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 5: NYY vs. TOR — A rather messy way to win a game

I’m not going to lie. There are some games that are just an absolute train wreck. They are definitely more common in Spring Training where it seems more like Little League than professional baseball. And usually, it doesn’t turn out well for one team. But this was certainly a joint effort that somehow ended up in the Yankees’ favor.

The Yankees found their way to visit the Blue Jays’ Spring home in Dunedin (about 30 minutes west of Tampa). Back to being called Dunedin Stadium (and the angels rejoice!), the Yankees were looking to extend their undefeated winning streak this Spring, and it certainly took more than a little effort to get there. Today’s starter Chad Green got off to a great start in his first inning, but then struggled in his second, giving up a 1-out solo home run. A 2-out double was too far, and the Yankees turned to reliever Trevor Lane, who got out of the 2nd and kept the 3rd scoreless.

The Yankees came back in the 4th to advance. Danny Espinosa smacked a 1-out solo home run that bounced off the scoreboard out in left field to tie up the game. Austin Romine followed that up with a solid double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a wild pitch to put the Yankees in the lead. Briefly. Because reliever David Hale got into his own set of trouble in the bottom of the 4th. With a 1-out walk lingering at 1st, the defense rose to the occasion to get the out at home on a long double. But then a single tied up the game again and a wild pitch moved the runner into scoring position to do so on yet another single to give the Blue Jays the lead again.

After a scoreless 5th inning on both sides, the Yankees tied up the game in the 6th as last night’s hero Miguel Andujar smacked another home run. In the bottom of the 6th,  after a great 5th inning, prospect reliever JP Feyereisen came back out for the 6th, but then he started struggling too, giving up a lead-off walk who promptly scored on a big triple. So the Yankees turned to Raynel Espinal, but even he gave up a 1-out single that scored another Jays’ run.

In the top of the 7th, the Yankees came charging back as Florial tripled and then scored on Shane Robinson’s sacrifice fly. Then Ryan McBroom led-off a big 8th inning with a solo home run that finally tied up the game again. Wade singled, Higashioka walks, and Diaz hit a sacrifice bunt that was mishandled and thus loaded up the bases, with no outs. A wild pitch moved up all the runners, scoring the go ahead run for the Yankees. After an easy ground out, the Blue Jays went back to their bullpen. It didn’t really help. Florial’s walk loaded up the bases again, and Amburgey hit into a ground out that got the runner at home, keeping the bases loaded. It would be Mark Payton’s bases-clearing double that gave the Yankees enough of a lead to breathe again.

They would need it. Reliever Adonis Rosa had a flawless, 3-strikeout 7th inning, but then floundered a bit coming back out for the bottom of the 8th, giving up a lead-off solo homer and a big double. Josh Rogers came on in relief for Rosa to keep the Yankees in the lead, getting a great double play, a single, and a routine ground out to get out of the inning. But even he had trouble when he came back in the 9th, giving up a lead-off single, a 1-out balk, and a long 2-run home run to put the Jays within a single run. Fortunately, Cale Coshow was able to quickly close out the game in 2 outs to preserve the Yankees minuscule lead.

It’s worth noting that the Yankees’ pitchers gave up 14 hits, while the Yankees’ batters only racked up 9 hits. Stats aren’t always the easiest way to determine how good a game went. But in this case, it’s rather indicative of the kind of messy game the fans in Dunedin got to witness today. But since all that matters (in games that don’t really matter) is the win, I’ll take it.

Final score: 9-8 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees are back in Tampa tomorrow afternoon to host the Tigers again. And they’ll be going for 6 straight wins in an undefeated start to maintain that top spot in both the Grapefruit League and American League so far. I know these standings don’t really count for anything, and they don’t reflect any possible outcome for the rest of the season. But we cling to the good that we can while we can, so that’s where we are.

Go Yankees!

Game 97: NYY vs. SEA — Losing streak broken

I find it interesting that it was a West Coast trip that the Yankees’ recent losing streak. So it’s only fitting that a West Coast trip could end it. And with the final West Coast game of the season, the Yankees needed a win to move forward with the rest of the season.

So they called on rookie Caleb Smith to start today’s final game in Seattle. After a pretty clean first third of the game, Smith a bit of a struggle towards the end of his outing. Overall, he threw 56 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, most of that was in the 4th inning actually. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. Two outs later, he gave up a 2-RBI single and then a 2-RBI double to push the Mariners into a nice lead. And Smith’s outing was over, handing things off to Chad Green who ended the rally with a nice strikeout.

Green went on to throw through the 5th and 6th innings, keeping the Mariners from adding to their score and setting the momentum for the rest of the bullpen — Dellin Betances’ clean 7th and David Robertson’s 10-pitch 8th. Aroldis Chapman made things a little interesting but still managed to keep things together for the 9th and the eventual save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off the game with a solo home run by Brett Gardner, his 17th of the season. And Didi Gregorius added one more run in the 2nd with a solid solo shot into the right field seats only to do it again in the 4th with another one, a great 2-homer game for Gregorius.

And in the 6th, with a new pitcher, the Yankees loaded up the bases with a couple walks and a single. Brett Gardner’s single scored Headley to tie up the game. With a new pitcher, the Yankees kept their momentum going as Clint Frazier’s double scored 2 more runs. Despite loading up the bases with Judge’s intentional walk, the Mariners finally remembered their defense and got 2 quick outs.

After that, neither team managed to do much more offensively, and with Chapman’s save, the Yankees were set up for a game win and a series win.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Roster moves: Well, the Yankees orchestrated a trade with the Blue Jays, where they sent infielder Rob Refsnyder in exchange for 1st baseman Ryan McBroom, a prospect from the AA affiliate. They also outrighted Ji-Man Choi to AAA Scranton and traded reliever Dillon McNamara (formerly with AA Trenton) to the Giants.

And with that, the Yankees are headed back to the East Coast to start a long 9-game home stand on Tuesday (facing the Reds, Rays, and Tigers). Hopefully, carrying this winning thing with them and setting the momentum to carry them into October baseball.

Go Yankees!