Clearwater, Fla., February 25, 2018; Yankees 8, Phillies 3 — The home-standing Phillies almost escaped a no-outs, men-on-second-and-third situation leading off their Sunday game hosting the Yankees — almost — but an Aaron Hicks soft popup to the third base bag eluded a sun-blinded Maikel Franco and fell in as Hicks reached first. The strike outs on either side of the Yankee DH’s fluke single should have ended the threat, but given an extra life, the visitors broke through on Danny Espinosa’s bases-loaded double. It gave the Yankees their second consecutive three-run Spring inning, each of which pretty much won them a game.
It’s not like the home team didn’t compete. Espinosa was nailed on an effective relay when he tried to stretch his hit into a triple. And once the Yanks added a fourth run, Philly took advantage of momentary wildness by Yankee lefty prospect Justus Sheffield to make a lightning-quick three-run strike in the home fourth on a booming sac fly to right and Franco’s bomb into Frenchy’s Tiki Bar over the left field fence.
Journeyman free agent lefty Wade LeBlanc came on to close the fourth, and a look at the box score will relieve that he went 2.33 scoreless innings when the Phillies were back in the game, and threatening to take the lead. But what LeBlanc actually did in the fifth inning was to quickly surrender a single and double on his first four pitches of the frame. Pedro Florimon’s ensuing grounder to third not only failed to plate a run; it actually ended the inning. First baseman Tommy Joseph’s opening single had been instantly removed on a pickoff to first. Right fielder Dylan Cozens lasted longer with his double, as two pitches later he was thrown out at third when he overslid the bag on an attempted steal.
The effective part of the Phils’ attack was over, but not the miscues. LeBlanc was stronger in the sixth, striking out two, and he was matched in this by Raynel Espinal in the eighth and Giovanny Gallegos in the ninth. So what was a 4-3 lead most likely would have held. But fans of the visiting pinstripers had no such close four innings to endure. Florimon’s error on Billy McKinney’s grounder in the fourth led to no additional scores, but not so the ball that went through Logan Moore’s legs at first base in the sixth. It followed the first of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka’s three hits and a booming Ronald Torreyes double to the wall in dead center; it scored them both. Cameron Rupp’s passed ball in the ninth did no real damage, but by then a Higashioka eighth-inning double, two singles and a sac fly had forged the final 8-3 score.
If most of the Yankee offense benefited by Phillie defensive drama, their pitching was effective, and deserved this win. Jordan Montgomnery earned the “W” with two solid opening frames; he faced just six, as Nick Williams’s two-out single in the first was erased when Shane Robinson threw out his counterpart in left field trying to stretch. Monty finished with two K’s in the second, and Sheffield made it four straight to start the third. The kid was good, and looked unhittable, but a six-pitch walk and hit by pitch to start the fourth got to him. He did go to three straight 3-2 counts, and the last one bit him.
The Phillies have a young team, and a franchise apparently willing to spend down the road gives an already happy City of Brotherly Love fanbase reason for hope. The Yanks, on the other hand, are young themselves, but figuring out how to win the games — and beat the teams — they should in the coming months will say a lot about their prospects for success in the 2018 season.
[Herbert] Zeppo Marx, the youngest of the five zany brothers who were a comedy film and stage institution many decades ago, would have celebrated his 117th birthday on this day. Their comedy has been described as physical, as vaudevillian, and burlesque. It was good today to see the Yankees go 3-0 in the young Spring season, and to do so in …