Perfect for a Night Game

Tampa, Fla., March 4, 2020; Yankees 3, Philadelphia 2 — Strong pitching and yet another solid first inning carried the Yankees to a 3-2 win on a gorgeous Wednesday night in George M. Steinbrenner Field. Rounding into midseason form, second baseman DJ LeMahieu started the rally with the first of two sharp singles, but just as key was Brett Gardner, busting out like it was the playoffs to beat the relay on his seeming double-play one-hop grounder back to the pitcher.

The Yanks did pounce on righthander Nick Pivetta quickly, stroking four hits (of five all night) in the first. But, as happened Tuesday against the Red Sox, their opponent chipped into the big rally. Pivetta wild pitched Gardner to second in the next at bat, one pitch before Gleyber Torres scorched a line single over second to score him. Luke Voit followed with a hot shot one-base hit that caromed off former Yank Ronald Torreyes’s glove at short, and Josh Harrison failed to corral Mike Ford’s grounder to third for a clear error. Chris Iannetta battled the Philly righty through an eight-pitch at bat, then singled in the third run.

The Yankee offense basically shut down right then. But although they would not hit much, they felt dangerous a few times over the next seven innings, largely because Phillies pitching surrendered seven walks, three of them in the home sixth. LeMahieu’s second single came in the fifth, but even paired with a Torres one-out walk, no true threat ensued.

Philadelphia’s offense didn’t produce much more, just six hits, and J.A. Happ issued them their first of just two walks in the first. But the Yankee southpaw was very good, going four strong on 62 throws. He was reached for two singles, the latter (leading off the third) by Torreyes, but this was removed on a 5-4-3 following a strike out, one of six Happ would garner. Mike King looked good piching around an error in the fifth, and getting three more K’s through the seventh, but the visitors did reach him for both runs in the sixth. Logan Forsythe slugged a one-out double to left, and one out later Jay Bruce homered for two the same way. The roundtripper was impressive, but many thought third base ump Vic Carapazza missed the call when Bruce appeared to go around on an 0-2 pitch two throws earlier.

As this one-run contest approached the final, Philly batters stroked hits leading off both the eighth and the ninth innings. Tyler Lyons was reached for Torreyes’s second hit, a double down the left field line on the lefty’s first pitch in the eighth; Lyons gave up the other walk one out later. But he escaped with two strike outs. And Dan Otero got past a leadoff single in the ninth by coaxing back-to-back grounders. The one to second did not result in a twin killing, but the next one to third was turned, and the game was over in 2:38.

When we arrived in Tampa 13 days ago, the area was coming out of a “cold” spell, with rain supposedly on the cusp (we made it through a rain-shortened win one week ago). The temperature has climbed since, and we baked in 83 degrees watching a Philly split squad beat the Pirates before tonight’s win. But if this evening wasn’t perfect — and perfect for baseball — I don’t know what is. As the Spring campaign opened, the Yanks immediately fell to 0-2-1, but we fly out tomorrow with them boasting an 8-3-1 mark. (We missed one because the Yankee split squad games last Saturday were played at the same time, and 150 miles apart.)

Violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi, whose most famous work is The Four Seasons, was born on this day in 1678. Most of our experience over the years in late February and early March in Tampa has been day after day under hot and climbing temperatures. But this year, as we head back North tomorrow, another “cold” snap arrives along with rain. So the changing seasons affect Western Florida now too. But not before March 4, when the Yanks won 3-2, on a day,

Perfect for a Night Game