at 3-0 for the first game.

Of course, the game was not without a little drama. The Cubs challenged two calls. The first one was a bunt in the 2nd inning that was initially called out, but replays and the umpires did confirm the Cubs challenge and overturned it. (It became one of the hits Tanaka “allowed”.) Then in the 7th, a short hopper deflected off Tanaka, which Anna grabbed on the infield grass and tossed to 1st to get the out. The Cubs challenged it, but replays and the umpires denied the challenge, and the out stood as called.

Game over, stadium cleaned, dinner break, pre-game ceremonies to honor Robinson and Mandela, and it was play ball part 2.

This time, Michael Pineda took the mound for his 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and a walk to the Cubs. Phelps, Thornton, and Warren (who would get the save) finished the last 3 innings to keep the Cubs scoreless. Unlike last time, there was no drama with Pineda, but the nail-biting 9th certainly threatened the Yankees lead and made the entire crowd (or whoever was left in tonight’s windy cold stands) groan, then cheer, then groan, then finally cheer.

Now, for the evening game, the Yankees racked up the hits with a total of 12 against the Cubs’ pitchers. But out of that, they only cobbled together 2 runs — a Gardner RBI single in the 4th and a Sizemore RBI single in the 5th. And that put the Yankees solidly at 2-0 for the second shutout of the day, and sweep of the Cubs during their 2-game stint in the Bronx.

Two amusing plays tonight: Alfonso Soriano made a long run into the side wall to catch a fly ball in the 6th that some grabby fans tried to reach over and take out of play, but Soriano grabbed it first and made the out with flair and panache that can only be described as “Sori-style”. And in the 3rd, Derek Jeter hit what should have easily been a groundout, but the 2nd baseman literally let the ball pass between his legs and slowly roll into the shallow infield; Jeter jogs his way all the way to 2nd, before anyone even laid hands (or glove) on the ball.

Okay, Scott Sizemore is looking more and more like a great grab for the Yankees, who went 2-for-3 at bat and made some very good defensive plays at 3rd. But with all the newer talent on the roster, it certainly seems like quite an upgrade (Solarte, Sizemore, Tanaka, Pineda, Johnson, and Beltran, just to name a few). Everyone (even those just “filling in”) seems to be contributing far and above expectations, and that gives me an early (and fairly solid) hope for October.

And on Jackie Robinson Day, it’s good to see a tradition of excellence continue in such full force.

Go Yankees!

Game 9: BAL vs. NYY — Tanaka’s Bronx debut no-decision

Almost 40,000 people showed up for Masashiro Tanaka’s debut in the Bronx, and with a sole exception, he proved pretty much Tanaka-esque. 101 pitches, 7 innings, 7 hits and 3 runs allowed and the first walk by a Yankee starter since last Thursday in Houston. But what made it more Tanaka was the 10 amazing strikeouts he dealt the Orioles, and those, combined with the 8 from his start in Toronto last weekend, now sets the record for most strikeouts by a starter in their first two MLB games with 18.

Now, those 3 runs came tumbling through the 2nd inning. Two singles set the stage for a pitch left a little too high in the strike zone to find a rocket shot 3-run home run out to left field. Tanaka didn’t let anyone else by him, and he was greatly helped by the team in the process. Like in the 6th inning, when the quick three outs came from a line drive to Gardner in center field, a sliding catch by Soriano in left, and a great bouncing stop and quick throw out by Roberts at 2nd.

And to help give Tanaka a no-decision, the Yankees decided to even things up. In the bottom of the 2nd, leading off the inning, Carlos Beltran properly earned his pinstripes with his first solo home run as a Yankee this season, a long homer into the second deck past right field. Two outs later, Kelly Johnson shoots his own solo homer to add to the score. Then in the 4th, Beltran, on with a lead-off double, went on to score on Alfonso Soriano’s ground out to tie up the game 3-3.

And there they sat. Thornton and Warren splitting the 8th inning and keeping the Orioles hitless and scoreless. It was just 3 outs before the Yankees could do something every fan loves to see (the “walk-off” something to win it).

But then there was trouble.

The back-up closer Shawn Kelley (can I interject that I already hate using the term “back-up” because of the current injury list?) really struggled through his 9th inning. A lead-off double, a single, and an RBI single to start the inning, and with no outs; things were looking grim. Another single loaded the bases as the heart of the Orioles lineup were lined up for action. A sacrifice fly scored another run, before somehow Kelley managed to strikeout their best hitter and get the next one to ground out. 30 pitches, 4 hits, 2 extra runs later. The score was 5-3 Orioles.

