Let’s just talk about this right up front: the game counts are going to be a little wacky this week. Technically, because yesterday’s game was an exhibition and thus didn’t count in the overall spring stats for whomever actually played. And today was the first officially spring game, but it was at the Pirates’ Spring HQ in Bradenton (about an hour south of Tampa) and so an away game. Their first official home game is tomorrow against the Pirates in Tampa. Don’t worry, after tomorrow, this count gets easier. (At least, I hope so!)
Like much of the Tampa area, Bradenton was overcast with threats of rain all day, but on the field, some of those new guys got their first taste of Yankee game time in today’s comeback loss to the Pirates. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a 7-pitch walk to start the game, eventually scoring on Brian McCann’s single. Ramon Flores then singled home Yangervis Solarte to put the Yankees up 2-0 in the 1st inning. In the next inning, with Ellsbury on base with yet another walk, Solarte hits a 2-run homer to put the Yankees up 4-0.
Ivan Nova got through 1.1 innings and struggled to find his command a bit, but that seemed to be a common thing for both teams today. With runners at the corners, Billings came on for Nova to get those next two outs, but not before a single and a fielding error (by the offensive rising star Solarte) allowed 2 Pirates’ runs. Billings went on to pitch the 3rd, and Dellin Betances the 4th and 5th, who turned out a fairly uneventful and solid 2 innings.
Chase Whitley’s relatively short 6th inning was deceptively easy compared to his 7th inning attempt that earned him the blown save and loss due to a no-out 3-run home run to tie up the game 5-5. (The Yankees scored on a 7th inning 2-out double.) So it’s Preston Claiborne’s turn to see what he could do to shut down the Pirates’ rally. With a walk leftover from Whitley’s blown save, it was 2 singles and a fielding error that allowed another Pirate run to score and ultimately handed them the game. Cabral pitched the 8th inning keeping the “Bucs” at bay. (Sorry, I really don’t get tired of sea metaphors for sea-related-named teams; and having grown up in Tampa, it’s still weird for me to call baseball players that, but I’m learning.) The Yankees’ bats never really came through in those later innings for a last-minute rally on their part.
So it’s a Game 1 (or 2) loss. Disappointing, but understandable. The Pirates were a really good team last year, and I don’t see why this year should be any different.
Someone asked me to make some October predictions this week. I felt woefully unprepared to make such near-grandiose sweeping guesses, stabs in the dark, really. And at that point, I hadn’t seen the Yankees play yet so I didn’t know if they would even be a contender at all. Don’t get me wrong. I always want October baseball in the Bronx, and I always want a World Championship for the Yankees. But I’m a realist, and I get that there are some years that October baseball is going to be a long-shot, and some years it’s still a possibility.
But the big problem with pre-season (even pre-Spring) predictions is just how off they usually are. I mean, it’s one thing to get to July and make some educated guesses because you’ve seen how this year’s team actually functions and if they even have a chance at something. And as unpredictable as baseball can be, you just never know where the dark horse is going to appear and do something dynamic (2012’s Giants or 2013’s Athletics), and which highly anticipated rosters just fizzle (2012’s Red Sox or 2013’s Blue Jays). So while I may have some idea of where I might cast my assumptions by Opening Day, I’ll stick to my philosophy on here and just leave you all guessing and opining your own choices, and we’ll see what happens in September.
You just never know… it’s baseball, after all!