Mighty Miguel

Clearwater, Fla., March 1, 2018; Yankees 6, Phillies 4 — There was a lot to like about the Yanks’ 6-4 win over the Phillies in Clearwater Thursday, their second win in Spectrum Field in four days. They ran their Spring record to 6-1, got a midseason-quality two-inning start from CC Sabathia, and five solo home runs from young players not named Sanchez, Judge, Stanton, or Bird. CC was amazing, retiring six of seven around an error on 26 pitches, with three punch outs, two swinging. He mixed pitches well, with a fastball that averaged 87-88 mph, but he did hit 90. And he left after two with a 1-0 lead on the first of the series of long balls.

And the accolades continue, as young righty Domingo German, who got the second Yankee start last Saturday, followed with three solid innings, with three strike outs of his own, and just an Aaron Atherr home run blemishing his line. While not as effective, journeyman southpaw Wade LeBlanc got through the sixth and seventh while giving up three hits and a walk, but just one run. By this time, the Bombers had extended their lead to 6-2, on the five homers, and on yet another Estevan Florial triple, who made Ronald Torreyes’s job following him pretty easy; Estevan easily scored on Toe’s fly ball to medium right.

But Spring games are notorious for becoming losing affairs after dominant innings that are trumped by just one, or two, mediocre to bad innings from a hurler trying to get his stuff down, but struggling to do so. Should the game be lost and the pitcher works out his problems, it’s still a win, but not for the fans filling Spring Training seats in numbers, and rooting the team onto victory.

And this game was no exception. In Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, an unlikely late game-tying rally, which had the Yanks and Tigers deadlocked at 6-6 through eight, went for naught, when young righthander Michael King surrendered three runs on a walk and three hits in the top of the ninth without ever recording an out. The calendar turns one day, and Giovanny Gallegos, who pitched significant solid innings with New York last year, had a similarly disastrous inning. Nineteen pitches yielded a single, back-to-back walks, and a hard double into the left field corner. The score stood at 6-4 with two runners in scoring position and nobody out in the bottom of the eighth.

Aaron Boone summoned righty Ben Heller, one of four pieces the Yanks received from Cleveland for Andrew Miller in 2016. In 19 games in the Bronx since, he’s done both well and poorly, but there was no room for the latter this day. And he did an amazing job, setting down the next six batters on a popup, strike out, and liner to right (to escape the eighth), and three ground balls in the ninth, the last right back to the mound. The 6-4 victory was “saved.”

The tone of this game was set by a guy who has been around a long time, and one who hasn’t. CC threw quality stuff in retiring the young Phillies through two. But the not at all secret weapon the Bombers used to win this one was righthanded third baseman (and DH this day) Miguel Andujar, who saw exactly two pitches his first two times to the plate, and deposited each over the left field fence. Following a walkoff game winner Monday (which followed a game-tying double in his previous at bat), Andujar now has four home runs this week, in nine at bats, while playing parts of three games. He’s battling to be the starting third baseman on a New York Yankee team that threatens to have four of the league’s home run leaders without him.

On a team designed to fly high, Andujar lifted his mates, and one of the three home runs that followed came from recently acquired Brandon Drury, his likely competition for the third base job. Miguel has been logging lots of innings, so Drury playing the position in a game where Andujar solely batted indicates nothing. Or does it? And Drury plays other positions as well. Time will tell. Tyler Austin and Billy McKinney, two other guys struggling to land a job on this talent- (and power-) rich team, provided the other long balls. Andujar sparked his team on yet another gorgeous Gulf Coast Florida day, the first day the afternoon temperature registered under 80 degrees (it dipped to 79) since the Spring preseason started last week.

Mike d’Abo, a lead singer for the rock group Manfred Mann, turned 74 this day. Their signature hit, The Mighty Quinn, features the continuing refrain, “You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.” When this team heads North, this Yankee fan hopes the guy I see manning third base is …

The Mighty Miguel