Spring Game 31: TB vs. NYY — A couple of home runs help a shaky start

It was another warm sunny day in Tampa as the Yankees took on the hometown boys, the Tampa Bay Rays. One week from today, these two teams will meet again at the Trop, just across Tampa Bay for the season opener (and the Rays’ home opener), officially kicking off the 2017 season.

And it was up to Bryan Mitchell to start today’s game. He got off to a bit of a shaky start though, fending off the Rays’ batters mostly until the 3rd inning. With 1 out, a batter was hit by a pitch and then stole 2nd. After another out (which moved the runner to 3rd), the next batter walked and then stole 2nd, moving both runners to scoring position. Another walk loaded up the bases, so that a single scored 2 runs for the Rays to get them on the board before Mitchell finally found that 3rd out, a line drive to Hicks in left field.

After putting runners in the corners with singles in the 4th, the Yankees went to Chapman to close things out. But after a nice strikeout, the next batter hit into what should’ve been a double play, but the ball was bobbled in transit, so the runner scored and 2 runners were safely on base. A ground out that could’ve been another double play but was bobbled a bit (by the same player), only made 1 out at 1st, moved the runners to scoring position. Chapman’s day was done, and in came Ben Heller who struck out the next batter.

Heller actually had a pretty dramatic day of his own. Despite loading up the bases in the 5th, he got out of it in the end. Shreve did better in the 6th and 7th innings, adding 2 strikeouts of his own. Despite a pretty good 2 outs, a single and RBI double added one more run for the Rays under Frieri. JR Graham, however, clearly had the cleanest inning, 3 consecutive ground outs to close out the game in the 9th inning.

The Yankees’ offense was able to support the shaky start and often dramatic innings of the pitching staff. They actually scored first in the 2nd. Carter walked, Judge singled, and Romine walked to load the bases. Then Ronald Torreyes hit a long ball out to center field to score Carter, but then the sharp arm of the center fielder gunned down Judge at 3rd for a double play.

In the 3rd, Kozma led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Ellsbury’s walk, and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. Ellsbury then scored on Greg Bird’s single. And 2 outs later, Hicks scored on Austin Romine’s single to give the Yankees a nice lead. And in the 4th, Tejada led-off with a walk and then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ 2-out, 2-run home run. Ruben Tejada himself add to the score with a big lead-off solo home run in the 6th.

Final score: 7-4 Yankees

Player of the Game: I debated on this one a bit, and I was pretty much set on one player coming out of the game. But I thought about it and changed my mind, as I’m entitled to do. So, today, I’m going to give this honor to Ruben Tejada. Not only did he score 2 of the 7 runs today, but he also got that big home run in the 6th. And while he did make those 2 glaring bobble in the 4th, he really does play 2nd base really well and consistently. It would be silly to ignore all he’s contributed to the game this Spring with just that lone inning’s problems.

Roster moves: before today’s game, the Yankees released reliever Jonathon Niese, narrowing the candidates down for the bullpen. There is still quite the competition for many of those pitching spots on the 25-man roster. With 3 starters guaranteed (Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda), Green, Mitchell, Montgomery, Severino, and Warren are all looking to fill those last 2 spots. The remaining 7 spots on the pitching roster go to the set bullpen (Betances, Chapman, Clippard, and Layne) and whoever doesn’t make the starter and the remaining guys in camp (Frieri, Graham, Heller, Holder, and Shreve). I have my preferences, but they don’t ask me my opinion.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: no video today. Sorry! Another thing for which they don’t ask my opinion. Just imagine a hot, sunny day and some runs scored by both teams.}

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