Spring Game 27: NYY vs. STL — A week left of Spring, saying farewell to a friend

The Yankees finish their South Florida road trip on a sour note. Neither games ended in the Yankees’ favor. But as they head back to Tampa, there are just a handful of games left before the regular season that could right the Yankees’ rather impressive Spring this year.

Domingo German got the start against the Cardinals this afternoon and just stumbled his way into the 4th inning, starting with a lead-off solo homer in the 1st inning. A single in the 2nd, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a grounder, and then scored on an RBI single. Then with 2 outs, a 2-run home run secured the Cards early lead. And a 1-out solo shot in the 3rd sealed their eventual win.

Yankees’ reliever Brothers came in to close out the 4th for German, getting him out of trouble. And Stephen Tarpley’s 5th was flawless. But James Reeves had a sticky time in the 6th inning. He gave up a lead-off walk, pick-off error, and a 1-out hit-by-pitch. Then consecutive singles scored both runners, and a walk loaded up the bases.

Cale Coshow came on and just set things right with 2 strong strikeouts to close out the 6th. But he then had a bad 7th inning. Back-to-back doubles scored another run, and a single put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly scored yet another run, and a double moved runners to scoring position so they both could score on another double. Reliever Diehl closed out the inning strong and carried that momentum through the 8th.

The Yankees struggled on the offense side too, having some trouble against the Cardinals’ pitchers. In the 3rd, Lavarnway and Lipka worked consecutive walks and then scored on Gleyber Torres’ 1-out double. Urshela led-off the 4th, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Ryan Lavarnway’s single. And despite getting some opportunities, like in the 7th, the Yankees didn’t ever do much more to add to their score today.

Final score: 11-3 Cardinals

Next up: The Yankees head home for a Friday night game against the Phillies. There’s only 2 more home games (and 2 away games) left in the Spring season before next Thursday’s home opener in the Bronx. Yes, that’s right, only 1 week until the regular season begins.

Roster moves: after today’s game, the Yankees reassigned outfielder Billy Burns and Matt Lipka and catcher Ryan Lavarnway to minor league camp. Earlier this week, the Yankees optioned Kyle Higashioka to AAA Scranton. Higashioka will still appear in Spring games, but he will not be on the 25-man roster, though completely ready to jump up should something happen to Sanchez or Romine.

And in bittersweet news: Ichiro Suzuki is officially hanging up his cleats today. He signed with the Mariners this off-season, and in a fun twist, the Mariners and Athletics opened their regular season in a special series in Tokyo. Ichiro played in today’s game, a 12-inning marathon ending in a 5-4 Mariners’ win, and exited in the 8th to thunderous applause to his hometown crowd. It was emotional for everyone, especially the iconic 45-year-old legend. Everyone has a story about their friend and teammate, and everyone wishes him well.

While he’s worn a few different uniforms over the years, to Yankee fans, he’ll always be a Yankee. Next stop: Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 24: NYY vs. ATL — “Happiest Place on Earth” hosts a Monday night victory

As we begin the final week of Spring Training, the Yankees headed to Kissimmee to visit the Braves in their final week at the sports complex at Walt Disney World. The Braves will move their Spring to their newly built complex in Sarasota next year, after playing an initial game against the Rays next week just before they both begin their 2019 regular season.

So, tonight, Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and held strong through 5 innings, allowing just a 2-out solo home run in the 4th, and collecting 7 stellar strikeouts. Tanaka is looking every bit the eventual Opening Day starter for the Yankees, something he’s clearly earning with outing like this.

Adam Ottavino had a bit of a hiccup when he came out in the 6th. He loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, and a 1-out walk. After another strikeout, he gave up a single that scored just one run. But the bases were still loaded. So Stephen Tarpley came on, and his first batter hit a single that scored 2 more runs, both charged to Ottavino, before he finally got out of the inning.

Tarpley continued through the 7th and came up scoreless. Diehl and Alvarez followed him by closing out the game with a scoreless inning a piece. The Braves were limited to those earlier runs.

This was especially helpful as the Yankees found a couple of opportunities to hit big and dominated the game. In the 2nd, Luke Voit powered a big lead-off solo home run. Two outs later, Wade doubled, Urshela walked, and both runners stole the next base to get into scoring position. They then did so on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Then in the 5th, Lavarnway doubled, Gardner singled, and Judge’s triple scored both runners. Stanton and LeMahieu each worked a walk to load the bases and were pinch-run. Then Austin Romine’s single scored 2 more runs for the Yankees to cap off the night.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will host the Rays tomorrow afternoon. The final week of Spring continues with the Spring home team playing the regular season home team. It’s always a packed game of locals, but it feels like a regular season Yankees-Rays game at Tropicana Field across the Bay.

