Debuting in the Bronx

Bronx, N.Y., April 12, 2017; Yankees 8, Tampa 4 — If Yankee lefthander Jordan Montgomery, making his major league debut vs the Tampa Rays in the Bronx Wednesday afternoon, wanted some knowledge about what it would be like, he would have been well advised to look to the mound and the guy who opposed him, fellow southpaw Blake Snell. Almost exactly one year ago, Snell was making his debut as a visitor on the same mound. He pitched well, made one mistake in the first inning, and he failed to cash in a deserved win. Both young guys threw well enough to win today, though both would leave one out short of qualifying for the elusive “W.”

Initially, Montgomery electrified the slowly growing crowd — not an easy thing to do under the early-game showers — by coming this close to striking out the side in the first. Pounding decent heat and a dynamite slider, he whiffed the first two swinging, and came very close to getting a third strike on Evan Longoria, who battled the rookie to a seven-pitch walk. Undaunted, Montgomery went up 0-2 on Rickie Weeks, Jr., who one pitch off the plate later would silence the place by blasting a deep homer to left, 2-0 Rays.

The Yankee lefty did not lose his composure, though with the way Snell was throwing, he could have stood to lose the game. The Yanks went down meekly through four, and deserved to do so for another inning, but for a couple of walks and a huge error. Off to a good start, Chase Headley led off the fifth with a single, just the home team’s second hit and the only one they would get in a two-run frame. Snell followed with a walk, and shortstop Tim Beckham bobbled Kyle Higashioka’s grounder into the hole. It would have been a tough play at first, but the force at third was there for the taking. It created a bases-loaded, no-outs situation, but even then the Tampa lefty came up big, retiring two straight on harmless infield pop-ups. But Aaron Hicks worked an eight-pitch walk for the Yanks’ first run, knocking Snell from the game. Despite a walk to his first man, righty Jumbo Diaz escaped, but not before he wild-pitched the second run across.

Montgomery had had fifth-inning trouble too, surrendering a leadoff double to Steven Souza, Jr., though he bounced back to strike out two straight, winning a 10-pitch battle with Longoria this time on his 89th pitch. Joe Girardi brought on Bryan Mitchell to replace him and he coaxed a grounder up the middle, but it came so close to hitting the second-base bag that it tied Starlin Castro up on the backhand try, glancing off his glove. As it trickled into short right field, the third run scored. Mitchell pitched a one-two-three sixth and, with Snell out of the game, the Yankee offense came alive. Aaron Judge, who had worked the first walk of the fifth, stroked the third of three straight singles to tie the game, and two errors and a ton of pitches later, New York had scored four for a 6-3 lead.

Mr. Judge, who is threatening to become a big-time star, following a Castro single leading off the seventh, homered for the third straight game, a moon shot that fell just short of the restaurant facade in dead center, 8-3 Yanks. Tampa managed a run on two doubles in the eighth, and after they put two on in the ninth, Aroldis Chapman nailed down the save.

Snell had his debut in Yankee Stadium on April 23, 2016. His first-inning wild pitch scored a Yankee run, his only mistake in a game that he left after five with a 2-1 lead. The superb Montgomery made just one mistake too, also in the first. In Snell’s debut, the Yanks finally tied it in the eighth with the quietest of rallies, featuring yet another instance of Jacoby Ellsbury reaching on catcher’s interference. Then Brett Gardner, facing lefty Xavier Cedeno, smacked a ground ball off the reliever’s body, an infield rbi single. Gardner would win it with a walkoff homer in the ninth.

In a weird case of deja vu, the go-ahead run in today’s game scored on a Gardner at bat, as Brett, pinch hitting with one out and runners on the corners, and facing Cedeno yet again, bounced a ball right to the box. In his haste, however, Cedeno bounced his throw to first. As Weeks tried to corral the ball, Gardner crashed into him, resulting in both players becoming sprawled on the ground. They each would be removed from the game, but the Yanks had a lead they would not relinquish.

So although he impressed one and all with his presence, his pitches, and his composure, Jordan Montgomery did not come away with a win, even though his team did. He can always ask Blake Snell what it’s like to,

Debut in the Bronx