Game 5: NYY vs. TOR — Pineda’s excellence still a loss in Toronto

Mark Teixeira is on the 15-day disabled list. It’s not a bad strain, but with the turf and that kind of hamstring injury, you don’t really want to take many chances. So the DL it is. And Austin Romine was pulled up from AAA, hopped a plane from Syracuse where the RailRiders were playing, felt like he was going to die having to fly through the lingering system over the Great Lakes, and nearly kissed the ground in Toronto. That means that he will serve as a back-up catcher, Johnson will be the primary 1st baseman, and Cervelli is added to the list of those who can sub at 1st (along with Solarte).

I can imagine that the Yankees will be thrilled to get out of Toronto — between the weather (and having to fly through it), the injuries (more on this later), and the usual vitriol from the fans at Rogers Centre. Awaiting their arrival at Yankee Stadium in just 2 days is a sold-out crowd of New Yorkers longing to open the season right.

But on the plus side of the game this afternoon, Michael Pineda made his first start of the year and the first time in 2 years pitching on the big league stage. And he was actually really amazing. Throwing just 83 pitches over 6 innings, Pineda gave up 5 hits, 1 run, no walks, and 5 strikeouts. That sole run came on a bloop RBI single in the 2nd inning.

Now, the Yankees bats were slow to awaken versus the Blue Jays’ knuckleball pitcher Dickey. Something I’ve learned from watching Dickey since his time with the Mets a couple of years ago is that when he’s on, he’s terrifying, but when he’s off, it’s an offensive dream (similar to what happened in a Spring, at least in the beginning of the game). Today, he was very on. 108 pitches through 6.2 innings, the Yankees were only able to eke through 5 hits and 1 walk. There were a couple of opportunities, even a questionable call at the plate in the 3rd inning (that never really resolved itself, left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths, and left everyone still talking about well into late in the game). Yes, it was a bad call that seemed to cause confusion, and everyone involved seemed to forget that catchers can’t block the plate any more. (YES Network and Toronto clips here.) And since I can give my opinion, it was a wrong call, and I even think that Cervelli was safe before getting tagged and smushed by the catcher. (Something Girardi has said he agree with; glad I’m in good company.)

And two notable offensive contributors would have to be undoubtedly Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 3-for-4, and Francisco Cervelli, who seems to be continuing his Spring campaign to be a great Yankee batter, going 2-for-3 (the 3rd almost a nice double save a fantastic leaping catch by a Blue Jays outfielder.

The replacement for Dickey in the 7th promptly threw a 92-mph fastball into Yangervis Solarte’s knee. It was a noticeable throw behind the batter, something you just don’t do unless you’re trying to make a point. (Perhaps Solarte’s ridiculous offensive contributions are point-making-worthy?) Obviously in a lot of pain, Solarte stayed in the game, trying to keep it in motion to reduce swelling and pain and just finish the game. The pitcher only stayed in for that last out of the 7th inning.

The Yankee replacements for Pineda weren’t as successful. Nuno entered in the 7th inning and proceeded to walk his first batter in 6 pitches, so they turned to David Phelps, who got a quick 3 outs. Now, the 8th inning seemed steeped in trouble from the beginning, for both teams. Runners quickly get on and into scoring position, but they can’t seem to make anything of it. Phelps comes back for the 8th and finds himself in deeper trouble, giving up a solo home run, a ground-rule double, and a 2-run homer. And Toronto sat at 4-0. Even as the Yankees attempted a rally in the 9th (a common recurrence in this game), they seemed to never make much of it and ended up shut out of the game.

Like I said earlier, despite yesterday’s win (which was deeply satisfying for so many reasons), I think the Yankees are very much looking forward to leaving Toronto. I think I feel that way every time they play there (or even in their Spring stadium in Dunedin). I don’t feel this way about many other teams. I usually enjoy series at Fenway or Camden Yards or even Tropicana Field (the other AL East rivals), even if the Yankees get pelted or swept. I don’t know what it is, but at this point, I just hope everyone escapes Toronto unscathed and ready for Opening Day.

I don’t know if you can tell yet, but I really can’t wait until Opening Day. Bags are packed, ticket in hand, hoping I don’t have crazy weather/flight issues like everyone else seems to have, and so looking forward to every moment of Monday. There’s nothing like a baseball game, but there’s something electric about the seeming clean-slate of an Opening Day. Oh, I’m aware that starting on the road certainly and having a week-late start of Opening Day already disadvantages the Yankees in the “clean-slate” department, especially because they’re already down 2-3. But there’s nothing more hopeful and positive and refreshing about the jolt in the arm from the New York crowd for the team as they dive head-first into this 2014 season. That and the fact that Boston lost their home opener despite some extreme pageantry. But what can I say?

Oh yeah…

Go Yankees!

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