Game 136: BOS vs. NYY — Welcome to September baseball, not so Greene anymore

Well, it’s September baseball. Consider this the long stretch into the postseason. And yesterday, the Yankees had the day off, which I guess was nice for those who wanted to celebrate Labor Day properly. But it also means that the 25-man roster can increase to the 40-man for the playoff race. That being said, the Yankees recalled catcher John Ryan Murphy and pitchers Preston Claiborne, Bryan Mitchell, and Chase Whitley (from AAA Scranton); selected pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Chris Young (also from AAA); and signed outfielder Antoan Richardson and pitcher Chaz Roe to ML contracts and the active roster (again from AAA). And in less pleasant news, AA Trenton outfielder Slade Heathcott was recalled and moved to the 60-day DL due to right knee surgery; moved Masahiro Tanaka to the 60-day DL (more in a moment); released pitcher Matt Daley; and designated Zoilo Almonte for assignment.

Okay, so Tanaka’s soreness was diagnosed as just that — soreness. That means, he will return to his throwing rehab this week, attempting to work back into the regular season as soon as humanly possible. It feels odd that I must include the term “human”, but I think sometimes some people become so used to the idea of near immortality of the athletes (or even seeing them as simply commodities) that one might forget they are also human, with weaknesses and limitations. We continue to wish Tanaka a speedy recovery, but mostly we want good, whole health.

And then there was a game with the visiting Boston Red Sox. Shane Greene took the start tonight, and while Greene has been pretty consistent this year in his fill-in status, tonight certainly wasn’t consistent with the Greene I think we’ve been spoiled to watch. In just 2.2 innings, Greene threw 67 pitches, gave up 6 hits, 6 runs, and 3 walks, striking out just 3 Boston batters. To say it was a terrible outing for Greene might be an understatement, and I think everyone wishes this was an April game and not a September one.

In the 1st inning, a single and a walk put runners on base to score on a double and a sacrifice fly. (2-0 Boston) In the 3rd, runners again on base with a single and a walk score when a batter smacked a 3-run home run into the right field seats, only to be followed up 2 batters (and 1 out) later by another home run (a solo shot). (6-0 Boston)

Now, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 3rd as Martin Prado hit his own solo home run into the left field seats, but with Esmil Rogers on the mound now (in relief of Greene to get out of the 3rd and pitching into the 4th), Rogers gave up his own solo home run, effectively erasing the Yankees’ attempt. (7-1 Boston). Rogers came back for 1 out in the 5th before handing the ball over to Hill to end that inning.

The bottom of the 5th was, by far, the most productive offensive inning for the Yankees, albeit awfully strange. Beltran and McCann each singled. Then Prado hit a ball that sailed over the left fielder’s head, which should have been a double, but Beltran and McCann were waiting to see if the player could catch it. He didn’t, so Prado headed for 2nd thinking it was a double, but McCann was held up there as Beltran was still on 3rd. Desperately trying to find his way back to 1st as it was deemed a single, Prado ended up getting tagged out. Some people blamed Beltran for not running, some people blamed Prado for running too much, but really it was just a huge miscommunication for everyone. Anyway, Headley walked to load the bases, and then Francisco Cervelli’s walk finally scored Beltran.

Another out brought up Derek Jeter to the plate. Jeter hit a soft grounder to the shortstop who charged the ball and fired it to 1st where the 1st base umpire called Jeter out. This brought Girardi out of the dugout for a challenge. Upon review (and a very boisterous reception from the heated crowd in the steamy Bronx tonight upon seeing the replay on the big screen), it was over turned — Jeter safe at 1st, bases still loaded, but McCann scored. (7-3 Boston) The next batter was Brett Gardner, who struck out on a rather outside pitch; a bit frustrated, Gardner discarded his helmet and bat a little to forcefully, according to the home plate umpire who immediately ejected him. Well, with nothing to lose, Gardner went off on his about his “floating strike zone”.

Like I said, that 5th inning was something else…

Well, this whole game was really something else…

Warren came on to pitch the 6th and 7th for the Yankees, and Huff got his chance in the 8th. Both did an excellent job keeping Boston from adding to this lead that was easily handed to them by sloppy pitching and missed offensive opportunities and whatever happened in the bottom of the 5th to the Yankees.

