Let’s Play Two!

Lakeland and Tampa, Fla., March 1, 2019; Mets 7, Tigers 1 and Baltimore 2, Yankees 2 — A lovely day, a lovely evening, and 15 innings of Spring Training baseball. We ended up in Tampa where the Yankees and the visiting Orioles played to a 2-2 tie, but not before watching the first six innings of the Mets 7-1 win over the Tigers. Of note from Lakeland was a solid outing from reigning NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom (three innings, four strike outs, one hit), the sloppy Detroit pitching (three wild pitches in a five-pitch stretch in the second), and two singleton home runs from the visiting team, its lone resemblance to the night game in Tampa that would follow.

It was a long and frustrating night for the home-standing Yanks, as they just missed on three scoring chances in a low-scoring game before the final rally actually came through. New starter James Paxton struggled a bit working into the third inning of this, his second start. He did strike out three while walking just one. But he allowed a home run to ninth-place hitter Andrew Susac, and could have allowed two more, which Aaron Judge (in the first) and Aaron Hicks (in the second) caught at the wall. The pitching that followed was solid, even outstanding (Chad Greene and Jonathan Loiasiga, though the latter did surrender the second O’s home run), and Tommy Kahnle had a great outing as well.

Baltimore pitching was also good, holding Yankee bats to five hits (the Yanks allowed just three), and surviving errors in three consecutive innings until wildness in the final frame cost them a “W.” In the home third, Giancarlo Stanton scratched out the Yanks’ first hit when he topped a ball down the third base line, and third baseman Renato Nunez air-mailed a throw to first, with Stanton taking second on the miscue. Gary Sanchez followed and, after fouling off three pitches, lined hard to center, with Austin Hayes diving forward to make a run-saving grab.

More frustrating still was the home sixth, a frame Stanton led off with a five-pitch walk, before Jorge Saez, in for Sanchez, singled. Luke Voit went after a 3-0 pitch and barely beat the relay throw to blunt a 6-4-3 try. Up next, Gleyber Torrez almost got the Yanks on the board (and should have) with a sinking liner to short right. Yusniel Diaz made a fine diving catch, but as he lay sprawled on the outfield grass, pinch runner Brandon Wagner should have scored from third easily. But he had inexplicably already run halfway to home when the catch was made. His failure to tag up kept the Bombers off the board. Newcomer DJ LeMahieu, who made one nice play at third but has looked anemic at the plate early, grounded to short on the next pitch. The score held at 2-0, O’s.

Clint Frazier, who replaced Brett Gardner in left in the top of the seventh, looked great. Not only did he double sharply into the left field corner as he batted to start the home seventh; on his next at bat leading off the bottom of the ninth, he lined hard into the front row seats down the left field side on three straight pitches before finally accepting a 10-pitch walk. Clint’s two-base hit in the seventh, by the way, bore no fruit, because Orioles righty Travis Long struck out two to escape the threat.

But come the ninth, Gosuke Katoh just fell short of tying the game following Frazier’s walk with a drive to the center field wall. D.J. Snelten next issued a walk to center fielder Mike Lipka, his second free trip to first in two plate appearances. A wild pitch moved the runners up, and Rashad Crawford came up. Whereas Frazier was acquired in the Andrew Miller trade to Cleveland, Crawford came over in the other big 2016 swap, accompanying Gleyber Torrez in the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Cubs.

Lots of stuff has happened on history-rich March 1, much of it specific to the Yankees. On this day in 1969, Mickey Mantle made it official; the beloved homer hitter was retiring. And on March 1, 1993, George Steinbrenner was reinstated to his role as owner of the team after serving a suspension. Three years later, the pinstripers proudly opened their Spring Training facility in Tampa, the scene of the game being described, which was then referred to as Legends Field. George’s team hosted and defeated the reigning AL Champion Cleveland Indians, 5-2, on March 1, 1996. And in other news, on this day in 1940, Civil War epic Gone With the Wind won the Academy Award as Best Picture.

When Rashad Crawford lined a 1-1 pitch to left center for a single this night, it was “gone was the win” for the visiting Orioles. A line out and strike out closed out the ninth, and both teams agreed to end it there, a nine-inning, 2-2 tie. It crowned a very long, very enjoyable day of baseball — one with the theme,

Let’s Play Two!