A Southpaw Steps Forward

Well, the Yankee bats came so awake Monday that it took two ballparks in two cities to contain them. And they made some noise Tuesday as well. But the pitchers “dropped the ball” in a 12 -7 loss to the Pirates, the team’s first loss in three games with Pittsburgh. Ace CC Sabathia, throwing mostly hard stuff, surrendered four runs and a team cycle to the first four Pirates hitters, with right fielder Garret Jones delivering the last three runs on a three-run shot into the two-year-old Tampa Tribune deck beyond George M. Steinbrenner Field’s right field wall.

The burly Yankee lefty righted himself, retiring eight of the next nine, but he was nicked for a fifth when Jones doubled in the third and came home on an Andy LaRoche single. The Buccos added a fifth run in the fourth, a frame that came to a close with Jones at the plate yet again as Jorge Posada picked Ronny Cedeno off second base.

Posada was also instrumental in an offense that shrugged off the early Pirates onslaught and actually took a 7-6 lead that same inning, even if it was with considrable help from wild pitching by former Orioles lefty Brian Burres. The Yanks originally answered the early four-spot in the initial frame with the first of two Nick Johnson homers. Still in the first, Posada singled up the middle and Nick Swisher delivered him with a one-base hit following a walk and a strike out, 4-2 Bucs. In the third, Johnson answered run number five with his second blast to right, both off Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton. Burres came on for the fourth and walked the bases loaded, with Derek Jeter delivering one run with a fielder’s choice. With Johnson sprung from the game early, one assumes for good (very good) behavior, the DH spot didn’t skip a beat, as Jon Weber doubled in two with his first of two opposite field doubles. When Posada followed with another single, Burres was out of the game and the Yanks were up 7-6.

When Curtis Granderson lashed a drive to left center and burned the pathways for three bases leading off the home fifth, Yankee fans thought we were on our way. But D.J. Carrasco, making a strong bid to join the Pirates up north, struck out two to keep Curtis planted, then whiffed two more in the sixth. In fact, the Yankee offense the rest of the way consisted of back-to-back leadoff walks in the eighth and the aforemntioned second Weber double in the ninth. But it seemed enough for a while, as neither team scored in the fifth through seventh innings.

One of our earliest and most famed basebll scribes, Ring Lardner was born 125 years ago, on March 6, 1885. Which bring to mind nonroster invitee Royce Ring, who is duking it out with southpaw Boone Logan for the role of second lefty in the Bronx pen, should Joe Girardi decide to bring two north. Both guys have done quite well through the Spring session’s first week. As with everything else taking place this early, nothing has been proven yet. Two years ago, Billy Traber and Heath Phillips got off to a similar start in a battle for that same spot. Phillips faded as the month dragged on and Traber, despite a good Spring, was largely ineffective once the bell rang, and he found himself released.

Still, one of these two veterans could win the spot, and Ring retired the Bucs in order with a strike out in today’s fifth inning on nine pitches, and Logan came on in seventh and did well, initially. Once Romulo Sanchez issued backup shortstop Ozzie Diaz a one-out walk, Logan came on and coaxed a 4-6-3. But he struggled mightily in the eighth, allowing an infield single, walk and Bobby Crosby (the guy who played short for the A’s) rbi double around a strike out to start. Third baseman Brandon Laird failed in a try for a play at the plate on a grounder, scoring a second run to give the Pirates an 8-7 lead.

There would be no comeback, although eventual winner Donnie Veal gave the home team every chance, walking the first two up in the bottom of the eighth. First baseman Jorge Vazquez, in for Juan Miranda, was robbed for the third time in two games, as his bullet toward right was flagged down at first. With Reegie Corona up, speedy backup center fielder Greg Golson broke from second base for third, but the ruse did not surprise. Veal’s peg to first-round pick from the Bronx Pedro Alvarez at third beat him by six or seven feet. Was Golson trying to make a headline? Or did the call came from the bench? He’s out, whatever the case. There would be no chance in the ninth, as the Pirates jumped on Hector Noesi for four quick runs, with the aforementioned Alvarez contributing a line rbi single to right center. Yankee DH Weber hit his double with one down in the bottom half, and prospect catcher Jesus Montero drove one to deep center, but not deep enough.

The warmer temps continued Tuesday, but with cloudy skies blocking the sun for the first six frames. It seems there will be some rain soon, but forecasts are for gorgeous days in the mid-70s by the weekend. Let’s hope the skies are clear enough as I fly out and the Yanks travel to Lakeland and play Johnny Damon and the Tigers Wednesday afternoon.

The Yanks got four hits, three runs, and four rbi’s from the DH spot today. Jorge Posada singled twice, and both scored and knocked in one run, and made that pickoff throw, and Curtis Granderson showed his legs on a triple. Nick Swisher followed his two-double, three-rbi Monday with another hit, rbi, and run scored. But Nick did airmail a throw home in the first when the runner had held at third; the hitter scooted into second as the throw sailed over the cutoff men. The home run that followed would have scored the guy from any base, however. Royce Ring inched ahead of Boone Logan, in game results anyway. And Greg Golson either pulled a rock, or followed orders. Spring goes on.