Spring Games 22 & 23: NYY vs. BAL & NYY vs. PHI — Double away victories, perhaps with some good luck

I don’t often look at the standings during Spring Training (or early in the regular season) because it never gives you an accurate picture of what the real season will look like. But I happened to see them today in passing. The Yankees are currently sitting atop the Grapefruit League standings, 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals. It’s worth noting the Yankees are also well in the lead over the Cactus League.

But as we’ve said in previous years, the standings in Spring mean nothing. It’s a very long season, and there’s far too many variables (like injuries, trades, hit streaks, and dry spells) that affect where teams land for October baseball. So, Yankee fans, feel happy about today but cautiously optimistic about 7 months from now.

The Yankees played another split squad day, but this time was unique as both squads played in away games. One group traveled about an hour south to Sarasota to visit the Orioles, and the other about 20 minutes west to Clearwater to see the Phillies. And both teams got a little “lucky” on this cloudy Sunday holiday.

Game 1: Yankees at Orioles
Jonathan Loaisiga got the start for the Yankees here and helped set a solid, strong pattern that would earn him the eventual win for the afternoon with 3 great scoreless innings. David Hale continued his momentum in his 3 innings, only allowing the Orioles on the board in his final inning.

So, in the 6th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st, a double moved the runner to 3rd to score on an easy ground out. Yankees’ reliever Hutchison sailed through the 7th but gave up a lead-off solo shot in the 8th. A 1-out single later scored on a 2-out single to give the Orioles just one more run for the afternoon. And Brothers closed out the game with a quick, scoreless 9th.

The Yankees once again got on the board early and first. In the 1st, Kyle Holder led-off the game with a single but was forced out at 2nd on Andujar’s fielder’s choice (again, another delayed, unsuccessful double play attempt). This means that Luke Voit’s big homer up the middle became a 2-run home run. Miguel Andujar led-off the 3rd with a solo home run¬†into the left field seats, and Zack Zehner imitated him with a lead-off solo home run of his own, also to left field, in the 4th.

After the Orioles chipped some off their lead, the Yankees didn’t get another chance until the 9th to find an insurance run. Burns worked a 1-out walk, stole 2nd, and then scored on Holder’s 2-out double.

Final score: 5-3 Yankees

Game 2: Yankees at Phillies
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, the Yankees had a bit more of a battle to the finish today, with a scoreless game for most of the first half of the afternoon. The Yankees finally found their moment in the 5th inning. Lipka led-off with a bunt single, stole 2nd, and easily scored on Trey Amburgey’s big triple to get the Yankees on the board first.

James Paxton got the start, throwing into the 5th inning, but finding trouble there. He gave up a lead-off walk, and the next batter made it to 1st on a strikeout-wild pitch. With those 2 runners on, Chad Green came on to try to shut down the advancing Phillies. But he promptly gave up a single that scored the tying run. Another single put another runner on base, so both runners scored on a triple to give the home team the lead. A great fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at home on the next play.

It would be Dellin Betances to right the ship for the Yankees, kicking off the momentum with a flawless 6th inning. Kahnle, Coulombe, and Anderson Severino (no relation) each took a scoreless inning to help give the Yankees a chance to regain the lead.

So, in the 6th, Greg Bird led-off with a big solo home run, and Gleyber Torres followed suit with a 1-out solo home run to tie up the game. In the 7th, with 1 out, LeMahieu made it safely on a throwing error and then scored as part of Troy Tulowitzki’s 2-run home run to give the Yankees the lead again.

But the hits kept coming. In the 8th, Tyler Wade led-off with single, moved to 2nd on Olivares’ single, and later scored on Cabrera’s 2-out single. Castillo’s single scored Olivares, officially sealing another Yankees’ win this afternoon.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees

Next up: The Yankees will play another away game. This time, they travel to Kissimmee, about an hour east, to visit the Braves’ Spring home tomorrow night. It will be the last season the Braves have their Spring Training on Disney World property as their new home in Sarasota will officially open next year. However, they are scheduled to play an inaugural game against the Rays on March 24 before the 2019 season begins.