Chaz Roe made his Yankee debut in the 9th, and I’m guessing it wasn’t quite the impression he had in mind. He gave up a lead-off triple that scored on a sacrifice fly and a walk that scored on a single. The Yankees tried to earn back one of those runs in the bottom of the 9th with Brian McCann’s lead-off solo home run. But it wasn’t enough.

And Prado was pulled from the game in the 9th inning (replaced by Chris Young, the former Met making his pinstriped debut) with hamstring soreness. The initial diagnosis was hamstring tightness in his left leg, but they will have an official diagnosis after he sees the team doctor and an MRI. Fingers crossed for just a couple of days warming the bench and not something more serious (though, this year, nothing surprises me anymore on the injury front).

Like I said, this game was something else… there are literally no words to describe it. Well, there are words, but I’m trying to maintain a positive, clean blog here. And on that note, what would the upside of tonight’s game? They still have 2 more games to win against Boston this week, and there are two rookie pitchers scheduled for the next two days to face the Yankees. Here’s to hoping the stereotypes are true about rookie (and recent call-up) pitchers facing veteran batters…

Go Yankees!

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!

Game 106: NYY vs. TEX — Batting practice in Arlington

3 hours, 51 minutes. 27 total hits. 23 total runs scored, 4 were home runs, 1 was a grand slam. 13 total walks. 12 total strikeouts. 2 total fielding errors. 30 total players. And 41,934 fans. It’s all just numbers on a screen. And none of it tell you what a wild ride tonight’s game was.

Like Brett Gardner, who has basically turned Globe Life Park in Arlington into his personal batting practice. He led off the game with a solo home run, his 3rd in 2 games. Gardner would go on to hit 4-for-5, scoring 3 runs and is currently boasting the highest batting average on the roster at .283. He also was responsible for making the final out of the game. So, to clear up any confusion: it was Gardner who started the run factory and Gardner to close out the game by catching a fly ball in left field. I’m thinking Gardner is really liking Texas right now.

It was Brandon McCarthy’s turn to start tonight and actually he did pretty well given the circumstances. And by circumstances, I mean that both the Yankees and the Rangers decided to turn the ball park in Arlington into a hitting competition. Over his 6 innings, McCarthy threw 108 pitches, allowed 9 hits, 4 runs, and a walk, striking out 3 Rangers batters. Those runs quickly accumulated on McCarthy in the 3rd inning. As the Yankees had the 1-0 lead and the Rangers already notched 2 outs in that inning, back-to-back singles put runners on the corners, so a single scored 1 run and a double scored 2 more. Then in the 5th, the Rangers added an extra run to their lead with a 2-out solo home run to put the Rangers up 4-1.

But the Yankees weren’t in Texas to give up a game so easily, at least not tonight. So they came back in the top of the 6th with a vengeance. Gardner (who else?) led off with a double, and Derek Jeter singled (though it had to be challenged to be ruled correctly a single). One out later, Mark Teixeira’s walk loaded the bases, so that Carlos Beltran’s single scored Gardner and Jeter. Brian McCann’s sacrifice fly scored Teixeira, and Headley walked. Zoilo Almonte (brought back yesterday and already making a difference) singled home Beltran, and Brendan Ryan’s double easily scored Headley and Almonte. Then back to the top of the batting order, Gardner hit what should be an easy catch to right field, but the fielders nearly collide and the ball bounces off one guy’s glove and the other guy’s head before rolling out to the wall; Gardner ended up at 3rd and Ryan scored the 7th run of that inning for the Yankees.

That’s right, in one inning, the Yankees racked up 7 runs, and at this point, led the Rangers in a 8-4 game.

But for reassurance, the Yankees came back in the 7th inning to give themselves a cushion. Ellsbury and Teixeira each worked a walk, and Beltran’s single loaded the bases. Chase Headley’s single scored Ellsbury, keeping the bases loaded, and Almonte’s ground out scored Teixeira. And it was a 10-4 Yankee-leading ball game.

