Tampa, Fla., March 6, 2023; Yankees 9, Pittsburgh 2 — There are a couple of things that need to be said about this Spring Training game. First, although many (assuming there are many?) reading this cannot presently appreciate it, the pleasure we experienced tonight is one you’ve all enjoyed, though we got to do it on March 6. It was a perfect baseball night, high 70s under a largely cloudless sky, as a full moon arose over the center field wall. Your day is coming, friends, but we were privileged to an early sight.
And second, it was largely (almost completely) stress-free. Following a miscue by derided Yankee left fielder Aaron Hicks on the game’s third pitch, who dropped Pittsburgh DH Oneil Cruz’s fly to left, a fine Anthony Rizzo turn on a hot shot down first resulted in a 3-6-3 double play. One quick ground ball later, the home team came to bat.
You could call the Yanks’ first inning frustrating, particularly if you’re given to that failed-opportunity kind of vibe. DJ LeMahieu lined a shot against righty Luis Ortiz off the right field wall, but one-time Yankee Maguel Andujar, in right field, recovered quickly, and managed to peg DJ out at second on a close play. (Andujar would double hard to left in the top of the third, though he didn’t score, making us doubly happy that we had cheered for him.) Anyway, one out later, singles from Rizzo and Josh Donaldson had the home team set up, but uber-rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe struck out on a full count.
Yankee starter Domingo German was sharp, striking out two to start the second, and Volpe made a fine charging play to retire center fielder Travis Swaggery on a slow hopper up the middle. And then a pleasant evening became a celebratory one. Hicks and Willie Calhoun began the bottom of the second with singles, Jose Trevino’s one-base hit plated one, and Rafael Ortega, in center this night, walked to refill the bases. DJ singled hard again, this one for two runs, and 2022 MVP Aaron Judge, DHing this time around, strode to the plate.
Judge’s ensuing 1-1 home run to deep right, his first of the Spring, expanded the lead to 6-0, and largely closed this game out. The Yankees would add a run in the third following a Hicks double, as eyes rolled throughout Yankee land over the veteran left fielder’s unwelcome contribution. Then the Bombers would plate two more in the sixth.
I’m not going to pretend that I spent the rest of this one recording pitches, player changes, and outs, though I did witness Pittsburgh’s Cal Mitchell score following a booming double to left center in the eighth, and Chavez Young homer in the top of the ninth for the 9-2 final.
But this one became about our Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Orlando neighbors in the seats enjoying what I will always believe is America’s game on a night made for baseball. Young Pittsburgh righties Wil Crowe, Yohan Ramirez, Logan Webb, and Jared Jones did yeoman work carrying the game forward, while Jimmy Cordero, Ian Hamilton, Yoendez Gomez, James Norwood, and Matt Bowman finished up for the Yanks.
Yes, it was just a Spring Training game, but German looked rotation worthy, Anthony Volpe played seven innings, and Willie Calhoun had a two-hit outing fighting for an outfield job. The game opened under a stunning full moon, which meant that, as opposed to recent play, much of this one transpired,
After the Sun