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Yankees 6, Pirates 9: Schmidt’s perfect start wasted

The Yankees starter turned in one of the most dominant performances of the spring so far, but the bullpen couldn’t hold on.

Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Clarke Schmidt was utterly dominant against the Pirates, giving the Yankees five innings without allowing a single baserunner. On offense, the big boppers at the top of the lineup did their damage early before subbing out for the final innings. Unfortunately, the bullpen had an off day, yielding nine runs to sink the Yankees, 9-6.

Johan Oviedo faced quite the gauntlet of hitters in the first inning, and they were happy to provide him with a rude awakening to the game. DJ LeMahieu got things started with a groundball single back up the middle. That brought Aaron Judge to the plate, with the reigning MVP sending a booming flyball to dead-center that appeared to hit off the batter’s eye for a two-run blast.

However, umpires signaled that the ball remained in play and Judge cruised into second with a double. An errant throw from Oneil Cruz trying to nab LeMahieu at the plate allowed the Yankees to score the first run of the contest and Judge to advance to third before being driven in on a soft Giancarlo Stanton groundball two batters later.

The Yankees threatened to really break it open the following inning with Oviedo issuing three straight walks to Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Rafael Ortega to open the frame, however he managed to strike out Carlos Narvaez and LeMahieu to end the threat.

The next few innings were all about Schmidt. He looked in control from the first pitch of the game, attacking hitters with a varied mix of sliders, sinkers, knuckle curves, and cutters. He induced seven groundball outs to go along with his seven strikeouts — a certain recipe for success that can sustain him in the big league rotation. This is now his second dominant outing of spring following his first appearance — two perfect innings with five strikeouts against the Braves. He was technically pulled with a perfect game intact (not that there’s any value in letting him continue the bid in a spring exhibition) giving him a final line of five innings, no hits, no walks, no runs, and seven strikeouts on 50 pitches.

New York tacked on three more runs in the fifth as it appeared they would cruise to another easy victory over the Bucs. LeMahieu reached on a one-out double followed by a two-out walk from Anthony Rizzo to put a pair on for Stanton. He proceeded to laser a two-run single to left that exited his bat at 118.6 mph.

Only seven players besides Stanton (Judge, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Nelson Cruz, Shohei Ohtani, Manny Machado, Gary Sanchez and Oneil Cruz) have hit a ball harder than that in the Statcast era. Josh Donaldson drove in the the final run of the inning with a double to plate Stanton.

With a 5-0 lead, it was hard to see the Yankees letting the Pirates back in this one. However, Wandy Peralta’s first hiccup of the spring made a game of this one again. After Jimmy Cordero surrendered the Pirates’ first run in the sixth, Peralta failed to get an out in the seventh, yielding a single, home run, and single before being pulled for Albert Abreu. As was the case for many of his appearances last season, Abreu allowed his inherited runner to score and even coughed up a second run when he surrendered a single, double, and a reached-on-error all with two outs. Just like that, the Yankees lead had evaporated and after a quiet bottom-half the game headed to eighth, 5-5.

No longer pitching with the lead, the Yankees reached deep to call on the dregs of the bullpen, and things only worsened from there. Demarcus Evans found himself on the wrong end of the Pirates bats, ceding three straight one-out singles and then a pair of doubles to gift Pittsburgh a 9-5 lead. He converted just one out on the afternoon, exiting the game for James Norwood to mop up the inning.

New York was determined to go down fighting, putting up a valiant effort in the eighth to reclaim their lead. Stanton led off with a walk, followed by a ringing double from top outfield prospect Jasson Domínguez and Willie Calhoun walk to load the bases with no outs.

The loud contact from Domínguez provides further encouragement as he continues to hold his own against major league pitching this spring. Fellow top prospect Oswald Peraza also had a productive day with a single and a walk. Despite the promising start to the frame, the Yankees would only push across one run to bring us to our final score, 9-6.

Yankees fans will have to wait a while to watch the team play on TV, as their next scheduled broadcast isn’t until March 21st when YES will carry the game against the Tigers. At least you will get the chance to follow along to tomorrow’s action (also vs. Detroit) on WFAN.

Domingo Germán starts for New York while Matt Manning gets the ball for the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled to 1:05 pm EDT, so be sure to join us in the game thread.

Box Score