And now McCarthy was on the hook for the win, so the Yankees called on Adam Warren for relief. Let me preface this first: no one on either team seemed to have a very successful pitching outing, but the Yankees in particular seem to take a beating in this area, especially after McCarthy left the game. Warren came into the game in the 7th and threw 24 pitches to get a single out, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks, all 3 runners would go on to score when his relief Dellin Betances allowed a grand slam to his first batter. Yep, that hurt.

It was now 10-8 Yankees. Those pesky Rangers wanted in on the hitting action, closing in on the 6-run lead in a single swing.

That 2-run deficit was enough to make the Yankees uncomfortable, so what else would they do but score a couple extra cushion runs. Gardner’s lead-off single in the 8th (again, who else in Texas?) put him on base so that 2 outs later, Teixeira’s solid home run added 2 more runs to the Yankee total. 12-8 Yankees.

Chase Whitley was called on to relieve the struggling Betances in the 8th inning. 16 pitches later, the inning was over and the score was 12-9 Yankees, after a single scored on a ground out.

And then it was turned over to Houdini himself — David Robertson to earn his 27th save of the season. But before he was awarded that by official scorekeepers, he decided to give every Yankee fan and his coaches and fellow players quite a stressful 9th inning with 31 messy pitches. A strikeout, a single, a walk, a ground out, and a walk left the bases loaded with 2 outs and everyone on the edge of their seats. Rangers fans praying for a second grand slam of the game. Yankees fans praying for that elusive final out of the inning.

But neither got their wish just yet because the next batter’s single scored 2 runs and put the Rangers within 1 run of tying the game. Okay, so it was a 12-11 Yankees ball game. And then Robertson loaded the bases with a walk, pushing whatever edge-of-the-seat anticipation there was into overdrive. But no, a fly ball to left field, right into Gardner’s glove ended the game. 12-11 Yankees, McCarthy for the win, Robertson for the save, and Gardner for mayor. (Okay, but you know what I mean.)

I’m guessing, based on his expression coming off the mound after that final out, that Robertson didn’t really feel like he deserved the save tonight, but I don’t think most of the pitchers tonight really think they played well. You see in a high scoring, high hitting game, the pitchers really failed to do their job. And since it was pretty evenly split, the blame for weak pitching lies on both pitching staffs.

Is it too late to blame the Texas heat? I always blame the Texas heat on weird stuff that happens in the summer. Well, at least the Yankees won tonight. I still blame the Texas heat for that too.

Go Yankees!

Game 94: NYY vs. BAL — Stupid rain

I think the only thing I hate more than rain delays is games being called on account of rain delays. I blame nature, of course, for actually sending what can only be described as an Act of God over the city of Baltimore this evening. And I blame ESPN for making this AL East division rivalry game their Sunday night broadcasted game, forcing them to play in what quickly became a monsoon, while the entire day leading up to game time was a beautiful summer day. Okay, I realize I’m being a little facetious and unreasonable, but after 2 hours and 20 minutes of basically roaming around the internet waiting for closure on tonight’s game, I feel a little cheated.

And that’s the reason I hate midway called games the most is the lack of accomplishment with which they leave you feeling. It’s not really over, but circumstances have forced a stunted closure to a game in progress. There is no real closure, just a lot of hanging “what ifs”.

But there was a partial game tonight. Brett Gardner led off the game with a solo home run. And then starter Chase Whitley delivered 3 innings with no runs scored. But it was the 4th inning that got him into trouble (and again, I blame the evil weather tonight, but just for tonight). Whitley allowed a lead-off walk to put a runner on base so that the next batter (one of the Orioles best hitters) to smack a 2-run home run. A double next ended up at 3rd 2 outs later and scored on a single before the Yankees called on David Huff to get out of the inning.

But the damage was done. It was 3-1 Orioles going into the 5th inning. After a quick 3 outs for the Yankees at the top of the 5th, the heavens altered their course of attack from sprinkles to rain to deluge, and in the middle of an at-bat, the umpires called for the tarps. Players retreated to their dugouts, fans scurried to covered areas. And once lightning became a valid threat, players ducked into their respective clubhouses and fans dove for better shelter to wait out the storm.

