The Yankees traveled across the state to visit the Washington Nationals on the Space Coast in an evening game I’m guessing they will want to forget.
Masahiro Tanaka started tonight’s game. I wish I could say “off-night” was fit to describe this outing, but “off-night” doesn’t seem adequate enough. Right off the 1st inning, Tanaka allowed a lead-off single who moved to 2nd on a balk and then scored on an RBI double. But then he found the momentum and got the 3 outs to get out of the inning. And despite a perfect 3-up, 3-down 2nd inning.
But the 3rd started with a lead-off solo home run by a former Yankee (one of several we saw last Spring and during the season, actually). Then Tanaka loaded up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. A force out to 2nd scored a run and left runners at the corners. Another single scored another run. And a double scored one more run, but the defense got it together and got the other runner out at home in a nice relay play. But yet another home run scored 2 more to bookend the Nationals rally in that inning.
After a much better 4th inning, Tanaka’s bad outing was over, and it was time for the parade of prospect relievers. The first 3 were very good — Goody, Cessa, and Barbato kept the Nationals from scoring further, giving up just 1 hit, no walks, and 4 strikeouts in their 3 innings.
And while the final two pitchers (Swarzak and Rumbelow) weren’t exactly terrible, they clearly couldn’t rely on the defense as 4 errors padded the Nationals’ score even further in the 8th inning alone. After a lead-off single, the next batter reached safely on a missed force attempt, complete with a throwing error, with the runners ending up in scoring position. The next batter reached 1st on a fielding error as the lead runner scored. A walk then loaded the bases with absolutely no outs yet.
So, a single then kept the bases loaded and scored a run. The next batter hit a ground ball, and the defense suddenly remembered they were the “defense” and got the out at home. But a single then scored 3 runs landing the batter at 2nd on a messy fielding error. And despite a pitching change, another single scored another run because of yet another fielding error. Finally, the last batter ground into a double play to mercifully end the inning for everyone. Though to be fair to the pitchers, not one run was considered earned that inning because of the four errors by the fielders.
Now, to be fair to the Yankees’ offense, they did face a couple of the Nationals’ really amazing pitching staff (who delivered 13 strikeouts to the Yankee batters), and they still managed to get 10 total hits off them. But they couldn’t manage to do more than play a little small ball.
Final score: 13-0 Nationals.
Okay, so the story going around baseball universe today is that Alex Rodriguez will call it quits for good when his contract ends at the end of next season (that’s 2017). It doesn’t really surprise anyone. With Ortiz’s retiring at the end of this year and Rodriguez at the end of next (and a handful of other older ball players following suit in the next few years), it could be a new era of baseball. It will be interesting to watch this develop.
And in really sad news, baseball said good bye to Joe Garagiola, former ball player, colorful broadcaster, and friend to so many, especially his childhood friend Yogi Berra. Garagiola and Berra grew up together in St. Louis and were scouted together; both were catchers, and Garagiola was considered the better prospect over the future Hall of Famer Berra. Garagiola played with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, and (New York) Giants. After hanging up his cleats, Garagiola found his home as a broadcaster, first calling games for Cardinals’ radio and then with NBC, including several World Series broadcasts in the 1960s.
Garagiola called Mantle’s 500th home run game during his stint with the Yankees in the mid-60s, returning to NBC to wind up as the play-by-play announcer full time in the 1970s. By the 1980s, he shifted to color commentary when another legend (Vin Scully) joined their team as the play-by-play announcer. He and Scully would pair up for 3 All-Star Games, 3 NLCS, and 3 World Series through the 1980s before Garagiola called it quits from network sports broadcasting. He took most of the 1990s to enjoy the game as a fan from his home in Arizona before rejoining the broadcasting world mostly as a part-time color commenter for the Diamondbacks (his son was the Diamondbacks GM at the time) before officially calling it quits just 3 years ago.
His biggest legacy was his off-field advocacy against the use of chewing tobacco. A former user himself, Garagiola visited team during Spring Training with former MLB alumni suffering from cancer related to chewing tobacco addiction as was so prevalent during the times he was a player. And he helped found BAT (Baseball Assistance Team) to help former players who’ve hit hard times.
Joe Garagiola was 90, leaving behind his wife Audrey, 3 children (baseball executive Joe Jr.; Steve and Gina, both broadcast journalists), 8 grandchildren, and countless friends and family, including the large Berra clan who are missing their “Uncle Joe” today.