Starlin’s the Star

Tampa, Fla., February 26, 2017; Yankees 7, Blue Jays 2 — Behind a strong start from Luis Severino and an early three-run bomb from second baseman Starlin Castro, the Yanks upped their Spring mark to 2-1 with a 7-2 spanking of the visiting Blue Jays Saturday afternoon. But the powerful right arm and quick reactions of catcher Gary Sanchez played just as large a part in the victory.

Once Severino retired six of seven around a walk, and Castro reached southpaw Brett Oberholtzer for his second-inning tater, righthander Johnny Barbato — who showed promise last Spring, only to struggle in the regular season — threatened to put Toronto back in the game by walking the first and third Jays batters in the third.

DH Anthony Alford had stolen second base in the second when Didi Gregorius ended up on the seat of his pants corralling Sanchez’s one-bounce throw. If Toronto manager John Gibbons thought he had found a way to attack the New York defense, he was quickly proven wrong. Following his leadoff free pass, second baseman Jon Berti was clearly beaten on a close play at second by a Sanchez peg. But when center fielder Ezequiel Carrera tried to stretch his free pass one out later, the result was laughable — Starlin Castro was literally waiting for him with the ball when he finally slid into the inning’s third out.

Barbato would pitch a one-two-three fourth, and lefty Jason Gurko a scoreless fifth around a single and a walk. Despite whiffing two, young Brady Rail ran into trouble in the sixth because he threw 14 off the plate to go with 17 strikes. A leadoff walk got it started, and veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia battled him for seven pitches before homering to right on the eighth. But that barely dented what had become a 5-0 lead built on a Matt Holliday rbi groundout and a Brett Gardner run-scoring single. And one frame later nonroster Yankee outfielder Billy McKinney forged the final 7-2 score with a two-run shot of his own.

Worthy of mention is some solid glove work by Chase Headley, though his bat continues to be a concern; a sharp opposite-field double by Aaron Hicks; and the work of veteran DH Holliday, who through two games is 3-for-4 with an rbi groundout.

It was a brilliant, sunny afternoon in Tampa, with none of the morning cloud cover and midday humidity of the last few days. More of the same is expected tomorrow in Sarasota vs the Orioles, with Chad Green scheduled to take the mound.