Finally, a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 18: PHI vs. NYY — Another night game, another draw

Another great evening under the lights at Steinbrenner Field. A common conversation among Floridians lately on nights like this is the unattainable desire to have this kind of weather year-round. Of course, having a rather entertaining battle under the cool night sky and bright lights helps pass the time in what was a rather long game for Spring Training (3 hours and 36 minutes).

The Yankees got on the board first in the 1st inning. Gardner led-off with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on Stanton’s single, and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Later, Sanchez’s 2-out single snapped the Phillies into defensive action and got Stanton trying to score a run and ended the innings. In the 2nd, Bird worked a walk to lead off the inning, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s single, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

Now, Masahiro Tanaka got the start tonight, throwing into the 4th inning and fending off the visiting Phillies for most of his outing. In fact, his first allowed run was a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. After allowing a single and getting 2 more outs, he handed the ball off to Chad Green. But he promptly gave up a 2-run home run to give the Phillies the lead.

Adam Ottavino came on in the 5th, and in a shift from his previous outings, had a bit of trouble. With 1 out, the recent superstar signee on the Phillies reached on a questionable catcher’s interference. He then stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a single, and watched the next batter work a walk to load the bases. In a bit of a sticky situation, Ottavino and the Yankees’ defense limited the damage when a single scored just 1 run thanks to an on-point throw by Judge straight to Sanchez to get the second runner out at home.

Now, down by two runs, the Yankees needed to rediscover their lead. Giancarlo Stanton hit a scoreboard-clearing home run to lead-off the 6th inning. With a new pitcher, Voit worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and made it to 3rd on a wild pitch. After Sanchez worked a walk, Greg Bird’s single scored Voit and tied up the game. With another pitching change by the Phillies, Urshela hit a short single to load up the bases. Then Tyler Wade worked a great at-bat to walk in Sanchez to score the lead run.

So, the Yankees had to protect their slim lead. Tommy Kahnle continued his strong Spring with a quick, flawless 6th inning, but it was Drew Hutchison that commanded the latter part of the game with 2 strong, scoreless innings.

All that was needed was 3 outs in the 9th inning to close out the game, but minor league reliever Phillip Diehl struggled with his outing. And the coaches wanted to see him get out of his own troubles. He loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk with just 1 out. The lead-off runner quickly scored the tying run on a wild pitch, and a walk loaded the bases again. Fortunately for Diehl, the Yankee defense kicked in again and got the next batter out to hit into a play to get the out at home before a fly out ended the inning.

The Yankees ran out of outs, and another Spring game ended in a draw.

Final score: 5-5 tie

One to Watch: I’m going to give today’s honor to pitcher Drew Hutchison for his strong 7th and 8th innings, keeping the Phillies from trying to overcome the Yankees lead at the time. The Yankees picked up Hutchison in January, signing him to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, after he played with the Blue Jays, Pirates, and Rangers in the last six seasons. He’s already assigned to AAA Scranton, so the chances are fairly high that the Yankees might pull him up at some point, even if only for the September call-ups.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: Once again, there was no broadcast tonight, which is a shame becasue there were some noteworthy moments people would want to remember. Sorry, readers. Yet another reason to anticipate the regular season — all the regular video highlights.}

Spring Game 14: NYY vs. BAL — Solid Saturday (almost) shutout

There’s nothing like a little Saturday night baseball. Of course, a win after a messy loss helps make it a bit better. The Yankees headed down to Sarasota to play the Orioles this evening in their first night away game, mainly just showing up and playing baseball helped solidify their win tonight.

Luis Cessa got the start tonight and just dominated the Orioles for 4 innings and setting himself up for the eventual win. Tarpley, Abreu, and Diehl followed suit through keeping the O’s scoreless through 8 innings. Harvey then came in for the 9th and gave up a lead-off solo home run to break the shutout for the home team.

But the Yankees gave their pitchers enough run support to attempt that collective shutout. Tyler Wade led-off the game with a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. Then in the 4th, Torres doubled and scored on Greg Bird’s 1-out single.

