Game 108: NYY vs. BOS — The trades, the rivalry, and the Monster

First up: yesterday’s massive trade fiasco…

Okay, I toyed with the idea of writing a separate blog post yesterday just on the trades made, but I felt like my opinions were too hot to make a calm, objective post. Those I actually talked to yesterday certainly got an earful. And I wasn’t just specifically talking about Yankee moves. I think we can officially dub yesterday as the “Game Changer” for far too many games. A few teams certainly ended up winning yesterday, some even guaranteeing themselves a playing spot in October, and some teams pulled some rather confusing moves that either pulled them out of postseason contention or were just rather head-scratching.

The Yankees really didn’t make an Ichiro-sized splash as they did a couple of years ago; no, that was left for a couple of other teams to cannonball into the media circus pool. Instead, they upgraded their infield and added a solid reliever. In the first trade with the rival Red Sox (and tonight’s opponents) since 1997, the Yankees sent infielder Kelly Johnson to Boston in exchange for shortstop (and starting 2nd baseman tonight) Stephen Drew. And with the Diamondbacks, the Yankees acquired infielder Martin Prado for minor league prospect Pete O’Brien and either cash considerations or a player to be named later. Drew will be a free agent following this season, while the Yankees picked up Prado’s contract through 2016. The Yankees also picked up pitcher Esmil Rogers off waivers after he was released from the Blue Jays, adding a new arm to their inconsistent bullpen.

Now, with those three additions, certain players had to be moved around. Scott Sizemore was released from his AAA contract in conjunction with Prado’s addition; Brian Roberts was designated for assignment due to the recent additions of infielders Headley, Drew, and Prado; and as mentioned above, Johnson was traded to Boston. And to make room in the current clubhouse, Zelous Wheeler and Zoilo Almonte were optioned back to AAA.

After all the roster movements and deals and trades, I cannot imagine the amount of work done to maneuver all that, like fitting pieces of a 10,000 piece puzzle into place in 24 hours. The goal for all 30 teams is simple: build a better, stronger team. Some are focused on just getting to October, some on rebuilding for future seasons, and some on just plugging holes in the leaky dam. I love puzzles, but I’m glad I’m not a GM after yesterday.

And the Yankees were in Boston tonight. On a personal note, it’s the first game they’ve played there since I was privileged enough to take a Fenway Park tour back in June, so watching the game was rather fun and special, pulling memories and moments from that day to the forefront of my mind. And so much of me wished I was sitting in the ugly, uncomfortable seats in the Green Monster, cheering on my Yankees in the midst of a sea of red-shirted Bostonians. I grew a new appreciation for the rivalry after that tour, and I almost crave the competition and zeal that both teams and their fans seem to spark in both cities and both parks on such weekends as this one.

It was recent July acquisition Chris Capuano to take the mound for the Yankees tonight. Actually, overall, Capuano did a pretty good job for his first Fenway start. The pressure of the rivalry often can take its toll on newer pitchers to the competition, even if they are veterans. But 98 pitches over 6.1 inning, 8 hits, 4 runs, and 5 strikeouts, keeping some of the bigger Boston bats silent was a decent outing tonight, as it was a bit of a back-and-forth offensive game. In the 3rd, with 1 out, one batter tripled, the next hit a ground-rule double to score the runner, and the next singled home the runner from 2nd. They added another run in the 4th with an RBI single.

In the mean time, the Yankees added their own offense as Carlos Beltran hit a solo home run into the Red Sox bullpen in the 4th, and Beltran’s single in the 6th scored Ellsbury.

In the 7th, with Capuano still going strong, he allowed a runner to single and then advance to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, thus on the hook for that runner. Shawn Kelley came in to relieve Capuano, but a quick single scored that runner for Boston. Thornton would close out the inning for the Yankees with a 1-pitch double play.

Down 4-2, the Yankees are back up to bat in the 8th inning with a big chance to catch up as the heart of their batting order is due up. Derek Jeter steps up to the plate, likes the first pitch he sees, a 93 mph fastball, and smacks it to the top of the Green Monster over left field. It may be the only time everyone in Fenway was cheering for a Yankee home run.

Actually, Jeter got a standing ovation for every at-bat he had tonight from the entirety of the Boston crowd. Sure, there’s always a contingent of Yankee fans at Boston games, but they weren’t cheering the loudest for Jeter tonight. I could always tell when Jeter was walking up to bat and when he did something good on the field because the crowd would cheer as if he were Pedroia or Ortiz or one of the Boston stars. It was surprising and amusing and amazing all at the same time.

Adam Warren pitched 12 pitches in the 8th inning, keeping the Red Sox from adding to their 4-3 lead. But lack of offense in the 9th ended up handing the Red Sox the win tonight.

