March 18, 2022, Bradenton, Fla.; Pittsburgh 4, Yankees 3 — Although the Yankees would eventually fall to the Pirates, they got their suddenly assembled and quickly prepared Spring Training session started Friday with an encouraging first inning, demonstrating an offensive nimbleness not often in evidence in 2021. It was a gorgeous, if windy, afternoon, warm under a largely cloudless sky, played in front of 4,500 fans representing both teams, and baseball fans of all stripes.
Newly acquired shortstop Isaiah Kiner-Filefa was largely responsible for the visitors’ two-run first inning, as he doubled sharply to left on the game’s second pitch. One out later 2020 Yankees first-round pick Austin Wells, filling in at cleanup as DH, singled him home. And third baseman Jose Peraza plated a second run on a fielder’s choice ground ball. Righthander Hayden Wesneski, who posted an 11-6 mark in 2021 in three different levels of minors, pitched out of trouble in the bottom half, then struck out three in the second and third around a Greg Tucker home run leading off the third.
The Yankees failed to do anything with one-out singles in the third and the fifth, the latter backed up by a walk to Joey Gallo. And they wouldn’t notch another hit until catcher Rodolfo Duran homered deep to left with one down in the ninth. By then the Pirates had taken a 4-2 lead with the help of two windblown doubles.
Tucker led off the bottom of the fifth against Braden Bristo with a high deep shot to right center that Ender Tnciarte battled to catch in the wind, only to have it fall between him and the wall. A home run then gave Pittsburgh the lead. Bristo followed with two strike outs, but the damage was done.
Ron Marinaccio came on and gave up a single, but Everson Pereira made a quick grab in left and his perfect throw to second nailed the runner trying to stretch. But Pereira wasn’t as fortunate in the seventh, and Carter Bins’s liner evaded him for two bases, and a following single delivered run No. four.
It was just a Spring game, and an early one at that. Wells’s rbi single back in the first was a good sign, and Kiner-Falefa not only followed his first-inning double with a single in the fifth, his second-inning tracer to center was nabbed by Jared Duran with a shoestring catch.
Two days earlier, watching in New York, I saw one-time Brooklyn Net Spencer Dinwiddie damage that NBA team’s playoff chances with a buzzer-beating three-pointer. And on this day, the man who batted following Tucker’s fifth-inning two-bagger was none other than Greg Allen. This left fielder had given the 2021 Yankees a spark with his glove, bat, and legs, only to be released after the season.
At the end of the day, it was Allen’s two-run home run that carried the day for the Pirates.