So Soriano gets things started with a solid double and moves to 3rd on Johnson’s single. (Is anyone else loving Johnson’s offensive spark right now?) Soriano scores on Roberts sacrifice fly, making it 5-4 Orioles. And while the sight of Solarte has been a sigh of relief lately, he proved he is also human and grounded into a double play to end the game right there.

Game over. Baltimore wins 5-4, plus they take the series 2-1. Better luck next time.

And that’s the great part about being so early in the season — there’s always a next time. Perhaps, the Yankees are storing up the greatness for this next 4-game home stand against the Red Sox. And then again, there’s always next time. ‘Tis the way it is with baseball (and so often with life) that when things just don’t go the way you want, you got to pick it all up, learn from your mistakes, capitalize on your successes, develop everything in between, and just try again next time. Baseball is a game of failure, yes, but it’s those that keep getting up, wipe the dirt off, and then push on for one more play, one more out, one more game that end up in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

Game 4: NYY vs. TOR — Tanaka’s debuting win

Last night, the Yankees loaded up their charter plane and took off for their weekend series against Toronto. Shortly after take-off, the pilot informed them that it might be a bit of a bumpy ride due to the storm system that basically followed the Appalachians up, or the path their flight is to take to Canada. Several tiring, severely turbulent hours later, the Yankees arrived in Toronto about 6 am, crashed at their hotel, and trudged into batting practice later that afternoon before tonight’s game.

Girardi would later call the flight the “knuckleball express”. And the weather in Toronto isn’t cooperating either, so the dome is closed at Rogers Centre. (By the way, they may have snow tomorrow, so I’m guessing the dome will stay pretty well closed this weekend.) This also forced him to rest a few starters like Jeter and Roberts (more on why this didn’t work later), something he usually opts to anyway because of the horrific artificial turf in Toronto.

Now, someone who wasn’t on the plane was tonight’s starter Masahiro Tanaka, who flew ahead of the team, knowing that the team would leave late and wanting to get a full rest before his first MLB start. And it seemed to pay off. Despite the hundreds of Japanese press that turned out to document every nuance of his pitching (and a live broadcast back to Japan), Tanaka showed why he was worth all the “fuss”, as some people seem to be calling it. Well, he did have some moments where the pressure seemed to get to him in the beginning.

Tanaka’s 97 pitches were spread out over 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and striking out 8 Blue Jay batters. Tanaka’s 3rd pitch was a hanging change-up that the lead-off batter got too big a piece of and promptly put it over the right-center field wall. (For those of you who like random sports trivia: it was Melky Cabrera that spoiled Tanaka’s first face-off in his MLB debut.) Then in the 2nd inning, a back-to-back singles put runners on base; the bases loaded on a throwing error given to Mark Teixeira (though that’s debatable as the runner to 2nd seemed to get in the way and bounce the ball off his helmet). Another single drove in 2 more runs for the Blue Jays. At that point, Rogers Centre seemed so alive and kicking for their Home Opener, as they led the scoring.

But Tanaka began to find his stride and settle in and be that pitcher everyone was talking about. No, seriously, he was really amazing in his last 5 innings, and had he not run up his pitch count in the first 2, he might have actually finished the game himself. Even his more ardent detractors seemed to come around by the end of his outing tonight.

Now, Rogers Centre, that seemed so alive and loud going into the 3rd inning, seemed to have all the air exit the building as the Yankees’ bats came alive and just pummeled the Blue Jays’ pitchers. In total, the Yankees racked up 16 hits (to the 6 from Toronto). And it started right in the first inning. After a day off, Jacoby Ellsbury bounced back with an outstanding day (going 3-for-4 with a walk) leading off the game with a double. Brett Gardner’s single moved Ellsbury to 3rd, who ended up scoring on Carlos Beltran’s single. Teixeira’s single then scored Gardner. And the Yankees were up 2-0 in the middle of the 1st inning.

When the Yankees struck again in the 3rd, the Blue Jays had jumped ahead 3-2. But the Yankees decided this wasn’t going to be for long, wanting to give Tanaka tonight’s win. With 2 outs and a walk, Ichiro Suzuki singled and Girardi exercised his challenge when the play was called out. Toronto fans booed the umpires during the replay, they booed as the jumbotron showed Ichiro reaching safely, and they booed when the umpires came back and called him safe at 1st. Well, Toronto booed a lot after this, and then they got really quiet. Yangervis Solarte (in his second start of the season) doubled home both Roberts and Ichiro, pushing the Yankees into the lead 4-3.