It looked like there might be some leeway about just under 2 hours after the rain delay began, but the storm system behind the current one dousing the filed hurried itself up and chased the first system out of the area so it could have its turn to open up over Charm City. Of course, the rain paused there for a minute while I was writing this, but it’s back on again. It doesn’t matter any more, as the players are now making their way home and a few players are hopping a plane to Minneapolis. So the game ends there in the 5th inning, 3-1 Baltimore wins.

And the Yankees head into the All-Star break an even .500, 47 wins-47 losses, and 5 games behind Baltimore. I guess it’s better than having a losing record.

All-Star festivities are in full-swing in the Twin Cities. Fan fest began on Friday and will run through Tuesday. Last night, they held a concert featuring some powerhouse singers and performers. This morning, there was a 5K Color Run for charity, followed by the Futures Game (featuring two Yankee prospects) and the Celebrity Softball Game. A block party is running from tonight until Tuesday. Tomorrow will be the Players’ Workout Day, which proudly features the Home Run Derby. Tuesday will begin with the Red Carpet Show and end with the 85th All-Star Game at Target Field. You can find out all the details, see pictures, and shop ASG gear on this site.

Pre-game roster moves: Zoilo Almonte and Matt Daley optioned to AAA Scranton, Jim Miller outrighted to AAA Scranton, and pitcher Bryan Mitchell recalled from AA Trenton. But then again, it’s just the beginning of the All-Star break, so it’s still anyone’s guess who’ll be on the roster come Friday when the Yankees host the Reds back in the Bronx.

Happy All-Star Week!

Go Yankees!

Game 41: PIT vs. NYY — The Bronx Bombers

After yesterday’s threats of inclement weather pushed that game to Sunday for a doubleheader, today ended up being the first game of the weekend series against Pittsburgh. And the Yankees decided to make a point.

David Phelps took today’s start and really did an amazing job. It was reminiscent of last year’s performance from Phelps. Over 5 innings and 100 pitches, he allowed 5 hits and 3 walks, no runs, and struck out 5 Pirates. That’s right. The Pirates couldn’t cobble their hits and walks into a scoring scenario through 5 innings. When Dellin Betances took the 6th inning, his solo mistake was a first-pitch solo home run. Betances, however, kept the Pirates from adding to that through the 7th. Adam Warren’s 8th and Matt Daley’s 9th finished off the Pirates and kept them to that single run scored.

In the meantime, the Yankees decided to put on a show this afternoon in the Bronx, reclaiming their time-honored title of “Bronx Bombers”. In the 1st, Jeter on base with a single, Mark Teixeira continued his home run streak with a 2-run shot, the 350th home run of his career. Then in the 3rd, 6th, and 7th innings, a Yankee hit a lead-off solo home run — Zoilo Almonte (making his 2014 debut with a splash and donning #24), Brett Gardner, and Alfonso Soriano, respectively.

Then in the 8th, Gardner on with a walk and 2 outs, Brian McCann smacks a 2-run home run to push the Yankees up to a 7-1 lead. And that’s where they landed. 7-1 victory over the Pirates. A great way to start this weekend series and work their way back to the top of the heap in the AL East (now just a 1/2 game behind Baltimore), where they belong.

Tomorrow’s game will be a single-admission doubleheader, meaning if you had tickets to one game, you get to go to both. I cannot even imagine the nightmare that awaits the stadium people (the box office, specifically) because my mind is spinning in circles over seating dilemmas based on my own experiences with tickets over a weekend series. However, something tells me that the Yankees have it under control. They usually do.

Go Yankees!

Game 38: NYM vs. NYY — Subway series down the tubes in Game 2

Three hours and 58 minutes. You’d think it was a Red Sox-Yankees game. No, it was just a poorly pitched Mets-Yankees game, that included an ejection, mound re-landscaping, and a really ridiculous number of walks.

First, the injury update: Shawn Kelley was placed on the 15-day DL with his recurring back issue (Zoilo Almonte was recalled from AAA); Ichiro Suzuki is day-to-day with his back problem; Carlos Beltran is day-to-day with a bone spur on his elbow.