Urshela led-off the 5th with a double and then scored when Trey Amburgey made it all the way to 2nd on a throwing error. Billy Burns’ double then scored Amburgey, and Burns promptly stole 3rd. Two outs later, Sanchez’s single scored Burns to keep the runs coming.

Finally, in the 9th, Angel Aguilar kicked off the inning with a solo home run. But after some more messy fielding and runners on the corners, the Orioles made a final pitching change and got out of the game without further damage.

Final score: 6-1 Yankees

Next up: the Yankees play another set of split squad games tomorrow. Part of the team will travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers, and the rest will stay in Tampa to host the Pirates.

And it’s official. The Yankees have announced that Masahiro Tanaka will be their Opening Day starter when the Yankees play in Baltimore on March 28. It was supposed to be Severino, but with his recent shoulder injury, the chances of his being in the rotation any time soon is looking less likely. Another option would have been Sabathia, but he will likely be starting the year on the disabled list and then has to serve his 5-game suspension for the game in late September against the Rays before setting foot on the mound.

Paxton and Happ will follow in the rotation order with the other two spots wide open for possibilities. Logical choices could be tonight’s starter Cessa, Loaisiga, or German or some combination of the three long-term relievers. This could include that weird opener method the Rays used — having a short reliever for the 1st inning, then a series of 1-2 long relievers before a closer finishes the game. In other words, there are options.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 5: PIT vs. NYY — Battle to a win under sunny skies

To counter the last two days of games, today’s weather decided to remind fans why Florida is called the “Sunshine State”, clearing the skies of clouds and bringing the sun out in full force. And I’ll admit more than a few people went home with a little too much sun.

For the first time this Spring, the Yankees weren’t the ones to score first in a game. Instead, JA Happ stumbled a bit in his Spring debut, giving up 3 runs in his outing and not making it out of the 2nd inning. In the 1st, a 1-out solo home run got the Pirates on the board. Then with 1 out in the 2nd, a single scored as part of a 2-run home run. That was it for Happ, handing the ball over to Stephen Tarpley who got out of the inning without further damage.

Adam Ottavino continues to have struggles this Spring with today’s 3rd inning. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a big double scored both runners. Zack Britton’s 4th inning righted the ship with a near perfect outing for the veteran closer. Cortes had a decent 5 outs, but it was Jonathan Holder’s 4-out outing that earned him the eventual win, despite a 1-out solo homer given up by Rosa in the 9th.

Despite being down early, the Yankees were never out of this one and eventually overpowered the Pirates to the win. In the bottom of the 1st, with 1 out, Judge doubled and Stanton walked, and they both scored on Troy Tulowitzski’s big 3-run home run. Three consecutive walks loaded the bases in the 2nd, and after a pitching change, Aaron Judge hit into a double play that still scored lead runner Wade.

It would be Tyler Wade who tied up the game in the 4th with a lead-off solo home run. And once the game was tied up again, the Yankees found momentum in the 7th. With 2 outs and 2 runners on base, LJ Mazzilli’s double scored both runners to edge the Yankees into the lead.

Then in the 8th, Trey Amburgey hit a big ground-rule double that bounced into the Yankees’ bullpen in right field foul territory. He later scored on Thairo Estrada’s single as the Yankees’ insurance run.

Final score: 8-6 Yankees

One to Watch: Trey Amburgey. In a game filled with stellar plays by the younger players, it would be that final at-bat that sealed the deal for me. Add in a ridiculous sliding catch in right field in the top half of the 8th to save a hit (and add a highlight to his player reel) and Amburgey’s fourth Spring Training continues to impress, showing growth worth watching in the young outfielder who spent all of last year with AAA Scranton.

Next up: the Yankees host their first night game of 2019 when the Orioles come to visit Steinbrenner Field tomorrow night. For those of us who sweated through the sunshine today, a night game could not come at a better time in this schedule.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: minimal video available unfortunately. There was no broadcast of the game, so only one highlight from stadium cameras used for replay was released for use.}

Spring Game 2: NYY vs. TB — First Spring win with some big swings

Shifting a little closer to home certainly seemed to help the Yankees shake off yesterday’s loss. Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that they played a team that clearly isn’t used to working together, a clear contrast to yesterday’s opponents.