There is conversation about the Yankees possibly picking up another veteran starter, but until things are settled and signed, it’s just rumors. Maybe there will be news after tomorrow’s game.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 20: BOS vs. NYY — A rivalry rout

No joke. It was crazy hot today in Tampa. The weather just can’t make up its mind this Spring, but as all my friends elsewhere keep reminding me, at least there’s no snow. Just lots of sweaty, sunburnt people packed into the stadium to enjoy a Friday afternoon of baseball.

Of course, this was no ordinary game. The Yankees hosted their annual Spring rivalry game against the Red Sox. As we all know, there’s nothing ordinary about a rivalry game. And today was no exception. The Yankees dominated from the start thanks to a great pattern set by today’s starter Domingo German, who threw a strong, scoreless 4 innings.

Chapman got to face one batter in the 5th, a warm-up act of sort for Holder to close out the rest of the inning. Adam Ottavino got into the only jam of the afternoon in the 6th. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases, with no outs. But then the next batter hit into a standard double play that scored just one run, and a ground out got the Yankees out of the inning, removing the only Red Sox threat of the afternoon.

Tarpley and Reeves closed out the final third of the game, returning to the strong dominance the Yankees seemed to maintain all afternoon. Because the Red Sox seemed to have a really off-day, with some just sloppy pitching and plays. In fact, of the ridiculous number of runs the Yankees scored today, only half of them were earned.

In the 2nd, the Yankees began their eventual rout of their long-time rivals by loading up the bases with singles to Andujar and Sanchez and a walk to Bird. Then with 1 out, DJ LeMahieu reached safely due to a bad fielding error, which allowed Andujar to score. Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly scored Sanchez, leaving runners on the corners. Once the Red Sox pulled their starter, Aaron Judge smacked a solid 3-run home run to give the Yankees a healthy lead.

All the switch-outs and pinch-runners began in the 4th due to the length of the game at this point and the Yankees’ big lead. So with 1 out in the 4th, Tulowitzki worked a walk and replaced by Wade, who then scored on LeMahieu’s double. He was replaced by Holder, who moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single (replaced by Burns) and scored on Trey Amburgey’s sacrifice fly.

It was Stanton’s double that moved runners into scoring position (including his pinch-runner Lipka). Luke Voit’s big double then scored both Burns and Lipka. After a pitching change, Miguel Andujar singled home Voit to officially put the Yankees in double digits.

In the 5th, Bird led-off by getting to base due to a missed catch error. Wade’s single and Holder’s walk loaded up the bases. Burns hit into a grounder that finally snapped the Red Sox into good defense, getting Bird out at home. But then Amburgey’s single scored Wade, Matt Lipka hit into a fielder’s choice to score Holder, and Chris Gittens’ single scored Amburgey.

But the Yankees wanted one more. Gittens hit a 1-out double and later scored on Ryan Lavarnway’s 2-out double to add another exclamation point to the Yankees’ score today.

Final score: 14-1 Yankees

One to Watch: Chris Gittens kept jumping out to me this afternoon. In addition to his solid defense at 1st, he certainly contributed to the Yankees’ offense today in the latter half of the game. Not that they needed it, as Gittens was one of so many hits and runs scored today. But that position is key to any team’s defense, and he did so well. Gittens was signed by the Yankees in 2014 and seen most recently in Advanced-A Tampa and AA Trenton last year in between hip injuries. But he worked well today.

Next up: The Yankees host the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon in Tampa.

History trivia: Amateur games of the sport were played from early days in America, brought over from European settlers that evolved from a combination of the children’s game of rounders and the still popular cricket. About 15 years before the Civil War, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was formed to help form actual rules like the shape of the field and what constituted an out.

More clubs were formed, playing ball games against each other as rules continued to be ironed out and regulations (like barring players of color and most immigrants by 1867). But it was still just a sport played by club members for fun (or “for sport”), much like people might play racquetball at today’s athletic clubs.