And Babe Ruth’s Cooperstown plaque was on display at the Stadium, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s rookie MLB season. It is scheduled to be displayed at Grand Central Station in Midtown as part of a special exhibit. It also serves as a reminder that the Hall of Fame is opening a new gallery as part of the 75th anniversary celebration next month. (No, I still haven’t been there, but it’s on my list. And if you’re truly a baseball fan, it should be on yours as well.)

Oh, and then they played the second game of this “subway series” with the Mets. And it was just messy. Spoiler alert: the Mets won, but really it was just messy pitching on both sides. The Mets were simply able to do more with the Yankees weakened bullpen and rotation. They always say that if you don’t have pitching, you don’t have nothin’ (and yes, I just cringed at the grammar), and it’s certainly true tonight.

So it was Vidal Nuno for the start. And right off the top, it’s not good. The lead-off Mets batter was hit by a pitch, then a walk, and an RBI single before finally an out, followed promptly by a 3-run home run by former Yankee Granderson. (4-0 Mets)

But the Yankees didn’t wait long and answered back in the bottom of the 1st. Gardner singled, Jeter walked, a double play (the first of 3), Mark Teixeira’s RBI single scored Gardner, and then Brian McCann smacked a 2-run home run. (4-3 Mets)

Then the Mets continued to advance their lead. A sacrifice fly in each of the 3rd and 4th scored 2 more runs. And that’s when Nuno’s night was over, after just 3.1 innings and a big 78 pitches (4 hits, 7 runs, 4 walks, and 1 strikeout). So out came Alfredo Aceves, who let a single score yet another Mets run. (7-3 Mets)

So the Yankees attempted their first comeback rally in the bottom of the 4th (and 2 hours into the game already). Two walks and a fly out put runners at the corners, so Yangervis Solarte scored on Gardner’s single. And the second double play on the Yankees ends the inning quickly, squelching any further rally. (7-4 Mets)

And into the 5th… the Mets’ lead-off double scored on an RBI single, and then another walk sets the table for another 3-run home run. And it’s 11-4 Mets. The Yankees response is much weaker in the bottom of the 5th, Ellsbury walked, McCann singled, and Soriano’s single scored Ellsbury before the inning was over. (11-5 Mets)

Aceves threw 52 pitches through just 1.2 innings, but it was really Matt Daley who shone from the bullpen tonight. He pitched the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings rather flawlessly and threw just 44 pitches in those 3 innings. He is proving a great call-up and much needed relief.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Yankees current secret weapon (in the form of Solarte) decided to tack on another Yankee run with a solo home run into the right field seats. But the Mets decided to take it back with an RBI double in the top of the 9th against reliever Preston Claiborne. And in a last-ditch attempt to rally, with 1 out and Jeter and Ellsbury on the corner each with a walk, McCann’s single scored Jeter. Two outs later and the score was sadly 12-7 Mets.

Oh, and Girardi got ejected. Something he doesn’t understand, and honestly, I thought the ejection was a little much. He was questioning a call, and on his way back to the dugout, the umpire ejected him. Gotta love a back-handed gesture.

Here’s why I blame poor pitching: the Yankees earned 10 walks and got their 7 runs off 9 hits, and the Mets got their 12 runs off 10 hits and 6 walks. Both teams left far too many people on base at the end of the innings. And here’s the thing, the scorer didn’t even give the Mets starter the win because the pitching wasn’t great.

Tomorrow, the Yankees head out to Queens for the last 2 games of the Subway Series. I hoping the smell of Shake Shack on the outfield concourse will be enough to lift the Yankees into some much needed wins. Right now, they’re playing for average 19-19. And the Yankees are anything but average. It may be a “long season”, but I don’t have a lot of patience and I really don’t like average. And it’s one of the reasons I like the Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 32: NYY vs. PIT — On track for a strong 2014

If you’re following any other blogs or stories covering Spring, you may discover that my numbers don’t line up with some of the other numbers. I’ve been counting all the games the Yankees have played this Spring, like the exhibition game against Florida State last month and the two games down in Panama against the Marlins and the rained out one a couple of weeks ago and each split squad game as their own game. The funny thing is that none of the numbers exactly line up. Today, before the game, I was looking at the standings and the Yankees are 15-12, meaning they’ve played 27 games, but they also have 2 ties, so it’s 29 games. I’m at 32 by my count (which includes a no-decision rain-out), so I know some of those exhibition games aren’t in the stats.

