Eight Games a Week

Classic Mariano motion, classic Mariano result, in a scoreless fifth inning.

St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla., March 13, 2012 – Our travel through baseball mecca, southeast style, continued on Tuesday, with games in St. Petersburg in the afternoon, and the bizarre 1-0 Yankee loss to the Red Sox later in the evening. Once again the afternoon sun was hot and mostly cloud-free, and the evening pleasant, although a little more humid and less kissed with a cool breeze than the night before.

I won’t take a lot of time discussing the latter tilt; many with YES coverage will have seen it, and for others, well, there really isn’t much to say. The pitching news continues to be very good, with the caveat that no pitcher on either side in this contest was much challenged by the hitters. Nine pitchers posted 23 strikes outs among them, 13 thrown by the visitors. Home plate ump Marty Foster was a factor; 12 Ks were of the swinging variety, but Foster called the last strike on the other 11. The two teams split just eight hits evenly, with Jacoby Ellsbury’s first-inning double being the only one for extra bases. The Yanks received the only walk, and both sides had a pitcher called for a balk. The game was decided on errors: Zoilo Almonte’s shoestring attempt on Pedro Ciriaco’s ninth-inning single, and David Adams’s bad relay throw on the same play.

With 33 strikes and 22 balls, three strike outs and no runs over four frames, the only questionable element to Ivan Nova's start is that he posted it on a night when no one could hit.

That being said, Ivan Nova was great in a four-inning start, David Phelps was superb in three innings until the final-frame errors submarined him. Mo was Mo for an inning, Boone Logan turned in a good frame, and Clay Rapada used a one-hitter outing to continue to make the case that if the team takes a loogy north, he should be the guy. On the other side, Boston pitching was good too, particularly starting lefty Felix Dubront and unpopular veteran Vicente Padilla, who fooled Alex Rodriguez with a slower than slow “eephus” pitch. It was strange, however, that Bobby Valentine had a starter throw 75 pitches, as Dubront did in four innings, as early as March 13.

Few in the stands realized that when Russell Martin singled and moved to third on a walk and a balk in the first inning we were witnessing the only significant Yankee offensive moment in the entire game.

“Bobby being Bobby,” on the other hand, may just have played a role in stunting the Yankee attack as well, it needs to be said. The only true home team chance to score was wasted in the very first inning. Russell Martin stroked a one-out single and A-Rod had the first of two good at bats in working a walk. Following a first-pitch called strike (Foster accounted for 56 called strikes on the night) to Mark Teixeira, Dubront balked the runners over. That the Boston infield stayed back was hardly surprising in the first inning of a game where no one yet knew there would be little offense. But once Dubront completed his motion and released his next pitch all four infielders charged into “infield in” position, a typical Valentine ploy. Did all the movement affect the stumble and weak swing that produced Tex’s one-hopper to the box? It might have. When Raul Ibanez grounded out as well, the Yankee scoring opportunity had come to an end.

It's not easy for a Yankee fan to admit, but this ineffective Teixeira swing at a pivotal moment just may have been affected by Bobby Valentine having all his infielders move in as the pitch was released.

As mentioned above, the game, although tediously uneventful (except for called strikes, punch-outs, and balks), dragged on until the ninth when Almonte’s miscue led to the lone score. Corban Joseph did single off Junichi Tazawa with two down in the bottom half, but the Japanese righty completed a three-strike-out inning and the game was over.

Our experience earlier in the day was more pleasant as we traveled to St. Pete to see the Blue Jays take on Canada’s 2012 Junior National Team in venerable Al Lang Stadium, a Spring Training facility not much in use the last two years since the Rays moved their Spring games to Port Charlotte. The young college-age kids jumped on the Jays for two runs on three hits in the first inning, and battled them tough until running short on pitching in a 10-2 loss.

A many-decade Spring Training facility filled with baseball history, Al Lang Field was the scene of a particularly huge moment with a Yankee twist on this day in 1954.

Al Lang has witnessed the play of some of the greatest players in baseball history since the original field was built in 1947, including Stan the Man Musial’s Cardinals, the Berra-, Ford-, and Mantle-led Yankees of the 1950s, and Casey Stengel’s bumbling Mets in the early ’60s. On this day in 1954, the venue was the scene for a particularly historic moment. Woodie Held, a Yankee infielder who played all of four games with the ’54 and ’57 teams, was manning second base when Bobby Thomson (the shot heard ’round the world) slid in and broke his ankle in a collision. Out for the next four months, Thomson’s injury gave a playing opportunity for young Henry Aaron to start for the Giants.

March 13 is also the day that Lou Gehrig signed to play the 1937 season for $38,000 and a $750 signing bonus. Ironically it is also the birthday of Mariano Duncan, who did nothing but hit in his one full year in Pinstripes, celebrated on a day when the team couldn’t buy a hit in 2012. And March 13 was also the day in 1965 that the Beatles’ Eight Days a Week became the No. 1 hit.

Following the Team Canada and Yankee losses this day we see our last Spring Training game tomorrow, as the Bombers take on the Blue Jays in Dunedin hours before we fly north. This game will mean we’ve witnessed…

Eight Games [in] a Week