North Port, Fla., February 28, 2020; Yankees 5, Atlanta 3 — Following a couple of days of revitalized offense, the Yankees continued to hit the ball, and once again the pitching held up its end on Friday afternoon. Visiting the Braves’ brand-new facility in North Port, Yankee players collected hits in every inning but the third and ninth, and 10 overall. Although the team precipitated a lot more action than the Braves, who rarely reached base, the visitors were on the wrong end of a 2-0 score through five innings once third baseman Johan Camargo reached young righthander Deivi Garcia for a two-run shot in the second inning.
Part of the problem was the generous strike zone of home plate umpire Adam Beck, whose plethora of called strikes led to both teams striking out 11 times, with four of them being on called strikes, again on both sides. He played no favorites, however, with players wearing home and away jerseys glaring back in his direction. It was difficult to mount any kind of attack until players figured out his zone. Back-to-back singles in the top of the second went for naught, but two additional hits and a walk later, the Yankees broke through in the sixth. Gleyber Torres sent Mike Tauchman, on via a leadoff walk, around to third with a single to left center. One out later, Kyle Holder, running for Torres, stole second, and Tauchman scored when Travis d’Arnaud’s throw sailed into center field.
In the seventh, Chris Gittens’s leadoff hot shot against one-time Yankee Shane Greene caromed off Pete Kozma at short, and one out later Estevan Florial pinch hit for Trey Amburgey. The sub outfielder, last seen at pregame batting practice in Tampa on Thursday getting advice from Yankee home run hero Reggie Jackson, pounced on the first pitch for a home run deep to right, and a 3-2 Yankee lead. Something Reggie said to Florial, who has spent the last several years opening eyes in Spring Training only to subsequently struggle with indifferent play and injuries in the minors, apparently clicked, and hordes of Yankee fans in the crowd made their presence known.
New York added to its lead in the eighth thanks to young pinch hitters and fielders. Second baseman Hoy Jun Park and catcher Wynston Sawyer stroked doubles with one down, and DH Kellen Deglan singled Sawyer home, for a 5-2 lead. Trey Harris homered off Albert Abreu to start the bottom of the ninth, but the young righty who couldn’t throw strikes a few days back pounded the zone and retired the side on 16 pitches, notching the Yankee pitching’s 11th strike out in the process.
Despite surrendering the two-run jack in the second, starter Deivi Garcia, who burst on the Yankee scene last year with stellar work in the minors, showed a nice arsenal of pitches, mixing 94-mph heat with an array of breaking pitches ranging down from the low 80s to 76 mph or so. Nick Nelson followed with two solid frames, and southpaws Tyler Lyons and Luis Avilan and righties Brooks Kriske and Alexander Vizcaino delivered the lead to Abreu for the ninth. The Braves mustered just three hits and one walk all game, with the free pass scoring in front of Camargo’s home run.
It was on February 28, 1991, that Don Mattingly was named the 10th captain in Yankee history. I’ve often felt that wearing the Yankee pinstripes can have an uplifting effect on the pride and focus of players new to the franchise. Another positive attribute of being with this team, no doubt, is the opportunity to rub elbows and learn some tips from the greats who have preceded them, like Donnie Baseball. And it seems that Estevan Florial, and all the Yankees players and fans in attendance at today’s game, benefited from Florial’s talk with Mr. October. It seems clear that Reggie offered Estevan some,