World Series 1: LAD vs. BOS — Fall ball begins with rain and the Fenway Faithful

I think oddest moment of tonight’s game was in the introductions, when the manager of the visiting Dodgers, Dave Roberts, got a huge ovation from the Fenway Faithful. For those who aren’t familiar with the why, it’s pretty simple — Roberts was a key part of the 2004 “Break the Curse” championship Red Sox team and Boston fans never forget their heroes, even when they don other team uniforms.

But tonight’s game was actually pretty threatened by earlier thunderstorms over Boston for most of the day, followed by a few rain bands that continued to sprinkle chilly rain on Fenway. But it cleared just in time for first pitch, a crisp 53°. Note: tomorrow will also be wet all day in Boston, with first pitch temperature coming in about 46°. Talk about “fall ball”.

This wasn’t exactly the cleanest game. Both teams dismissing their ace starters early in the game, neither completing the 5th inning, and depending on their bullpens for most of the night. In the 1st, the Red Sox got on the board first. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single. That batter ended up at 2nd on the throw to try to get either runner out. In fact, the Dodgers challenged the call at 2nd but there wasn’t enough to overturn it and thus it was upheld as safe. A 1-out single then scored that runner to give the Sox an early lead.

But the Dodger came back right away with a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. And a 1-out single in the 3rd moved to 2nd on a single and then scored on another single to tie up the game. That didn’t last long when the Sox broke the tie in the bottom of that inning. With 1 out, a batter singled. The next batter hit into a double play that was challenged by the Red Sox and overturned in favor of a fielder’s choice out at 2nd only. Then a double scored the lead run.

Finally, in the 4th inning, neither ace pitcher gave up a run. In the 5th, the Dodgers tied up the game again when a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a single, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a ground out. The Red Sox bounced back in the bottom of the 5th. They loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, a wild pitch, and a walk. After a strikeout, a fielder’s choice allowed the Sox to score the tie-breaking run and then a single scored an insurance run.

After sailing through the 6th, the Dodgers found their next opening in the 7th. They loaded up the bases with 1 out before scoring a run on a sacrifice fly to put them within 1 run of the Red Sox’s lead. But then in the bottom of the 7th, the Sox surged ahead. A lead-off ground-rule double and an intentional walk scored as part of a 2-out pinch-hit 3-run Green Monster home run.

Neither team gave the other another opportunity to advance their cause.

Final score: 8-4 Red Sox, Red Sox leads series 1-0

And here’s some Yankee news: the Arizona Fall League is in full swing for prospects from each team to fine-tune their skills and become better players. Yankee AFL alumni include Gardner, Betances, Bird, and Judge. This year, the Yankees join the Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Orioles to form the Glendale Desert Dogs and are represented by pitchers Jordan Foley, Hobie Harris, Matt Wivinis, and Kyle Zurak; infielders Thairo Estrada and Steven Sensley; and outfielder Estevan Florial. Highly touted prospect Florial is coming off surgery earlier this year, but it’s the Yankees prospect pitchers who are making the biggest impact in the AFL.

Also, if you’re interested in some of the conversations about what might happen for the Yankees in the off-season, there’s an interesting article breaking down the latest free agents (like Sabathia, Happ, and Walker), what they could do while waiting for Gregorius’ return from surgery (like Hechavarria or Torreyes or help from the outside), which players could be traded (like Gray), and more. It’s all still conjecture until there’s anything to announce.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 14: NYY vs. ATL — Strong start, just not enough hitting

It was a beautiful, clear evening under the lights at the Disney World sports complex, the Spring home of the Braves (for the last season), a crisp 72° at first pitch just before the sun sank in the horizon. In other words, a great night for some baseball. The result, however, held mixed results.

Sonny Gray got a great start tonight, throwing into the 4th inning, holding the Braves scoreless, only allowing 1 hit, and striking out 3 Atlanta batters. Tommy Kahnle got the final out of the 4th but had some trouble in the 5th. He gave up a lead-off walk that scored on a long double before getting the inning’s first out. Chasen Shreve came on for the final 2 outs of the 5th and the first one in the 6th.

Minor league reliever David Hale came on to finish off the 6th before he got into a situation in the 7th. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 2-out single. They both then scored on a big double to right field. The Braves were aided by 2 pretty messy errors out there — a missed catch error and then a throwing error by the young fielder. Jonathan Holder breezed through the 8th inning to keep the Braves from adding to their partially unearned score and give the Yankees a chance.

However, the Yankees’ lone offensive breakthrough came only in the top of the 6th with Gary Sanchez’s lead-off solo home run. The Yankees’ batters racked up a grand total of 3 hits and 5 walks. In other words, they just weren’t hitting well tonight.

