Jonathan’s Ups and Downs

Tampa, Fla., March 6, 2019; St. Louis 9, Yankees 5 — A chilly, windy Wednesday Tampa morning became a perfect day for a ballgame IF you had a seat bathed in sunlight, as I did. And it figured to be an interesting contest, what with two cogs of the projected Yankee rotation likely to start the season on the Injured List.

One of a few candidates to get a few newly open 2019 starts, then, Jonathan Loaisiga, got the start against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. And he came out firing, getting five strike outs in innings one and two. He did give up a singleton home run to Tyler O’Neill in the second, the same thing he did while pitching two innings in relief effectively the other day. But he was pounding his fastball up to 97, and hitting spots. While less polished he appeared to have an effective slider too. Twenty of 34 tosses through two found the zone, seven of them swings and misses, and six called.

And the home team got off to a nice start with their bats too. They wasted a Brett Gardner leadoff single in the first, but responded to the St. Louis score in the second with some of their own. Gleyber Torres led off the frame with the first of his two singles, and two batters later Austin Romine hit a three-run bomb to left. The team seemed set to dominate.

But this one turned ugly, and quickly. Loaisiga got the first out of the third on a soft hopper to the box, but Kolten Wong doubled deep to right on the next pitch, and with a full count, Jose Marinez doubled him in. When Jonathan issued a walk to new Cardinal Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Boone replaced him with Joe Harvey, who was not the answer. When the smoke cleared, the Cards had put up a four-double, four-run inning, and had a 5-3 lead.

Aroldis Chapman brought a sense of possibility with a three-batter fourth; he did allow a single, but promptly picked him off. When southpaw free agent Danny Coulombe put up a scoreless fifth, the crowd could sense a turn, one that seemed all but certain as the Bombers posted a big-time threat. Torres and DJ LeMahieu singled and doubled starting the home fifth, and Clint Frazier put up a nice at bat. Despite the fiery makeup and run full-kilter approach, he’s proven to be a guy who will take a walk. And he and 6-7,000 others thought he did just that. But home plate ump James Hoye punched him out on what appeared to be a low outside curve.

It was the beginning of the end, both for the inning and the game. Romine built on his fine day at the plate by working a walk. But Tyler Wade and Gardner each flailed meekly at third strikes. Spring Training or not, the disappointment in the crowd was palpable. They had witnessed an ugly fame, and thought they could see the future. And they were right. St. Louis continued to work long innings, putting up a run here and two there, taking a 9-3 lead into the ninth. Yankee frames were shorter and less eventful, at least until substitute players mounted a late rally. Right fielder Trey Amburgey forged the final score with a two-run base hit in the ninth, 9-5 Cards.

Some time before that conclusion, many of the seats that had been sun-covered no longer were, and that late rally was played out in front of a smaller crowd. We had left, pressed by a scheduled flight North to leave the game three hours in . My apologies to Trey and all, for leaving you early. These back-of-bench guys turned a loss into a tie last Friday with yet another ninth-inning two-run uprising.

This March 6 represents the 544th anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth, and the 300th of that of Cyrano de Bergerac, on a day that what has been described was no work of art. Also on this day in 1922, Babe Ruth signed a deal that would pay him three times what Frank “Home Run” Baker, the second highest paid player on the team, was making. It was only fair; he had out-homered Baker by a ratio of 7:1.

And speaking of hitting, say Happy Birthday to pinstriped hitting coach Marcus Thames (1977). But while his charges did not excel in this one, it was the pitching that was the focus, at least to this scribe, and to much of Yankee land as well. Hoping that he can build on his first two innings, it would be best if the young Yankee righty remembered the third too,

Jonathan Loaisiga’s Ups and Downs