I want to point something out to start tonight’s post: the Yankees are the best team in the Grapefruit League. Currently, they sit at 7 wins and 1 loss, or .875 average. They are technically tied with the Angels for top of the league and the AL, “technically” because the Angels (who play in the Cactus League for Spring Training, in Arizona) have only played 6 games and won them all. Not that I put much stock in how the Spring Training standings result because come April, all those lovely standings go back to .000 and 0-0 and they start all over again.
But it’s worth mentioning because the Yankees like to win and lead, and right now, they are. So take a moment and celebrate. Then realize we’re just 8 games into Spring Training, a 5-week long string of exhibition games that don’t matter for the real win and championship come October.
Tonight, the Yankees played their second night game under cloudy, cooling skies against the visiting Orioles. Adam Warren got the start and breezed through the Orioles until his 3rd inning, giving up a solid lead-off home run to get the Orioles on the board with what would be their lone run of the night. Aroldis Chapman made his Spring debut, throwing his first pitch since Game 7 of the World Series (for the Cubs), and topping out on the radar gun at 100mph. So he’s getting into shape.
Clippard, Layne, Enns, and Gallegos split the rest of the game and kept the Orioles from doing much more. A bit of drama to close out the game, but the Yankees did what they’ve been doing really well so far this year and pulled it together to finish off their opponent. In total, Yankee pitching staff racked up 10 strikeouts and kept the O’s to just 2 hits all night. Not a bad show for the home team.
The Yankees, of course, continued to back up good pitching with their outstanding offense. Matt Holliday began their offense with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd inning. In the 4th, Gary Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s monster 2-run home run (his 3rd homer of the Spring so far, by the way). After Castro hit a 1-out single, Jorge Mateo was brought in as pinch-runner, and he promptly showed off his speed, stealing 2nd and then ending up at 3rd on a short ground out.
With 1 out in the 5th, and runners on the corners, Sanchez’s single scored the lead runner to add another run to the Yankees’ healthy lead. And with Tejada on 1st with a single in the 7th, Billy McKinney smacked a 2-run home run into the right field seats. Then Higashioka doubled and moved to 3rd on a fly out before scoring on Mateo’s big ground-rule double (just missing the back fence before bouncing over the it).
Then with 2 outs and Wade on 1st with a single, McKinney (again) hit a long ball for an RBI double, just inches from being another home run. McKinney’s 2 big hits were just part of the big 14 total hits from all over the roster today.
Final score: 8-1 Yankees.
Players of the Game: Okay, I was sure it was going to be one guy, and then another kind of showed up and proved he was amazing (again, I might add). So I couldn’t pick and now honor two guys. Jorge Mateo came into the game early, replacing Castro and jumping right into the fray by stealing 2nd, barely. He then went 1-for-2 with that big RBI ground-rule double in the 7th, and is currently batting an impressive .333 (and an OPS at .833). Mateo’s been good to watch for the last few Springs, and this might be the year for his breakout, especially if he keeps playing like this.
Billy McKinney went 2-for-2, with 2 monster hits — a 2-run homer and RBI double for 3 RBIs, and is currently batting .600 (with an on-base plus slugging percentage at 2.750, or he’s scary good). Plus, he’s the guy you want hunting down those long fly balls in the outfield, though he didn’t get much work in right field tonight. Look, McKinney is the real deal, folks. It’s really fun to watch him play, like watching this natural ball player do what he was born to do.