I love close games. Those games that are tight in score, where the teams seem pretty evenly matched across the board — pitching, hitting, and defense. The games where it really could be anyone who ends up the winner, and it goes right down to the wire. Games like today.
Adam Warren got the start this warm afternoon against the visiting Blue Jays, and despite have some struggles with the strike zone, still managed to throw a pretty good afternoon, pitching into the 4th inning. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a 2-out single to get the Blue Jays on the board. With a lead-off walk in the 2nd, a 1-out 2-run home run gave the Jays a nice lead. After giving up a 1-out solo home run in the 4th, the Yankees called Warren’s outing done, calling in Tommy Layne for a quick 2 out to close out the inning.
Meanwhile, the Yankees kicked off their scoring in the bottom of the 2nd with Greg Bird’s lead-off solo home run (#BirdPower), his 7th homer of the Spring. Two outs later, Hicks reached on a messy fielding error, stole 2nd, and then scored on Austin Romine’s single. In the 3rd, with 1 out and Ellsbury on 2nd, Matt Holliday’s single scored Ellsbury to tie up the game at that point. But despite loading up the bases, the Blue Jays lucked out on a grounder hit into a double play.
Then the game went a bit into back and forth, with a stellar 2 outs by Holder. In the 7th, Niese had a slight struggle, as a 1-out double later scored on a 2-out single to give the Jays an insurance run. But the Yankees answered back in the bottom of that inning with Wade hitting a 1-out double, moving to 3rd on a fly out, and then scoring on Mason Williams’ single.
And then the game turned to reliever JP Feyereisen, who really fired his way through his 8th inning. This young reliever is really proving pretty consistent and strong, and almost had my vote for Player of the Game (more below). And Marsh‘s 9th inning, kept the Yankees strong, pulling them into that final half-inning with fingers crossed for the offense.
Outfielder Zehner led-off with a single, and Torreyes reached safely on a fielding error. So with 2 outs, Mason Williams hit a little grounder that was mishandled, scored Zehner to tie up the game, and moved 2 runners to scoring position. The whole stadium was alive with anticipation. On the first pitch he saw, Pete Kozma knocked it straight up the middle and through the gap to score the winning run.
So, for a second day in a row, the Yankees get a walk-off win at home.
Final score: 6-5 Yankees
Player of the Game: Despite Feyereisen’s outstanding outing, I’ve got to give today’s POTG to Pete Kozma. Look, Kozma is consistent on defense, a key player in many of the late-game outs. And when he hits, he’s really good and can come through in the clutch. Like today. He’s one of those guys I’ve been watching for a few seasons, and after his amazing contributions to the RailRiders and their championship season last year, he seems to be continuing that momentum into the Spring.
Before game today, the Yankees presented the awards for the outstanding pitcher and outstanding player of their minor league farm system last year. The 2016 Kevin Lawn Awards were awarded to pitcher Chance Adams (with Tampa and Trenton last year) and outfielder Aaron Judge (with Scranton until being called up in August last year). Both awards are well-deserved, though I imagine it might have been difficult to choose just one per category, as the Yankees have so many amazing young players in their organization.