It was an exciting day in Tampa, as Joe Girardi put out what looked to be his Opening Day lineup behind "Big Mike" Michael Pineda against the Tampa Bay Rays. Pineda was also followed by another much-anticipated starter, and that was Nathan Eovaldi.
And boy, they definitely impressed. Pineda (2 IP, 1 H, 2 K) and Eovaldi (3 IP, 3 H, 5 K) combined to put up five innings and allowed just four hits and no walks on seven strikeouts. Pineda looked absolutely filthy with velocities up to about 95 mph, and his splitter did not look too shabby for early March. Beware: the video will induce drooling.
Offensively, the Opening Day lineup didn't look too bad, even if it was against Nate Karns. The scoring began in the bottom of the second as a Brian McCann double and Desmond Jennings error on a Chase Headley fly ball put runners on second and third, and then A-Rod knocked in one with an RBI single. A Didi Gregorius RBI ground out capped off the inning, and the Yankees were quickly up 2-0.
The Yankees wouldn't strike again until the seventh, but those runs proved critical. Rob Refsnyder started off the inning with a single, and then he immediately stole second to put himself into scoring position. After an obligatory Cito Culver strikeout, Slade Heathcott brought Refsnyder home with an RBI single to make it 3-0. The Yankees would then score their final run as Greg Bird hit an RBI ground rule double.
All seemed well-and-good at that point, as the Yankees were up 4-0 and the relief pitching was cruising; Justin Wilson and David Carpenter had already thrown an inning each after Eovaldi was removed from the game. But then Joe Girardi put Diego Moreno into the game, and things got sticky as he quickly walked Boog Powell and hit Daniel Robertson. And when it seemed like he would get a crucial ground ball for the double play, Refnsyder botched the throw to first and Powell scored. Eugenio Velez then hit an RBI single, and he advanced to second on an errant throw from Heathcott. And then one more run came in to make it 4-3, as Jake Elmore hit an RBI single. Moreno stopped the bleeding by striking out Corey Brown, but he and the defense made it a close game. Luckily Chris Martin came in in the ninth to finish it off by striking out two (and stranding a runner at second), and the Yankees won 4-3.
Even though some of the prospects played a little sloppily in the eighth inning, this was an exciting game to watch. Pineda and Eovaldi looked excellent, Alex Rodriguez picked up two hits, Greg Bird continued to rake, and we also saw some great infield defense from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius. I'll take that on any day of the week.
The Yankees will play a game tomorrow against the Baltimore Orioles, as Chase Whitley will take the hill against Wei-Yin Chen. The game will be televised on MLB Network (delayed telecast) and on MLB.tv at 1:05 PM EST.