The Yankees brought nearly all of their Opening Day starters over to Clearwater tonight to face the Phillies, and they got some promising results. The Phillies and Yankees traded blows early, smashing big hits off of starters Michael King and Matt Moore, and then the substitutes mirrored their performance in the final frames. The Phillies were the ones to walk away with the win in the end, thanks to a walk-off single.
King was a hard pitcher to place on the roster heading into this start, and he didn’t do himself any favors in this outing. A leadoff hit-by-pitch and a J.T. Realmuto double put Philadelphia in business in the first, and a walk followed by another hit batter would force in a run. Alec Bohm hit a ground ball that could only get one out and allowed another run to score, setting up Didi Gregorius for a three-run blast against his former team. In a bit of spring training magic, Aaron Boone elected to pull King at this point but was allowed to reinstate him to start the next inning.
This was a far more successful version of the top half of the inning. Matt Moore got himself in a hole immediately, giving up a single to DJ LeMahieu that set up a massive two-run home run by Aaron Judge. The moonshot was Judge’s first this spring, something that had been drawing some amount of worry outside the organization. Boone hadn’t faltered on calling Judge’s spring a success however, and it appears that the power is indeed still there.
Moore was temporarily subbed out after allowing an Aaron Hicks double, though he did manage to get the next two batters out. Moore returned for the second as well, but he’d find himself in trouble again in the third. This time it was Gleyber Torres providing the liftoff, launching a ball into left for a three-run shot that nearly landed in the same spot as Judge’s.
Unfortunately for King, his woes did not end after sitting out the rest of the first inning. The Phillies attacked him right out of the gate again in the second with two singles by Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper sandwiched by another hit-by-pitch. A walk to Rhys Hoskins and a single by Jean Segura brought home two more runs, leaving King with a tally of seven runs allowed. King did work a clean third inning to end his night before handing the ball over to Jonathan Loáisiga.
The score was still close, but the fireworks were far from over. Tyler Lyons took over to start the eighth inning down 8-6, and promptly gave up another four runs to the Phillies. The big blow came on a three-run shot by Logan O’Hoppe, and it seemed like the game would be over in short order. Then the Yankees came up in the ninth and rallied for six runs to tie the game, starting with a solo shot from Chris Gittens. Armando Alvarez, Kellin Deglan, Ezequiel Duran, and Estevan Florial all provided RBI hits in the frame, and gave the team an opportunity to head into the bottom of the ninth.
That inning was short-lived, as Nester Cortes Jr. was unable to prevent the walk-off. Luke Williams led off with a single and got bunted over to second base, setting up a Johan Rojas single that was punched out into right field to end the game.
In terms of relevance to the main roster, the Yankees got everything they could’ve asked for out of the offense and very little out of their pitching today. Judge and Torres’ performances were a welcome sight for two crucial sluggers, and LeMahieu continued to pick up hits. Meanwhile, King’s command looked atrocious and he suffered the consequences of letting too many men on while Lyons all but took himself out of the conversation for being the additional lefty in the ‘pen. Still, there are a few more days to go until the final decisions have to be made — who knows what the rest of the competition will do in that time.