Spring Game 26: BOS vs. NYY — Or rather Sale vs. the Yankees (the new rivalry?)

A nice night for a good old rivalry game. Not surprisingly, tonight was also the Yankees’ most-attended game so far this Spring, with about 500 more fans in attendance over the last home game on Saturday (and just 154 short of a sell-out). But the Red Sox are in town, so what do you expect?

Bryan Mitchell got the start tonight and, honestly, did a really great job in fending off the Red Sox. He gave up 7 hits but struck out 7 Boston batters, throwing into the 5th inning. A lead-off solo shot in the 3rd got the Red Sox on the board, and then a single and double put runners in scoring position. Another single scored one more run for the Red Sox, and with runners on the corners, there was still no outs. But then the guy on 1st made the mistake far too many players have learned this Spring: “you don’t run on Gary”. You run, you get caught stealing. Once that out was notched, 2 strikeouts followed and got Mitchell out of the Red Sox only real threat under his tenure.

Chapman was called in for 3 outs in the 5th and 6th innings. And Tommy Layne kept things interesting loading up the bases before getting out of the 6th unscathed.

Now, the Yankees were up against an absolutely stellar pitcher that the Red Sox just picked up from the White Sox this December. His name (Sale, as if you couldn’t pick that up from today’s title) is constantly thrown around with some of the best pitchers of the era, and deservedly so. He’s going to be a thorn in the Yankees’ side this season. The Yankees didn’t even get a hit off him until the 4th inning, and by then, he’d already racked up 7 of his total 10 strikeouts off Yankee batters. And the Yankees didn’t really even threaten until the 6th inning (his last). With 2 outs, Castro doubled, and Matt Holliday followed that up with a solid 2-run home run to tie up the game.

But the Red Sox followed up their new ace with a great show of the bullpen, adding 4 more strikeouts (for a total of 14) and just shutdown the Yankees’ roster for the rest of the game. To be fair, the Yankees’ pitchers had their own good stat — 12 strikeouts. But it would be the other stat that would sink today’s game — 13 allowed hits.

In the 7th, Luis Cessa came on and gave up a lead-off triple. Two ground outs later, that runner crossed the plate. An interesting play in this inning had outfielder Clint Frazier bounding head-over-heels into the Yankees’ bullpen to go after a foul ball. He ended up a little bruised, especially as he didn’t catch the ball, but the inning was over shortly thereafter. Cessa came back in the 8th for a cleaner inning, keeping the Red Sox close.

In the 9th, Niese took over. With 1 out, Niese hit a batter and then gave up a single (and all the Red Sox fans around felt the need to scream as if it was Game 7 of the World Series and their team was down). A deep single scored an insurance run for the Red Sox before Niese closed things out with 2 sharp strikeouts.

Thanks mostly to the Red Sox’s new ace, there was just no way the Yankees were going to win tonight.

Final score: 4-2 Red Sox

Player of the Game: this one was particularly difficult to call today for a single reason — there was basically no good or outstanding things by guys in the farm system today, usually found in the latter half of the game when they come on to replace all the starters (the guys on the 25- or 40-man roster). So, I’m going to break my own rule here. I’ve got to give it to Ronald Torreyes, who will probably be on the starting roster again this season. But he was just fantastic (as usual, I might add), especially at shortstop tonight, making 3 outstanding plays, including catching a couple of sharp line drives, and helped make the tag in Sanchez’s successful caught stealing  play in the 3rd inning. He’s really a joy to watch play the game.

Roster moves: after tonight’s game, infielder and top Yankee prospect Gleyber Torres was reassigned to minor league camp and AA Trenton. There was a lot of chatter about how Torres might make the big league roster this year, especially in light of some recent injuries. But I have to agree with the Yankees’ decision here. He’s clearly a good player, but he’s young and needs time in the farm system to develop his natural talent, power, and instinct to become the outstanding player they expect him to be in the next few years.

Speaking of injuries: the Yankees came out with an official diagnosis for injured Didi Gregorius. An MRI yesterday confirmed the deep bruise to his throwing shoulder, sustained during his time with the team representing the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. But they are going to be cautious as it has developed beyond just a bruise and into a strain of the muscle (the one that connects your shoulder blade and ball-and-socket joint in your shoulder). So, he’s now expected to miss the first month of the season. Bummer.

And speaking of the World Baseball Classic: the game last night between the Netherlands and Puerto Rico was amazing and tight, leading right up to extra innings. And now, in the 11th inning, teams start with 2 runners on base already (a rule I’m not really a fan of, truthfully). And in an 11th inning walk-off sacrifice fly, Puerto Rico saw their way into the final game, with their 4-3 victory. (Congrats, by the way, to the Netherlands, who really did an amazing job this tournament!)

Now, as I post tonight, the teams representing the United States and Japan are currently battling it out for the chance to face Puerto Rico in the final tomorrow night. Oh, and it’s raining pretty steadily in LA right now, with most fans watching from the concourse or hidden under those ugly plastic ponchos. It’s going to be a close game. And that’s what makes it good. At least to me.

Go Yankees!

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