Spring Games 21 & 22: ATL vs. NYY & NYY vs. MIA — Winning internationally is also an art

Well, today essentially erased yesterday’s losses in one fell swoop. 7 would be the Yankees “lucky number” on this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, as both in Tampa and in Panama, the Yankees split-squad each scored 7 total runs. And while the players are busy crossing international waters to head back to regular Spring Training, we take a moment to pause and consider the offensive victories of this Sunday.

In Tampa, on this very sunny, very hot, sometimes breezy afternoon, it was Masahiro Tanaka’s start today. And though he still managed to be fairly good, he still had some struggles and was not his usual “Tanaka-ness”. Over 4.1 innings, he allowed 3 hits, 1 run, and 2 walks, while striking out 6 Braves batters. But it still wasn’t until the 4th inning that the Braves managed to find a hole in Tanaka’s pitching, when a walk scored on a double to tie up the game. Backing up to the 2nd inning, Ramon Flores singled to lead-off the inning and scores later in the inning on Ichiro Suzuki’s single.

Going into the 5th inning, after Tanaka struck out a batter, he was replaced by Matt Thornton who struggled a bit, allowing a double, and an RBI single before getting those last two outs. Thornton, despite allowing the Braves to jump ahead, was technically the pitcher on record when the Yankees jumped ahead in what ended up being a gift-wrapped inning from the Braves.

Ichiro and Eduardo Nunez each walked and scored on Brian McCann’s double. Kelly Johnson singles, then Flores scores McCann’s pinch-runner. O’Brien walks to load the bases. A wild pitch scores Johnson and advances Flores and O’Brien. Mason Williams’ sacrifice fly easily scores Flores, as O’Brien lands on 3rd on a throwing error. Castillo reaches on another error, which allowed O’Brien to score. Suddenly, the Yankees are up 7-2 by the end of a very long half-inning.

Shawn Kelley dazzled in the 6th, complete with 2 strikeouts and no hits allowed. Shane Greene took the 7th and 8th, and only gave up a single hit, a solo home run; Greene struck out 4 batters. It was Dellin Betances’ turn for the 9th, and he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, allowing a walk, a hit by pitch, and a single to load the bases with one out, so a ground out could score a fourth and final run for the Braves. Betances got that final out with a signature strikeout, and the Yankees were gifted with a 7-4 win in Tampa today.

Meanwhile, only an hour behind their Tampa crew, the rest of the Yankees played their second game against the Marlins in the exhibition series in Panama. Last night, they were hitless, and today, they more than made up for that off-night. CC Sabathia took the mound and proved once again why he’s the cornerstone of their starting rotation, with 5 hitless, scoreless innings and 5 strikeouts. Robertson took the 6th, Claiborne the 7th (allowing the only hit the Marlins would get all day), before Cabral and Leroux polished off the 8th and 9th, handing the Yankees their second victory of the day.

Well, of course, in order for their to be a victory, there has to be some hits and runs on the other side of the field. And there certainly was, beginning in the 2nd inning. Francisco Cervelli and Yangervis Solarte each singled, before Cervelli scored on Zelous Wheeler’s ground-rule double. In the 5th, Corban Joseph doubled, Jeter walked, Carlos Beltran singled home Joseph, Cervelli singled Jeter home, and Solarte’s single brought Beltran and Cervelli to punch the score up to 5-0 Yankees.

So in the 9th, the Yankees wanted to secure their win, so they added 2 more runs. Antoan Richardson singled and then scored as Gary Sanchez homered out to right field. And the Yankees flew away from Panama with a one-hitter shut-out win against the Marlins, winning 7-0. So in total, the Yankees had 15 total hits in Panama and 7 total runs, all in today’s game (plus 12 hits and 7 runs in the game in Tampa). Today was the Yankees being the Yankees, hitting, scoring, and finding the holes in their opponents’ game.

Ones to watch (having only watched the Tampa game, I’m limited to those I saw): Ramon Flores and Shane Greene. Flores may be my personal favorite player to watch this Spring, and he continues to prove he’s worth watching with his Granderson-like defense in the outfield and his consistency in the batter’s box. Greene has had his ups and downs, but he was pretty great to watch today, and except for the random solo home run, he threw 4 strikeouts in just 2 innings.

I have to point out two regular players that have been outstanding, especially in today’s game — Mark Teixeira and Francisco Cervelli. Teixeira had an absolutely amazing outing on defense at 1st base today, something that reminds me of pre-injured Teixeira days. Cervelli clearly has one of the highest batting averages of the Spring and continues to prove his mettle as an ardent defender at the plate. The Yankees are coming off strong this Spring, and that’s a really good sign.

Go Yankees!

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