The only salvation to this game was that it was an exhibition matchup and did not count for anything. The Yankees lost to the Orioles, and star second baseman Robinson Cano was forced to leave the game in the sixth inning after striking out on a pitch that hit his hand. Cano was in pain, but fortunately, X-rays were negative after the game and manager Joe Girardi thought that he'd be fine.
From the very beginning of the game, starting pitcher Ivan Nova was all over the place. In the first inning, he gave up four hits, including a three-run homer to Adam Jones and a solo homer to Matt Wieters. The Orioles scratched out another run in the second with a single to center, a bunt, and an RBI single to right. Not everything in Nova's outing was bad though-- he struck out Nick Markakis twice and retired seven of the last eight batters he faced. The final line was not pretty (four innings, seven hits, five runs), but he did settle down.
Interesting news on his performance emerged after the game, when Nova basically blamed the homers on bad pitch calls from catcher Gus Molina.
From Mark Feinsand:
Ivan Nova threw catcher Gustavo Molina under the bus after giving up five runs in four innings, four of them in the first: "I was shaking too much. That slowed my game. We threw a couple bad pitches, like the curveball for a homer and the slider for the other homer. In that situation, you have to move the hitter and we didn't do it. Sometimes you want to throw that pitch and he doesn't call that pitch. You start shaking and you get out of what you want to do. I think that happened out there."
Man, if Gus Molina can't even "call a good game," it makes one wonder why he's even in the organization. That being said, it's all about execution, and Nova should be able to throw those pitches without problems, even if he doesn't agree with the catcher's choice. Either way, the battery played better after the first inning, so they likely already solved their problems. Gus won't be catching Nova in New York, anyway.
David Phelps relieved Nova in the fifth inning and promptly gave up an Endy Chavez groundball single, then threw a pickoff attempt away after inducing a flyout from J.J. Hardy. Phelps then walked Markakis and struck out Jones, but Girardi opted for the lefty Clay Rapada against Blake Davis, who grounded out. I can only assume the quick hook from Girardi was to get Rapada an appearance against a lefty, but why wouldn't he have had him pitch against Markakis if that was the case? If Girardi wants to determine if Rapada can pitch to lefties at the MLB level, he needs to match up with Markakis, not 28-year-old minor-league scrubs like like Davis. This is a minor quibble, but it's a point worth making.
More notes from the game:
- Outfield prospect Mason Williams made his Spring Training debut when he pinch-ran for Mark Teixeira in the sixth innings, but he was gunned down stealing. Not to be deterred, Williams hit a bloop single to left in the eighth, his unofficial first Yankee single. Nice moment for him. Hope to see him up here in four years or so.
- Williams was not the only Yankee gunned down on the bases by O's catcher Matt Wieters. He threw out Eduardo Nunez stealing second in the first, and he picked off Dewayne Wise from second in the fifth a couple pitches after Wise stole second. Only speedy Brett Gardner (he of a league-leading 49 steals in 2011) escaped Wieters unscathed--Gardner stole second off of Wieters and reliever Troy Patton in the sixth.
- Gardner also turned a double play in the second as he caught a J.J. Hardy fly ball and threw behind Endy Chavez at first base. Not a Gold Glover, clearly.
- Raul Ibanez was hitless in three at bats and dropped his Spring Training batting average to .065. Yikes.