The Yankees have two more games at Fenway this weekend. Then Boston will come back to the Bronx at the beginning of next month, and the Yankees will be back in Boston to close out the regular season at the end of September. There’s nothing like a Yankees-Red Sox game, so if you can, there’s still 8 more chances to catch one this season.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 1: FSU vs. NYY — Opening Day-ish

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Batting practice today
author’s photo

Spring is finally here! Well, at least in sunny Tampa where temperatures were warm enough for tank tops, shorts, and some minor sunburns. And because it’s Spring, it means it’s finally time for baseball. And today’s game was rather entertaining. Warm weather, fans clothed in their favorite jerseys (or in today’s case, a lot of garnet and gold), the smell of stale popcorn and cheap beer, and of course, the “beer-beer-beer” guy. Today was Opening Day. Ish.

I rather like that the first game was an exhibition game because it gives the Yankees a chance to fall back into their playing rhythm, and it gives the opposing team a chance to play. Now, playing against a college team, and one that is fairly good this year, was rather fun. There were a lot of split-minded fans (like myself) who showed their Yankee-Seminole pride by wearing a Yankee jersey and FSU hat or some combination of colors to show their loyalty. The whole stadium (at least the crowd part) certainly had a “college crowd” feel about it, and took me back to that era in my life that is further away than I care to admit.

Vidal Nuno took the mound for the Yankees; Nuno received last year’s Spring Training Outstanding Rookie and even saw some time in the big leagues last year. He is currently competing for that 5th rotation spot. Nuno did earn today’s win, allowing only one hit and striking out 3 batters in the two innings he pitched today. He was followed by Brian Gordon, Shane Greene, and Bryan Mitchell, who each took 2 innings of their own, and Francisco Rondon took the bottom of the 9th to close out the Seminoles. Together, they allowed 9 Seminoles hits, 3 runs, a walk, and a whopping 10 strikeouts in the Yankees 8-3 victory over FSU.

I will say that doubles seemed to be the order of the day as 9 of the total 21 combined team hits were doubles or ground-rule doubles. The Yankees found their footing early, scoring their first run in the 2nd inning on back-to-back doubles by Zoilo Almonte and Brendan Ryan (who got the RBI). They added another run by John Ryan Murphy (no longer going by “JR”) in the 3rd on a Gary Sanchez sacrifice fly.

Then the 4th inning opened up the game for the Yankees. With 2 outs, Dean Anna (who really showed off his offensive and defensive skills today) doubled, Adonis Garcia walked, Yangervis Solarte singles home Anna, Murphy again hits a ground-rule double that scores Garcia, and a wild pitch easily scored Solarte. Suddenly the Yankees were up 5-0. And honestly, it was only hard to watch because the freshman pitcher on the mound for the Seminoles was really a decent pitcher, but after the slightest moment of weakness (allowing Anna’s double), he wasn’t able to regain that dynamic until the Yankees had put up 3 runs under him.

A bases-clearing double by the Seminoles’ 2nd baseman put his team on the board with 3 runs in the 5th, but it was the only time they would score today.

The Yankees responded in the 6th after Anna walked. Ramon Flores singled, pushing Anna to 2nd so he could easily score when Corban Joseph simply singled. Pinch-hitter Peter O’Brien reached on a fielding error, and Flores took advantage of this to add another run to the Yankees lead. And it’s in the 8th that Flores again shows why he might be one to watch this Spring — the Yankees first home run this year. So the Yankees walked away with an 8-3 victory in today’s exhibition game.

In case you were wondering, Jameis Winston played left field for the second half of the game and failed to get on base during his 2 at-bats. But during his 2nd at-bat, he indirectly sent the cheering fans home with 4 foul balls, which those lucky fans were so overjoyed at getting a “Famous Jameis” hit ball. It was quite a pleasure to watch him play, as he clearly enjoys the game. But I also noticed several other FSU players that we could see at some level in the next few years — team captain and shortstop Justin Gonzalez, infielder John Sansone, freshman pitcher Taylor Blatch, and catcher Daniel De La Calle. This conclusion was watching the game and pre-game batting practice and based on their attitude, teamwork, and overall ability.

Part of the fun of going to these games are watching the would-be and could-be talent. And today was an interesting perspective — seeing that distinctive, yet fine-line jump between college ball and professional ball. I was watching a team that is on quite a hot streak in their own realm and another team that was just getting to work, and noticing those little things, little adjustments, little mistakes that make the ultimate difference. It’s just fascinating, and it’s a little encouraging to see the hope for the future of baseball (on both sides of the field today).

Okay, so this year, I’ve decided to pick a handful of “players to watch this Spring” after each home game (because those are the ones I’m going to). And so today, I have three — infielder Dean Anna, outfielder Ramon Flores, and pitcher Shane Greene.

Go Yankees!