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Yankees 5, Phillies 6: Big day from Higgy wasted in Clearwater

Kyle Higashioka hit two home runs to dig the Yankees out of an early hole, but it turned out not to be enough.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees received a fireworks show from Kyle Higashioka and some solid middle relief today in Clearwater, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to overcome an early deficit and a bad seventh inning. When the dust settled on the back-and-forth affair, the Yankees had dropped this one to the Phillies, 6-5.

Of course, there are many moving parts in any spring training contest, but coming into today’s game, much of the focus was on Luis Severino. Unfortunately, we needed to avert our eyes a few times as Sevy struggled with his command more or less from the get-go.

After getting Kyle Schwarber to ground out to second base to lead off the bottom of the first inning, Severino surrendered a line drive single to Philadelphia shortstop Bryson Stott, then issued a walk to Bryce Harper. After a hard lineout to center field from J.T. Realmuto for the second out (on which Aaron Hicks made a nice running grab), Severino issued another free pass, this time to Alec Bohm. The giving spirit caught up with Severino and the Yankees rather quickly when center fielder Matt Vierling lined a bases-clearing double into left-center, giving the Phils a 3-0 lead.

After issuing another free pass, this time to former Yankees minor leaguer Donny Sands, Sevy was temporarily replaced by Carson Coleman. Coleman got Nick Maton on strikes to end the inning, but the damage had been done and the Yanks trailed by three after one.

Some of the sting was taken off the rocky start as the Phillies’ Kyle Gibson struggled with his control as well. After issuing a leadoff walk to Marwin González, Isiah Kiner-Falefa flew to center for the first out. Kyle Higashioka – who had a tough first inning defensively behind the plate – followed Kiner-Falefa with a much longer fly. Higgy got a hanging breaking ball and sent it over the left-center field wall, cutting the lead to 3-2:

Although no more numbers were added to the scoreboard on Severino’s watch, he continued to struggle with his command for the rest of his outing. After another walk and single with one out in the bottom of the second, Severino got out of the frame without allowing any more runs, but when Bohm led off the bottom of the third with a double to the left-center field wall, Yankees manager Aaron Boone felt that Severino had thrown enough. Boone summoned Greg Weissert from the pen, who closed out the third inning without incident.

It has to be noted of course, that Severino has not pitched very much in a very long time – command issues are to be expected in his situation – and an optimist would note that he hit 97 mph on the gun several times. That, along with his arm staying in good shape, are the important signs to track at this point. That said, most of the pitches that missed, missed by a lot, and the ones that didn’t found middle-middle in the zone frequently. As expected, the return of Luis Severino is likely to be a work in progress for the time being.

The score remained the same heading into the fifth inning when Philadelphia reliever Jeurys Familia helped the Yankees out by issuing walks to Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu. Then with two outs, and with Judge running on the delivery, González reached on an infield single that bounced off Familia’s glove. It turned out to be a fortuitous bounce for the Yankees as Judge was able to come around to score to tie the game at three runs each.

The good mood generated on the RBI infield hit didn’t last long, as the Yankees made us all feel like we were having a flashback to the 2021 team. With two outs and DJ now on second base, Kiner-Falefa lined a single into right field that Harper fielded cleanly on one hop and — stop me if you’ve heard this before — threw DJ out easily at the plate. Eye rolls and upward looks aside, the game was still knotted up.

After getting a quick 1-2-3 inning from reliever and old friend Manny Bañuelos in the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees got another jolt from Higashioka leading off the sixth. This time, Higgy sent a 410-foot bomb over the left-field wall, giving the Bombers their first lead of the game, 4-3.

The Yankees got a good run from their bullpen as Weissert, Bañuelos, and Aroldis Chapman (in his spring debut) combined to hold Philadelphia scoreless through the sixth inning. Ryan Weber took over in the seventh for the Yanks and the 31-year-old journeyman didn’t help his chances of making the team that’ll head north in a week and a half, as he allowed four straight singles to lead off the frame. Those hits plus an RBI groundout from old friend Ronald Torreyes gave the Phillies a 6-4 lead after seven complete.

The Yanks closed the gap in the eighth with doubles from Rodolfo Durán and Brandon Lockridge that cut the lead to 6-5, but that’s as far as it would go for the Yankees today. In what was an up and down, back and forth day, ultimately the Yanks got back on the bus back to Tampa on the wrong end of a 6-5 decision.

One never wants to take too much from any game, let alone a spring training game, but there were some positives for the Yankees despite the loss. Bañuelos looked great, throwing two scoreless innings, striking out three without allowing a hit. Chapman seemed fine and had an easy inning for himself against some of the Phils’ bigger bats. At the dish, LeMahieu looked like 2019 circa DJ with two line drive hits to right field, Judge did Judge things by drawing three walks, and of course, there was Higgy, the home run stroka’ and his 3-for-3 day.

They’ll try again tomorrow back in Tampa against Alex Manoah and the Blue Jays, with Michael King on the hill for the home team. First pitch will be at 1:05 pm ET.

Box Score