A Gitche Gumee Game

Dunedin, Fla., February 27, 2018; Yankees 9, Blue Jays 8 — The two teams scored in nine of 18 half-innings in the Yankee 9-8 victory over the Blue Jays Tuesday afternoon. Each team homered three times, tripled once, and made one error. The home-standing Jays used nine pitchers, the visiting Yankees eight.

It was a wild one, with nine of the runs crossing in the final three frames. The Yankees scored two runs on wild pitches. But the victory landed in the pinstriped column on rookie manager Aaron Boone’s nuanced use of small ball, 2018 style, which played a huge part in the five-spot the visitors put up in the eighth inning.

Once one-time Yankee Russell Martin homered for a 1-0 lead in the third inning, the Bombers used singleton homers to tie the score three times, by Danny Espinosa in the fourth; by Miguel Andujar in the sixth; by Ryan McBroom in the eighth. Not only was Andujar’s noteworthy because he hit a walkoff to beat Philly Monday night; it was the longest — “no doubt” comes to mind, and not musically. And McBroom’s was a moment, because as property of the Jays, he walked off a game vs the Yanks in this ballpark on March 3, 2017, almost exactly one year ago.

But it was after that third equalizer that the game turned. The Yankee “small ball” had to do with speed, as demonstrated by center fielder Estevan Florial, who hit his second triple of the Spring in the seventh; his eventual tally closed the marin to 5-4, setting up McBroom’s tater leading off the eighth, knotting the contest. But then Tyler Wade, a player with a little speed of his on, a guy who has legged out two hustle doubles the last few days, bunted for a base hit. Would Boone bunt the go ahead run over with none down in the eighth? No. Wade had stolen a base earlier, and Kyle Higashioka swung away, fouling off a 2-1 pitch. Wade broke for second on the 3-1 pitch, which missed for a walk and two on. Then Boone switched it up, having pinch hitting Francisco Diaz bunt on the next pitch. Catcher Reese McGuire’s throw pulled Jason Leblebijian off the first base bag to set up bases loaded. But it was a sac bunt, and it was successful.

Righty Sean Reid-Foley was coming unglued, and he wild-pitched Wade home with the go-ahead run. Jordan Romero relieved, walked Florial, and gave up a three-run double to outfielder Mark Payton, for a 9-5 Yankee lead. Scores of Jays fans left, but some knew, as I did, that it wasn’t over. Catcher Ryan McGuire homered off Albert Abreu, who had struck out the side in the seventh. Lefty Josh Rogers replaced him after an ensuing double, but when the Jays ran, it backfired. Abitail Avelino, running to cover third, managed to reach back to spear Anthony Alford’s hard grounder, tag the runner, and complete the double play with a hard throw to first. Leblebijian homered for two in the ninth, but the Yanks held on for the 9-8 win.

So the Yanks stand at 5-0, with the Tigers making their second visit to GMS Field tomorrow. Temperatures in the 80s under a hot sun continues to be the forecast. As for how I’m referring to today’s contest, forgive me my sun-addled state, but it was a very messy and very entertaining game. With apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who would have turned 211 this day (and to Gordon Lightfoot), not to mention the Native Americans who knew Lake Superior by that name, I’m calling it a …

Gitche Gumee Game