Solid pitching, solid hitting, and yet another decidedly better-than-solid performance from Aaron Judge led the Yankees to a 5-2 win today in Tampa. Alas, we can’t start the regular season quite yet, but a team-wide performance like the one we saw today certainly makes us wish we could.
JP Sears got the start for the Yankees today and acquitted himself quite well. As I wrote earlier today in the PSA pregame post (and as David Cone noted on the YES broadcast), Sears is an aggressive pitcher who’s going to throw a lot of strikes. He certainly put that trait on display today as he cruised through the first two innings, retiring the first six Phillies batters, striking out two. He ran into a little trouble in the third, allowing a run on two hits, and although it may sound odd, he still pitched pretty well.
The Phillies’ Mickey Moniak led off with a bloop single to start the third inning, which Sears followed by issuing a walk to Garrett Stubbs (Sears’ first base on balls in three spring starts). Former Yankee Ronald Torreyes followed that with a broken-bat single into right field to load the bases with nobody out. From there, Sears induced a soft fly out to right field from Matt Vierling, which scored Moniak. He then got a tapper back to the mound from Jean Segura and struck out Alec Bohm to end the frame.
All told, Sears threw three innings, allowed one run on two hits (79.8 and 82.2 mph exit velocities, respectively), and struck out three. There are certainly worse final impressions to leave Yankees’ management with as camp is about to break. As we’ll revisit later, Sears’ work paid off.
Unfortunately, when Lucas Luetge relieved Sears to start the fourth inning, the Phillies' strategy of death by 1,000 paper cuts continued to work. With one out, Johan Camargo reached on a HBP that nicked off his elbow pad and he would advance and then score on back-to-back singles from Moniak and Stubbs (exit velocities of 76.1 and 70.4, respectively). Yankees pitchers were doing a fantastic job of generating weak contact, yet they trailed by a score of 2-0 after three and a half innings. As John Sterling says, “That’s baseball, Suzyn.”
The Yankees quickly got a run back in the bottom of the fourth as Joey Gallo led off with a double for his second hit of the day. Then with two outs, reigning 2021 AL singles leader Isiah Kiner-Falefa, lined a single into right-center to score Gallo and cut the lead to 2-1 after four complete.
Gallo and Kiner-Falefa gave a little shot of energy to the home crowd in Tampa, but Gleyber Torres gave everybody a jolt with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Phillies starter Kyle Gibson threw a sinker to Gleyber that didn’t exactly sink.
Gleyber responded by sending a laser over the left-center-field wall to tie the game and end Gibson’s day in the process:
Of note, new YES announcer Carlos Beltrán remarked that when a hitter has such a demonstrative leg kick as Gleyber does, the focus should be on just putting a good swing on the ball, as opposed to trying to generate even more power with the upper body. It was a simple, but important point and illustration that hopefully portends well for both Beltrán’s commentary and Gleyber’s hitting this season.
The Yankees continued the theme of good swings and striking quickly in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and nobody on base, DJ LeMahieu worked a walk off Phillies reliever Seranthony Domínguez, who then plunked Anthony Rizzo to put runners at first and second base. Aaron Judge, who already had two hard hits to the right side today, then stepped in and sent a clothesline 349 feet down the right-field line for a three-run home run. When it cleared the wall and thankfully didn’t hurt any fans, the Yankees had themselves a 5-2 lead.
Jonathan Loáisiga and Aroldis Chapman combined to lock down the lead, and the day ended with a positive note-filled 5-2 win. In addition to Judge’s three hits and long ball, and Gleyber’s dinger, Gallo added two hits of his own.
Perhaps even the best news from a fan rooting interest standpoint is that we learned during the game that the starter, Sears, made the roster. He will be heading north with the big club, in no small part due to his performance today. It was certainly well-earned, and we’ll look forward to watching him in pinstripes.
The Yankees will close out the spring schedule tomorrow afternoon against the Tigers in Tampa. First pitch will be at 1:05 pm with Manny Bañuelos expected to start.