Game 17: NYY vs. PIT — Finding some power in the ‘Burgh

On this day in Yankees history, in 1903, the Highlanders played their very first game as a franchise against the Washington Senators, losing 3-1. The Senators would go on to have a terrible season, and the Highlanders actually had a winning season, but came short of the Boston Americans by 17 games. (Coincidentally, the Americans ended up beating the Pirates in the World Series that year.) The Senators moved west and became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. The Americans became Red Sox in 1908. And the Highlanders eventually became the Yankees in 1913.

Just a bit of fun trivia for you to kick off your Saturday…

Anyway, the Yankees are in Pittsburgh for their weekend series, and played the middle game of their series this afternoon on this cool April afternoon in Pennsylvania. Michael Pineda got the start and actually threw a decent outing over all, throwing 73 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out 6 batters.

In the 1st, the Pirates started the run-scoring today with a 2-out solo home run and then got another with a 1-out solo shot in the 4th. In the 5th, with 1 out, Pineda loaded the bases with 2 singles and a walk before a sacrifice fly scored another run for the Pirates.

Now, the Yankees had yet to get on the board at this point. But they certainly made up for it, starting in the 6th, sending up 10 batters in that inning alone. Ellsbury led-off with a single, Hicks walked, and they both moved up on a ground out. Then Starlin Castro got the Yankees on the board with a big 3-run home run to tie up the game. Judge’s double ended the Pirates’ starter’s afternoon. So, after Bird was hit by a pitch and Romine singled, the bases were loaded for Ronald Torreyes (having a stellar day, including 4 solid hits), who promptly doubled and broke the tie by scoring 2 more runs for the Yankees.

So, the Yankees were up, and it was time for the Yankees’ bullpen to take over. But they kind of stumbled out of the gate in the bottom of the 6th. Jonathan Holder got 2 outs, but then gave up a double that scored on a single to edge the Pirates closer. Tyler Clippard also had trouble finding that final out of the inning. After a hit-by-pitch, a single scored one more Pirates’ run to tie up the game again before Clippard got that final out of the inning, a strikeout.

The rest of the Yankees’ bullpen had a much cleaner time of the game. Clippard got the first out of the 7th before Betances sailed through the rest of it in just 8 pitches. Mitchell had the best outing, throwing just 9 pitches in the 8th inning, and Chapman’s 9th closed out the game for the Yankees’ pitching staff today.

So, the Yankees found their opportunity to break the tied game in the 8th inning. With 2 outs, Romine started things by capitalizing on a fielding error and reaching base safely. Torreyes joined him on the base path with a single. Then pinch-hitter Chris Carter hit a big 3-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen to break the tie. Jacoby Ellsbury then started the whole thing all over again when he hit the ball deep into center field and made it all the way to 3rd on a messy fielding error.

So the Pirates made some defensive changes and a pitching change. That didn’t stop the Yankees. A messy wild pitch scored Ellsbury, then Hicks hit a nice ground-rule double and scored on Chase Headley’s double to cap off the Yankees’ 8th inning rally. Aaron Judge wanted in on the action and led-off the 9th inning with a monster solo home run deep into the left field seats (traveling 457 feet) as a final flourish of the Yankees’ runs today.

Final score: 11-5 Yankees.

It should be noted that while the Yankees scored 11 runs on the scoreboard, only 6 of them were considered “earned”, meaning that due to the sloppy defense of the Pirates, they gave up an extra 5 runs (or all of the runs scored in the 8th inning). Every team has days they wish they didn’t make that one mistake. But the Pirates had more than one today, and it cost them the game.

Well, it’s onto the rubber match tomorrow afternoon in Pittsburgh before the Yankees leave Steel City and head back to the East Coast for a mid-week rivalry series at Fenway. It’s worth noting that the AL East is pretty tight in its rankings (except for the Blue Jays) right now, but we’ve only had 17 games and the first month’s not over yet. It’s a long season, as the saying goes…

Go Yankees!

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