Jonathan Loaisiga had a great start against the Rays this afternoon at their Spring home field in Port Charlotte (about 90 minutes south of where the Rays spend the season and the Yankees spend Spring in Tampa). Loaisiga continues to show the Yankees why he was worth the call-ups last year and why he could be a contender for this year’s team. He threw a near flawless 2 innings, eventually setting himself up for the win.

Other names (perhaps familiar to frequent readers) that took the mound today included David Hale, Brady Lail, and Stephen Tarpley. Together with two other minor league relievers, the Yankees pitching staff helped navigate today’s team to their first Spring win.

Sure, there were some stumbles along the way, as we should expect in Spring Training. But they were able to fend off the Rays until the middle of the game. In the 5th, back-to-back solo home runs over the short left field fence got them on the board, and 2 outs later, another solo shot off the center field netting added one more. But a great moment (not on the highlight reel thanks to the away broadcast) was the final play of the inning — when catcher Lavernway threw to shortstop Cabrera in a blink-and-you-miss-it play to catch the runner stealing 2nd.

In the 6th, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the fans a bit of something to cling to in what became the Rays’ 3rd loss of the Spring. It’s worth noting that much like at the Rays’ regular home in St. Petersburg, the majority of fans in the stands today were clearly Yankees fans. As if the echoing cheers during positive Yankee moments weren’t making that obvious.

And those cheers began early today, with the Yankees once again jumping out in front right in the 1st inning. Tyler Wade hit a ground-rule double and then scored on Luke Voit’s single. Estevan Florial kicked off the 2nd inning with a single, stole 2nd, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then easily scored on another wild pitch. Two outs and a new pitcher later, Holder and LeMahieu singled to get on base, and Wade’s double scored Holder for a rather easy early Yankees’ lead.

Then in the 4th, with 1 out, LeMahieu walked, Wade singled, and they both scored with Luke Voit’s powerful 3-run home run over that left field fence to double the Yankees’ score. After the Rays got a few runs on the board, the Yankees got a few back in the 6th when Mazilli singled and then scored as part of Matt Lipka’s 2-run home run (yes, to left field).

It was enough to claim their first win this Spring.

Final score: 8-5 Yankees

Next up: for Opening Day, the Yankees will host the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field tomorrow afternoon. And because it’s both Opening Day and their home, you can expect to see some appearances by the “big guys”. There’s nothing like Opening Day. I can’t wait.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 1: NYY vs. BOS — Starting with a few bangs and a whimper

After a full week of full squad reporting, press conferences, workouts, and team building exercises, the Yankees kicked off their 2019 baseball season against their long-time rivals at Fenway South in Fort Myers, about 140 miles (or about 2 hours) south of Steinbrenner Field. Yes, the Yankees are starting 2019 by taking on the 2018 Champions. Perhaps with a small hope of transferring the title back to New York this year.

It actually started pretty good for the Yankees. Gleyber Torres began his 2019 season with a bang, a 1-out solo home run in the 1st inning to take an early lead. And the Yankee batters were hitting off the Red Sox’s pitchers today, collecting 13 total hits. In the 2nd, Tyler Wade hit a 1-out double, stole 2nd, and then stole on Matt Lipka’s double. Lipka then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double.

Nestor Cortes got to start this afternoon’s game for the Yankees, throwing into the 3rd inning. He gave up one run in the 2nd after 3 consecutive singles and then repeated that in the 3rd. So, with 2 runners on base and 2 outs, the Yankees opted to go to their bullpen. But that didn’t help right away. Another single scored the tying run, and then next batter hit a big 3-run home run over the right field fence to double the Red Sox’s score and give them the lead.

But then both teams fell into a pattern of stronger baseball, keeping the score static until the 8th inning. The Yankees got the first chance to chip away at the home team’s lead. Ryan McBroom smacked a solid 1-out home run (into this stadium’s attempt to replicate the Green Monster wall) to start their rally attempt. Trey Amburgey doubled and later scored on Kyle Holder’s single. Then with 2 walks and bases loaded, the Yankees were just a run shy of tying the game. Unfortunately, the Red Sox brought in a new pitcher that shut down their rally.