So, on this day (March 15) in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team, facing mostly amateur and semi-professional teams and clubs. An actual league was formed two years later and lasted four years, leading many modern scholars to question its inclusion as a legitimate league in baseball history. The National League (that grew to be the one we still have today) formed in 1876, and the American League became an official league in 1901. (In that same year, the club formed known as the Orioles, later the Highlanders, and then the Yankees.)

In other words, Happy 150th Birthday, Major League Baseball. You don’t look a day over 135.

Go Yankees!

Postscript: Our deepest sympathies to those dealing with the aftermath of the violence in New Zealand. These instances are always disturbing and far too frequent. Camaraderie through outlets like sports and entertainment is often a key to healing. May we continue to push for peace, unity, and celebration of our individuality as we process, heal, and strive for better once again.  May their memories be a blessing.

Spring Games 15 & 16: NYY vs. DET & PIT vs. NYY — A draw and a win on a sunny Sunday

Another split squad series, another sunny and hot afternoon, another set of mixed results. At least today’s results leaned positive for the Yankees.

Game 1: Yankees at Detroit
Some of the Yankees traveled about 40 minutes east to visit the Tigers again in Lakeland and honestly battled their way through the afternoon in an oddly evenly-matched game. Nestor Cortes got the started and pitched his way into the 3rd inning, only giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd.

Then the Yankees and Tigers kept the game close for most of the game, thanks to the great defense and pitching on both sides. The Yankees didn’t find their breakthrough until the 7th. Voit led-off with a walk and was pinch-run by Brandon Wagner. Miguel Andujar then hit a big double, and Wagner made an effort to score the Yankees’ first run. But a great relay got him out at home, with Andujar making it to 3rd on the throw. He was then pinch-run by Cabrera, who finally scored a Yankees’ run on Ryan Lavarnway’s single.

Another out later, the Yankees loaded up the bases with 2 walks. But a pitching change and a pop-up ended their attempt to break the tie. But Brandon Wagner broke it in the 8th with a 2-out solo home run, and the Yankees had their lead for the first time all afternoon in Lakeland.

It didn’t last long. In the bottom of the 8th, Danny Farquhar came out for the Yankees to try to protect the lead. A lead-off single was quickly caught stealing 2nd for his first out, and after another out, he loaded up the bases with 3 consecutive walks. David Hale came on in relief and promptly walked in the tying and final run.

Final score: 2-2 tie

Game 2: Pirates at Yankees
Meanwhile, back home in Tampa, the Yankees battled the visiting Pirates for the afternoon. JA Happ got the start at Steinbrenner Field, pitching 4 innings and struggling a bit in the middle. In the 2nd, with 1 out and runners on the corners with singles, a sacrifice fly scored the Pirates’ first run. And back-to-back solo home runs in the 3rd gave the Pirates a solid lead.

The Yankees finally found their offense in the 4th. They loaded up the bases with walks to 3 power-hitters — Judge, Stanton, and Bird. Gleyber Torres was then walked to scored Judge for the Yankees’ first run of the day in Tampa. With a new pitcher, Troy Tulowitzki ground into a double play, but it still scored Stanton and moved Bird to 3rd. Clint Frazier’s single then scored Bird to tie up the game in a single inning. Then in the 5th, Gio Urshela led-off with a solo home run to put the Yankees in the lead.

Adam Ottavino’s 5th inning was just filthy stuff, catching the eye of both fellow Yankees and their opponents. It was very much a “blink and you miss it” kind of inning, with the new Yankees just getting 3 straight strikeouts. Chapman followed that up with a solid 6th inning of his own, and things were looking up for the Yankees as they tried to gain some further momentum.

But Dellin Betances had a bit of a struggle in his 7th inning. He gave up a lead-off triple, due in part to some sun-influenced defensive issues. A single then scored that runner to tie the game up again. After a solid strikeout, he walked 2 batters to load up the batters. Jonathan Holder came in to try to save the inning, giving up a sacrifice fly that put the Pirates back on top.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees weren’t going to let this game go just yet. Jackson led-off with a single and then scored on Zack Zehner’s monster 2-run home run over the left field concourse to get the lead back to the home team. Tommy Kahnle’s final 4 outs closed out the game and protected the Yankees’ lead.