In the 4th, Ellsbury hit his second double of the night, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on McCann’s single. (5-3 Yankees) They sat their for awhile, but they found a hole with the Blue Jays closer, who walked Anna to lead off the 8th inning. Ellsbury lined out; Girardi tested his challenge again but lost and the play stood as an out, and Anna moved to 2nd. Anna then stole 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on Gardner’s single.

Tanaka was closing in on 100 pitches by the end of the 7th, so the Yankees opted to test the strength of their bullpen, as Matt Thornton and Dellin Betances split the 8th inning. Thornton’s lefty specialist-ness was sharp as ever, but Betances (who thoroughly delighted in Spring Training with his speed and control) seemed to be missing that sharpness that won him a bullpen spot.

Meanwhile, the Yankees tacked on another run in the top of the 9th. With 2 outs, Ichiro singled (again) and scored on Solarte’s double, which removed the need for a save as the Yankees were up 7-3. So they sent Betances back in for the 9th, hoping he can regain some of the Spring Sparkle he was known for. But after walking the lead-off batter in 4 pitches, they didn’t want to take the risk and put in David Robertson for those 3 outs. The last out was a sliding grab going into foul territory by left fielder Gardner.

No cheers from Rogers Centre, just a lot of crowd murmur as whoever was left in the sold-out crowd made their way begrudgingly for the exits. So like a hand-wrapped package, the Yankees were able to gift Tanaka with a win on his MLB debut. I’m thinking this is only the beginning, and that makes me very happy.

Okay, in the 2nd inning, Mark Teixeira went to field a ball in foul territory and then immediately grabbed his hamstring, trying to stretch it out. A batter later, he motioned for Girardi and trainer Steve Donahue to discuss options. He came out of the game, frustrated as he went back to the visitor’s clubhouse and training room. Johnson moved from 3rd to 1st, Solarte 2nd to 3rd, and Roberts came in and went to 2nd. Teixeira was later diagnosed with a “strained hamstring”, not quite the torn hamstring he suffered a couple of years ago, which is good news. Girardi has made a point of not pushing partially injured players hard on turf, and even if it was just a sore muscle, I don’t think Teixeira would be playing the rest of the series. He felt better after icing it, and any tests he may need won’t be done until Monday back in New York. Wishing him a speedy recovery this weekend in anticipation of Opening Week at Yankee Stadium!

Go Yankees!

 

Spring Game 34: MIA vs. NYY — Finale drenched and cancelled

Well, my initial thought seeing the forecast this morning was that either the thunderstorms (complete with a tornado watch) were a really bad omen for the 2014 season or even nature itself didn’t want Derek Jeter to retire. Most people I chatted with in the breeze way waiting for the skies to clear (they never did) agreed to the latter. And today’s events seem to unfold in that direction.

Gates opened at 11:00 am, the skies desperately overcast, the nearby airport sending departing planes into apparent oblivion within the low-hanging thick clouds, and Yankee fans (and the occasional Marlins fan) streamed into Steinbrenner Field. Some were glimpsing at the Yankee stars on the practice fields for batting practice. About an hour later, the Marlins were shooed into the visiting clubhouse as the grounds crew rolled the tarp onto the field just as the rain started sprinkling.

News was circulating that pre-game ceremonies included honors for Tanaka and Jeter. Scheduled for 12:45 and 12:55, respectively, by 12:45, the sprinkles turned into downpour. But apparently, the show must go on. Both the Marlins and Yankees began their on-field warm-ups, despite the continued rain. Some people wandered from the breeze ways to their seats.

Perhaps in a moment of hope, the Japanese media flooded the field behind home plate, as the announcer proclaimed the 2014 recipient of the James P. Dawson Award for most outstanding Yankees rookie in Spring Training to be Masahiro Tanaka. The rain continued at a steady pace as Tanaka received his award and smiled for the media and cheering fans.

There was enough hope that the grounds crew then removed the infield tarp, and as if on cue, the rain turned from downpour to deluge. And still they kept rolling up the tarp; again, the show must go on. Tampa’s Attorney General threw out the first pitch to Dean Anna, though the home plate tarp remained.