But then again, because it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. MLB says the Yankees are (now) 16-12 and that’s the stats that will go on the team’s site and one each player’s information under the Spring Training heading. But as we all know, Spring Training is practice for the “big boys” and a month-long audition for the “replacements”. So it doesn’t matter how many games and who has what number. It just matters where everyone ends up on April 1. Like Cervelli: despite Romine being sent back to minor league camp to get ready for AAA, he’s not waiting around on his laurels assuming that back-up catching job is his, until he sees his name on a locker at the Astros’ visitors’ clubhouse on April 1.

In the mean time, there’s still 2 more games for the Yankees, after today’s overcast win over the Pirates in Bradenton. CC Sabathia got in 4 innings of work before his next start (April 1 against Houston), throwing 44 pitches and giving up just 3 hits and no runs. His Spring ERA is 1.29, which is really outstanding and should be a great sign for both him and the Yankees as they gear up for 2014. Dellin Betances came in to rock the 5th inning, giving up just a single hit. Betances is certainly proving himself worthy of one of the 4 coveted bullpen spots left. As is Vidal Nuno, by his display in the 6th, including 2 dynamic strikeouts by the lefty. Adam Warren’s 2 hits allowed in the 7th came up empty for the Pirates, and he eked by without a dent.

Before we go into the 8th, the Yankees made their dent in the first half of the game. In the 1st, Ichiro Suzuki hit a lead-off single, moved to 3rd on Eduardo Nunez’ single, and scored on Mark Teixeira’s ground out. Nunez would score on Zoilo Almonte’s single, pushing the early Yankee lead to 2-0. In the 4th, the Yankees came back to add to their total (and give them the cushion they would need to hang onto the win). With 2 outs, Adonis Garcia doubled and then scored on Ichiro’s single. Ichiro would then advance on a wild pitch and score on Nunez’s single. And the Yankees stayed at those 4 runs for the game.

Into the 8th inning, the pitchers so far doing a great job holding off the Pirates. But David Phelps seemed to struggle almost immediately, quickly loading the bases with a single, a double, and a walk. A really pretty double play still scored the Pirates’ first run, and a triple (yes, the Pirates were collectively a home run short of the cycle in this inning) scored the second. Cesar Cabral came on to get that last out for Phelps that inning, coming back in the 9th to close out the game for the save, giving Sabathia his third win of the pre-season. Final score: 4-2 Yankees.

If you’re wondering how the pitching display (consider it another audition for those last 4 bullpen spots) went, so far this Spring, Cabral hasn’t allowed a single run, Warren’s ERA is under 2.00, Betances’ is under 1.00 (like I said before), and both Phelps and Nuno are tied in the ERA at 3.38 (which really isn’t terrible for a relief pitcher over a long season). This decision, as Girardi and others have said, will definitely go down to the wire. It’s going to be a tight race, and whomever gets sent down will probably see some major league action at some point this season because something always happens (injury, drastic dive in production, trade, etc.).

And it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if we ended up with another Nova situation because a similar situation seems to happen every year. As a brief refresher, Nova struggled to find his pitching at the beginning of 2013 in the bullpen, got sent down to AAA to work on it, got recalled and came back as a starter, better than ever, something that certainly played into his solid campaign for that 4th starter this year. Cervelli had the same experience, sent down in 2012 after the Yankees acquired Stewart as back-up. He came back fired up about his role in 2013, even earning the spot for Opening Day, but an injury and suspension cut his 2013 season short; now his 2014 season is off to an amazing start, leading the team in so many offensive areas and providing solid, consistent defense behind the plate. It’s not really an “if” situation, but really a “who” and “when”.

One thing’s for certain, more often than not, they come back stronger and better than ever. And that’s the kind of players that make up a team that make up a championship-winning team. And that’s the kind of team I can get behind.

Go Yankees!