Fun in the Sun

Tampa, Fla., February 22, 2020; Toronto 2, Yankees 1 — Under blue skies; a bright, sometimes blinding, sun; and temps warm enough in the low 60s, the Yankees opened their 25th season of Spring Training in Tampa Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 loss to the visiting Blue Jays. Following entertainment from a local high school marching band, the introduction of Yankee royalty who were present (Tino Martinez, Willie Randolph, and Ron Guidry, to name a few), fine renditions of the National Anthems of both Canada and the United States, and a flyover from a military helicopter from a nearby base, nominal fifth starter J.A. Happ got the game started by pouring in a strike to Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette at 1:06 pm.

Happ would retire six straight, with three strike outs, to get things started, while the Yankees mounted minor threats in the first inning (a leadoff walk to DJ LeMahieu and a Gio Urshela fly out to right on a 3-0 pitch) and the second, when Clint Frazier tested Derek Fisher in left with a hard liner to the left center field gap. A leadoff single and a stolen base in the third had a potential Yankee score 90 feet from the plate with one down, but righty Sam Gaviglio escaped that one by posting back-to-back swinging K’s.

In not at all typical fashion for a Spring game, visiting Toronto fielded what could be their starting nine come late March when the regular season begins, while the home-standing Bombers’ lineup featured no one likely to be playing in their March 26 season opener in Baltimore aside from LeMahieu and Urshela and shortstop Gleyber Torres, with Mike Ford looming as a possibility at first base. But the firepower of the starters would not figure in this one, as the visitors plated their first run in the top of the sixth when replacements Alejandro Kirk and Andy Burns notched a tally off Nick Tropeano on a single, wild pitch, and double into the left field corner.

Their second (and, as it turned out, deciding) run scored in uglier fashion. Backup center fielder Anthony Alford led off the seventh with a single against one-time Mets lefty Luis Avilan, then stole both second and third base, with Avilan’s nonattention on the latter giving his catcher virtually no chance. A couple of strike outs would get Avilan out of the inning, but not before a double steal from Forrest Wall, on via a walk, and Alford doubled the Blue Jays’ score.

Replacement Yankees mustered what they could, and gave fans starved for the game some exciting moments at the end, but alas, it was not to be. Ben Ruta’s two-out gapper to right center in the seventh fell short for a double, and one-time Mets catcher Josh Thole could not drive him across. Then Chris Gittens cleared the wall off Jake Petricka leading off the bottom of the ninth, but despite walks to Kyle Holder and Hoy Park, Thole (again) fell short, going down on strikes, even though he did put up a seven-pitch battle.

It was almost cold (55 degrees) and overcast in Tampa Friday, but this one was played under blue skies and mid-sixties temps. It is expected to push 80 Sunday as the Yankees visit Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte. Following the season’s first Tampa night game hosting the Pirates Monday, New York heads to Dunedin to visit the Blue Jays’ totally redone facility the next day, but rain threatens later in the week, with reduced temps to follow. We’ll be delighted to share these games, as well. And why not, what with the,

Fun in the Sun today?