Can we blame “The Mouse” or that it’s a late Friday game? Nah. It’s just Spring. It’s when things like this get worked out, and they figure out what needs to be strengthened and who’s not quite ready for “The Show”. It happens.

Final score: 3-1 Braves

The first round of cuts from big league camp happened in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, the Yankees reassigned 5 pitchers and one catcher to minor league camp — Cale Coshow, Raynel Espinal, Trevor Lane, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and (catcher) Chace Numata. Then earlier today, the Yankees announced they were optioning pitchers Albert Abreu and Jonathan Loaisiga to Single-A Tampa and infielder Thairo Estrada to AA Trenton. (Estrada, as you may remember, is still recovering from a gunshot wound incurred during a robbery attempt in his Venezuelan hometown this off-season.)

This is my standard disclaimer for this time of year: this is a good thing for these players. They won’t be making the starting MLB roster, so they are best served fine-tuning their skills with their teammates this season and focusing on their continued work to hopefully lead up to their futures in the Bronx some day soon.

Next up: the Yankees host their regular season crosstown rivals tomorrow afternoon. The Mets return the visit (from Wednesday’s game) as the crowd of New York fans cheer on their New York team. It’s always a special game, and yes, New York always wins. Previously scratched due to a sore neck, Luis Cessa gets his shot Saturday and will start against one of the Mets’ star starters (formerly affectionately dubbed “The Dark Knight”, for long-term fans), looking to have a way better year than a pretty awful personal one last year.

Also, a happy birthday to the Yankees’ new manager, Aaron Boone, who turned 45 today. Hope this year is full of moments like that special game almost 15 year ago…

Go Yankees!

 

Spring Game 2: NYY vs. PIT — Late power brings first away win

For their first away game of the season, the Yankees hopped their bus and traveled about an hour south to Bradenton to visit the Spring home of the Pirates. On this beautiful, warm sunny Saturday afternoon in Florida, the crowd packed the stadium to watch the Yankees clearly outplay the home team.

Domingo German got a bit of a shaky but scoreless start in his 2 innings before handing things over to Adam Warren. Reliever Dillon Tate got his 2 innings next, having a bit of a rough 5th inning. He gave up a single but then the Yankees worked together to catch the runner stealing 2nd. After another out, Tate gave up a perfect pitch that became a perfect home run to get the Pirates on the board. Prospect reliever JP Feyereisen showed off his skills in 2 perfect innings, setting himself up for the win. And Jonathan Holder closed out the game with his inning, keeping the Pirates from adding to their lone run.

Meanwhile, the Pirates got a bit roughed up by the Yankees hitters, giving up 11 total hits and 5 walks, despite striking out 11 batters along the way. The Yankees actually got on the board first in the 4th. With 1 out, Espinosa and Torreyes each walked, and the Pirates introduced a new pitcher. Another out later, Erik Kratz hit a solid single that scored Espinosa. After another hit batter loaded the bases, the Yankees hopes for advancing were crushed with a strikeout.

With the game tied, the Yankees found their footing again in the 9th inning. Peterson led-off with a walk, followed by Andujar’s single. So it would be Billy McKinney to smack the Yankees first home run this season — a big 3-run home run to give the Yankees a nice lead and eventual win.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury news: During his second at-bat in his Yankee debut, infielder Brandon Drury was hit on his hand in the 3rd inning. A bit scary at first, Drury remained in the game and had some basic treatment, but x-rays were deemed unnecessary. Drury, a recent acquisition, recently with the Diamondbacks, is a potential starter for 3rd base in the race to Opening Day. And his 3 seasons in Arizona certainly put him towards the lead in that race.

And Yankees prospect Thairo Estrada is still dealing with his recovery after being injured in the off-season. Estrada and his wife were out to dinner in his hometown in Venezuela when two teenage boys approached them and demanded all his cash or phone, neither which Estrada was not carrying. After searching his pockets, there was a loud bang and the boys ran off. It wasn’t until a medical follow-up later that Estrada realized he’d been shot and needed surgery to repair the wound, unfortunately leaving the bullet lodged in his hip as a permanent reminder of his ordeal. His home country is currently in the middle of a severe political and economic crisis, something Estrada carries with him as he continues his rehab for the season. He will miss Spring Training this year and hopes to start just a few weeks into the regular season (likely with AA Trenton as he was in the 2017 season).

Next up: The Yankees head across the Bay to play the Phillies tomorrow afternoon.

Go Yankees!

{Note: Sometimes, Spring Training games are not televised so there are no great highlights and clips to add to my post, which unfortunately always comes on games when something great happens (like McKinney’s homer).}

{Second note: I decided to only do the “One to Watch” for home games. I’m always looking for ways to evolve and make each season different, so this will be one of them. It’s almost always a hard category because these prospects are so good.}