Today was fan appreciation day at the stadium. This meant the Yankees spent their time thanking all their loyal fan base this season, even upgrading some of their upper level fans to Legends Suite seats (the cushy ones right behind home plate). And those same Yankee faithful were on hand to say goodbye to Mark Teixeira as he played his final game in pinstripes. (More below.)
Luis Cessa got the start for the final game against the Orioles and this final game of the season. Cessa did a pretty good job to start off, but things got a bit tricky for the tenacious team trying to secure themselves a Wild Card spot. Cessa threw just 77 pitches just shy of 6 full innings, gave up 5 hits, no walks, and 4 runs, striking out 6 Baltimore batters.
In the 3rd, the O’s lead-off batter hit a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Orioles on the board. In the 4th, with 2 outs and a runner on 1st with a single, a big 2-run home run eased the Orioles further in the lead. Then with 2 outs and a runner on base with a single in the 6th, the Yankees went to their bullpen.
Tommy Layne came on, but promptly gave up a 2-run home run — one run charged to him, one to Cessa before closing out the 6th inning with a strike out. Blake Parker allowed 2 baserunners in the 7th, but began the shutdown of the O’s. Adam Warren breezed through the Baltimore batters in a 12-pitch 8th inning, and Richard Bleier took it up a notch with a 9-pitch 9th inning.
The Yankees weren’t exactly quiet against the Orioles’ pitching tonight, working 10 total hits, but they didn’t cobble much together as far as runs to dent the Orioles’ lead enough. Brian McCann hit his 20th home run of the season, his 9th consecutive year to hit at least 20 home runs. This is also a huge milestone for McCann as he is now the 4th catcher in MLB history to hit at least 20 homers in 10 different seasons, just behind Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza (each with 11), and tying Yogi Berra. (Worth noting: all three of these catchers are in the Hall of Fame.)
The Yankees got their second shot at runs in the 8th inning. With 1 out, Gary Sanchez singled. The Orioles finally went to their bullpen then (though to be fair, their starter today did a pretty good job of heading off the Yankee offense for most of the game). Sanchez moved to 2nd on McCann’s single and then raced for home on Didi Gregorius’ 2-out single. It’s rather fitting the final run of the season was scored by the player who certainly helped infuse enough into the roster to keep playoff hopes alive for the last 2 months of the season for the Yankees.
Final score: 5-2 Orioles, Orioles win series 2-1.
The Yankees finish the season with a final total of 84 wins and 78 losses, with an average of .514. To be perfectly fair, they are behind the Wild Card teams by just 2 games. Remember, even in Spring Training, all the “talking heads” were saying this year’s team wasn’t even going to be close. (More on the postseason below).
I think much of Yankee Universe watched this game with a touch of melacholy. And not because of the loss, for the most part. No, the Yankees said farewell to Mark Teixeira in a lovely pre-game ceremony. After a video of his career highlights, Teixeira took the field to doff his cap to the cheering fans. He was joined by his wife Leigh (escorted by Girardi) and their three children.
The executive director of non-profit community outreach Harlem RBI presented Teixeira with a special thank you card signed by hundreds of the program’s participants. Teixeira has helped raise more than $10 million for the program over his career and become a prominent figure in raising awareness and investing his time and energy in helping kids have access to community athletic programs.
The Yankees, via the Steinbrenners, presented Teixeira with a framed #25 jersey, honoring his final game. 2009 Championship teammates Gardner and Sabathia presented him with a special 1st base, signed by his 2016 teammates. Teixeira will certainly be missed on the field and in the clubhouse, but I don’t expect him to stay away from baseball for too long. Like so many of them, it’s rather difficult to just erase a part of you that’s been so prominent for the last 30+ years.
Yankee fans, however, were a little reluctant to say goodbye, but also incredibly appreciative of Teixeira during the game. On his first at-bat today in the 2nd, the fans gave up a big standing ovation, and when he was pulled from the game in the 7th, they likewise cheered for him for a final time. It was a little surreal to see Tyler Austin take his place rather symbolically then; though we’ll have to see come Spring Training how well Greg Bird is doing. It might be an interesting battle to win Teixeira’s now vacated position at 1st base.
Okay, we have a postseason. But I’m saving all that for tomorrow’s post. Just know the Yankees aren’t in it. Their off-season began at dinner time today. The AL Wild Card game is Tuesday, with the NL Wild Card on Wednesday to decide who’s playing all those lovely division series.