People ran for cover, though some die-hard fans stayed planted in their seats donning ponchos and praying for the storm to pass quickly. About the time the game was delayed to start (10 minutes behind schedule), the Yankees announcer came back to announce a special tribute to a retiring Jeter. A brief video recapping the highlights of his career, from his high school days to the 3000th hit to all the famous plays that made him a house-hold name; no doubt a preview of many tributes to come. To present Jeter with a key to the city of Tampa were kids from the Tampa branches of the Boys and Girls Club and the Turn 2 Foundation. As the rain continued, Jeter and the kids smiled, shook hands, and posed for a few pictures. Just as they jogged off the field, the next thing anyone heard was the announcer saying that the game is now cancelled due to inclement weather.

And cue Sinatra: “Start spreading the news…”

Most fans didn’t believe the news at first, and nobody wanted to trudge out to their cars in that weather. Full refunds are available for ticket holders (through your ticket broker), but I’m guessing since most people had paper tickets with Mariano Rivera’s picture on them, refunds will probably only be processed for those who got e-tickets or day-of.

Two hours later, it’s still raining, though it’s tapered off quite a bit. Much of the area is having some flooding issues. And the Yankees, who are scheduled to fly out to Houston tonight, might be delayed a bit as the front continues to move on through the area.

Yeah, everyone didn’t want to leave the stadium, nature didn’t want to see Jeter’s last Spring game, and it’s still raining in Tampa. It’s a sad day all over the place here. And there’s a bunch of final roster news, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I’m going to do a full run-down of the new roster (and there are quite a few surprises) and discuss where all my “ones to watch” ended up for 2014. And if you know me at all, you might catch me when I feel a little nostalgic or philosophical, so stay tuned.

But isn’t that we’re always doing during the year? Staying tuned until something dynamic happens? And with the Yankees, something dynamic is always just around the corner.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 33: MIA vs. NYY — Almost hitless in tonight’s win

Tonight’s game against the Marlins was split between starters Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, saving the now finalized bullpen roster from any work tonight. Each gave up 3 hits and had 14 strikeouts between them. Kuroda’s first 3 innings and 4 strikeouts kept those scattered hits (one per inning) from doing much damage. Tanaka flourished in his 6 innings and 10 strikeouts. Neither pitcher allowed the Marlins any breathing room to attempt anything close to a scoring attempt, with one Marlins batter (and former Red Sox catcher) getting all the way to 3rd before the Yankees shut them down.

On the Yankees offense side, it was actually kind of quiet. The Yankees remained hitless until Kelly Johnson’s double in the bottom of the 8th. Oddly enough, the Yankees were already up 1-0 at that point. Yes, you heard that right. The Yankees were looking at a hitless win up until the 8th inning.

Here’s what happened: at first, the Yankees were held to a perfect game by the Marlins starter for 3 innings. And their next four pitchers continued a hitless streak. But in the 4th, Brett Gardner reached on a fielding error, Derek Jeter walked, and Gardner scored on Brian McCann’s ground out. And there the Yankees sat on a 1-0 lead.

And then suddenly, in the 8th inning, they broke through. Johnson doubled, his pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on Brian Roberts’ single. Roberts’ pinch-runner Antoan Richardson eventually scored on Yangervis Solarte’s single. And the Yankees walked away with their 3-0 win as fireworks boomed over Steinbrenner Field.

Prior to tonight’s game, the Yankees honored the Quantum Leap Farm, a local non-profit organization that provide equine rehabilitation and events to those with mental and physical disabilities of all ages. As a preview of things to come in this year’s HOPE Week (the time when the Yankees donate their time and money to special organizations serving in their communities), the Yankees gave $10,000 to the farm to help with expenses so they can continue their great work. The farm brought a large group of their staff and special young people who benefit from their work in the Tampa area. One of their special participants even got to throw out the first pitch, which seemed to just make her day (and indirectly mine because of her joy and confidence).

I was talking with some of the staff at the field about how HOPE Week is everyone’s favorite week in the Yankees organization. Everyone seemed to have a story about some organization or something about a HOPE Week in the past that inspired them to do something to give back to their own community. One security guy shared about spending time volunteering in the children’s wing of a New York area hospital (where he lives), bringing them coloring books and gifts because he heard the Yankees doing something similar and wanted to give back however he could. And I think that’s the point of HOPE Week — to inspire people to give back in their own way and make this world a better place, recognizing people and groups that dedicate their lives to helping others.

And there are some finalized roster moves, but there’s still a few moves to be made. That’s a post to come, I guess.

Go Yankees!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Go Yankees!