Final score: 6-5 Yankees

One to watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to Gio Urshela, who’s really been rising in recognition this Spring. And today, in addition to being the Yankees’ starting 3rd baseman, he also hit that great home run in the 5th to put the Yankees in their first lead of the afternoon. He was traded to the Yankees late last year after stints with the Indians and Blue Jays, playing in the big leagues with both previous teams. He’s not really been on anyone’s radar, but he could potentially be some great back-up for the infield should problems arise this season.

Next up: after an off-day tomorrow (Monday), the Yankees will take on the Orioles at home Tuesday night. There’s 15 scheduled games left, just a little more than halfway through the Spring, or about 2 weeks.

In Yankee Universe news: Babe Ruth’s last living daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, died Saturday at the age of 102. Ruth adopted Julia when he married her mother in 1929, but she remained an avid fan of Ruth’s original team, the Red Sox, being a frequent fan in the stands up until a few years ago. Our thoughts and condolences are with her son, two grandchildren, and four great grandchildren at this time.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Neither game today was broadcast, so there was minimal video highlights to share. Apologies, fans!}

Spring Game 7: NYY vs. PIT — Triumphant return in afternoon loss

April 20, 2018. Just a random Friday in Chicago. But it would be a day that would change reliever Danny Farquhar’s life forever. After a brief stint on the mound, Farquhar made his way to the dugout feeling a little off before just collapsing. He was rushed to the hospital where they found that he was suffering from a sudden brain hemorrhage and operated immediately. He went through two weeks of intensive care in hopes that he would even walk out of the hospital.

But he did. He even threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox’s game on June 1. Despite his slow and miraculous recovery, his 2018 was over, and his baseball career looked hopeless. But for a man given a second chance at life, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over“. And in January, the Yankees decided to take a chance and invite the veteran reliever to a minor league contract and as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. The Yankees believed in him, so maybe, just maybe, the impossible could be possible.

Today, the Yankees traveled about 40 minutes south to Bradenton to visit the Pirates on this sunny Saturday afternoon. And the Yankees once again stuck first in the 1st. Tulowitzki hit a 1-out double and then scored on Miguel Andujar’s double to give the Yankees the early lead.

In the 2nd, Florial led-off with a double and then scored on Thairo Estrada’s single and a throwing error. Then in the 3rd, Frazier worked a 2-out double, stole 3rd, and then easily scored on Estevan Florial’s double, though he was tagged out trying to stretch it into a triple.

Starter Luis Cessa had a pretty good outing this afternoon until the 3rd inning. A lead-off double scored on a single, but then he got a great double play. A double threatened again, but Cessa found his momentum again and got a great strikeout to close out his outing.

Cessa handed the game over to Danny Farquhar. And while the game certainly didn’t have a fairy tale ending, it certainly felt like one. Farquhar is still scraping off the rust and his 4th inning showed it. He gave up a double and a 1-out walk that scored on a single and error. After another walk, another single scored the lead runner.

Stephen Tarpley tried to stem Farquhar’s mess, but stumbled a bit by giving up a deep 2-out triple to score both of Farquhar’s remaining runners and ultimately gave the loss to the recovered pitcher. Harvey had better luck with his 2 outs, as did David Hale in his first bit. But after 2 out sin the 7th, he gave up 3 consecutive doubles to score 2 more Pirates’ runs that eventually gave them the insurance run they’d need today. Diehal and Lail closed out the day with near perfect 4 outs among them.

The Yankees did attempt to chip away at the Pirates’ lead. In the 6th, Clint Frazier led-off with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Trey Amburgey’s ground out. And in their last attempt to rally, the Yankees found some momentum in the 9th.

With 1 out, Park singled, Castillo singled, Mike Ford singled home Park, and Cabrera’s single loaded the bases. After a pitching change, Ryan Lavarnway’s solid single scored both Castillo and Ford. But two outs later, the Yankees had fallen just a run shy of the home team.

Final score: 8-7 Pirates

Next up: the Yankees play their first split squad game of the season. Part of the team will travel to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays, and part of the team will stay in Tampa to host the Tigers.

And yes, it looks like another warm, sunny weekend day for baseball. For an easy comparison as to why they do Spring Training in Florida (and Arizona), look no further than the snow my friends and family woke up to in New York today. It’s March, but it’s clearly still winter. What does that silly Groundhog know? Nothing. It’s not actually Spring until March 20th anyway because of the whole vernal equinox thing.

We know different here in Florida.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: again, no broadcast means almost no highlights to include in today’s post. Sorry. More regular broadcasts begin tomorrow, so there will be more highlights available.}