The Yankees didn’t help in the bottom of the 8th, by allowing the Red Sox to retake those 2 runs. A single and double put runners in scoring position to do so on a 1-out single. And the visiting team didn’t find another rally in them in the 9th, so the Red Sox took their first game.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox

Not exactly the best way to start this season, but oddly reminiscent of last year — big start and not enough to beat the Red Sox by the end. Okay, now that we’ve made the comparison, we can start fresh with tomorrow’s game.

Tomorrow will be at the Rays’ Spring home field about half the distance of today’s game down the Gulf Coast of Florida. Monday will be the first home game for the Yankees.

Welcome to Spring Baseball. Boy, have we missed you.

Go Yankees!

{Media note reminder: Like every year, Spring Training unfortunately involves spotty video coverage, which sometimes leads to less available media highlights. Like today’s game was solely covered by the Red Sox’s own sports broadcast, so many of the highlights Yankee fans might prefer to see aren’t available for inclusion. Sorry!}

Game 136: DET vs. NYY — A 2-hit wonder

The funny thing about baseball is that for all its statistics and numbers, it really just boils down to a lone stat — runs scored. Everything else ultimately is either for individual glory (or detriment). And this afternoon’s game in the Bronx was a great example of that. The Yankees, who ultimately won the game, only got 2 hits and 5 walks, while the Tigers worked 9 hits and just 1 walk off Yankee pitchers. The difference was simple — the Yankees scored just one more run and thus won the game.

Still, Masahiro Tanaka got the start this afternoon, throwing 96 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 7 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 6 Detroit batters to earn his 10th win this season. In fact, his terrible inning was in the top of the game. He gave up 3 consecutive singles to load up the bases before allowing a sacrifice fly to score just 1 run. Tanaka held the Tigers to that lone run for the rest of his outing.

Jonathan Holder had a better outing today, throwing just 8 pitches in the 8th inning, before Dellin Betances’ clean 9th inning closed out the game and helped deliver the victory to the home team.

As good as the Yankee pitchers were today, the Tigers’ starter and his relievers actually held the home team to those 2 hits. In fact, their starter held the Yankees hitless and scoreless through the first 4 innings, having a bit of a perfect game, with 7 big strikeouts. However, in the 5th, Miguel Andujar broke his streak with a walk to lead-off the inning. One out later, Gleyber Torres hit his 22nd homer, a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Yankees on the board and in the lead.

Despite such a great start, the Tigers opted to go to their bullpen right there in the middle of the 5th. That first reliever promptly loaded up the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch (welcome to the Bronx, Andrew McCutchen!), but then a pop-up left them stranded. And that would be the last good opportunity the Yankees would get all afternoon.

Final score: 2-1 Yankees

Speaking of the new guy, Andrew McCutchen, clean-shaven and wearing #26, led-off the game and played right field in his Yankees’ debut today. He also got his first foray as part of the famed Roll Call from the Bleacher Creatures, something that made his smile linger for most of the 1st inning. The veteran outfielder should be an easy fan favorite for the fans in the outfield bleachers, much like he was with his former team in Pittsburgh.

It’s September. And with the turn of the calendar page comes the September call-ups, where each team is allowed to expand its daily 25 player roster up to 40 active players. This nicely coincided with both recent trades of McCutchen and Adeiny Hechavarria. They also activated Gary Sanchez off the 10-day disabled list, fully recovered from his recent groin injury.

The Yankees also recalled infielder Tyler Wade and reliever Luis Cessa and selected the contract of reliever Stephen Tarpley from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And to make room on the 40-man roster for Tarpley, the Yankees opted to designate outfielder Shane Robinson for assignment.

Of course, that still leaves three big names on the Disabled List — Didi Gregorius (bruised heel), Aaron Judge (fractured wrist), and Aroldis Chapman (knee tendinitis). All three are actively receiving treatments, something the Yankees are hoping will bring them back sooner rather than later. But clearly the recent acquisitions are the Yankees’ way of shoring up their staff in case those lingering issues decide to linger a bit longer.

Go Yankees!