Tanaka With a K

Tampa, Fla., March 5, 2017; Yankees 3, Pirates 2 — The Yankees continued their winning ways Sunday afternoon, subduing Pittsburgh in a low-hitting affair, yet again under blue skies and pleasant temps. Mild to strong breezes were more prevalent this day, as we sadly bade Florida goodbye and flew North, actually leaving the game in the middle innings.

Masahiro struck out four in three innings, coaxing seven swings and misses among 25 strikes. Although he allowed a hit an inning, his pitch count was manageable at 36. Meanwhile, righthanders Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham were blanking the home team on absolutely nothing, and no Yankee reached base until DH Matt Holliday doubled sharply to the wall in left with two down in the fourth. The game was still scoreless, but only because a stiff breeze knocked down Pirates first baseman John Jaso’s drive to the wall in right in the frame’s top half. A difficult ball to track, right fielder Aaron Judge contorted his elongated frame in capturing the diving orb on the track.

And Judge would be a major contributor to the one-run home team rally that gave New York its first lead. Chris Carter followed Holliday’s double with a knuckling hopper toward third. Eric Wood snagged the troublesome grounder, but the official scorer ruled that Carter beat the throw for an infield single. That it got away from the first baseman added an error, allowing Holliday to go to third. Judge came to the plate and did what would have been unthinkable a year ago; he battled Kingham to a 10-pitch walk, loading the bases. There was nothing stirring about what followed, but when Kingham’s fourth pitch to Austin Romine caromed off his catcher, the Yanks took the lead on the wild pitch.

Later, when the Pirates tied it off young Chase Adams, who walked two and allowed a hit, the home team would recapture the lead with the help of another wild pitch. But the best Yankee rally came late, as they scored an insurance run on singles by Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, and Pete Kozma. The run was necessary because Pittsburgh would score a run off Luis Cessa in the top of the ninth, a run that fell short in the 3-2 Yankee victory.

Also worthy of mention is that Sanchez threw out two more baserunners trying to steal. It remains to be seen if this Yankee team has enough weapons to contend, their 9-2 Spring record notwithstanding. But a few weapons, they do undoubtedly have. Following Layne, Aroldis Chapman, one of the game’s great closers, threw a frame. And Tyler Clippard, a likely solid seventh-inning guy, threw an inning.

Sanchez undoubtedly heads North in April, of course. Frazier and Kozma, his compadres in the win-ensuring rally, likely don’t, though Frazier’s future success seems all but assured, if he plays the game a little more safely than he did when throwing himself in center fielder Dustin Fowler’s way on a fly ball that fell for a triple — and a score — in the ninth. The last names of these three are all spelled with a “Z.” Not the Yankee ace though,

Tanaka is spelled with a “K”