Tampa, Fla., February 25, 2019; Yankees 3, Toronto 0 — While all of Tampa breathed a sigh of relief that Monday, despite early clouds, developed into a gorgeous mid-70s sunny day, coming off a string of hot, humid ones, speaking for myself, I would have been OK being cooked a little on my first day South. And I was certainly happy that the feared Tuesday raindrops were not in evidence. But more to the point, most in attendance were pleased that Yankee pitching dominated on a perfect day, and the Bombers cashed in a 3-0 home opening win over the Blue Jays.
Given the opponent, this also could have been looked on as a Troy Tulowitzki Yankee coming out party. Owed some $30 million by Toronto once he was released by the Yanks’ AL East rivals last year after a string of injuries, Troy had a really good day playing for New York, doing so while costing them but a major league minimum salary.
First, Tulo hit ex-teammate Marcus Stroman’s second pitch of the bottom of the first inning over the fence in right for a quick home team 1-0 lead. And then he retired three Jays on ground balls to shortstop through three frames, two of them on fine plays showing midseason form.
But although Tulo couldn’t have been hoping for a much better day, it was the Yankee pitching staff that earned first star in this one. New out-of-the-box lefty starter James Paxton went two scoreless, and looked OK doing so, though he seemed to have trouble hitting the zone with his breaking pitches, leading to a two-walk, 22-pitch first. And five pitchers in succession held the visitors to no runs on one lonely hit and a hit by pitch over the next seven frames. Even an error when left fielder Trey Amburgey dropped Freddy Galvis’s fly ball in the second caused no damage, because the Toronto shortstop was thrown out trying to reach second on the play.
Of course, the dice were loaded, because the relievers were name hurlers, with Chad Green and Jonathan Holder throwing an inning apiece, and Domingo German and Luis Cessa tossing two each. It was German who surrendered the one hit, a leadoff single on his first offering in the third. But not only did he pitch out of that, his three-strike-out fourth was the most dominant frame of the day. He recorded 11 strikes to four balls that inning, but just two of the former hit bats, with four called strikes and five flailing swings and misses.
But also of note was the eighth inning turned in by nonroster invitee lefthander Phillip Diehl. For those of us silly enough to put a little bit of weight into the win/loss mark the team puts up while we’re in attendance, the painful memory of dominant performances resulting in a loss when one rookie has a bad frame lingers. We needn’t have worried. Phillip had the second best inning of the game, striking out two and retiring three straight on a mere 11 tosses.
The Yankee offense was hardly legion, though it could have been better if the team hadn’t made some glaring outs on the bases. AAA catcher Kyle Higashioka homered to left for a second run in the second, and backup catcher Jorge Saez scored first baseman Ryan McBroom with a fielder’s choice grounder in the sixth. The crowd sighed at what could have been when fan fave Aaron Judge’s sinking liner to deep left failed to clear in the third, as righty Danny Barnes struck out two to keep him from scoring.
But it is Spring Training, and things happen. Imagine my upset had the Yanks been the team held to one hit and no runs. Or early opponent home runs put my team down, with no answer, or if a kid pitcher came in and blew up a one-hitter with an ugly eighth inning. In addition, the hot, steamy conditions from Florida’s West Coast last week could have hung over the scene, or maybe it could have been windy and wet. Perhaps I would have been better off having stayed up North.
Early rock icons Buddy Holly and the Crickets recorded their biggest hit on this day in 1957, 62 years ago. The lyrics speak volumes to my response to the scenario described in the last paragraph.
That’ll Be the Day