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March 17, 2008: Another winner!

The Yankees beat the Red Sox today. Yeah, sure, you can say it was only spring training and that the games don’t count and that if it were a real game, for example, Andy Pettitte probably would have pitched more than 3 1/3 innings. But it was the Red Sox, which always adds excitement, and it was St. Patrick’s Day, meaning that the crowd looked rather like it had sprouted moss overnight, in addition to looking somewhat rusted, thanks to all the red jerseys that appeared for the matchup. It felt even more like a real game than the day before.

The theme of today was pitching. Pettitte did not give up a hit until the third inning, while Boston’s starter, Bartolo Colon (yes, that Bartolo Colon) did not make it out of the first inning.

Colon looked very sharp against leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, but maybe Damon is suffering from the allergies that have hit over the past two days as the pollen count has spiked near 11 (on a scale that goes to 12). Colon simply could not locate his fastball for a strike, and after walking Wilson Betemit, the number 8 batter, was lifted having given up four runs.

Julian Tavares took over, got the final out, and then gave up three runs in the second on a two-run Abreu blast, which followed sweetly after Jeter had been hit by pitch, and a sharp Giambi double over Dustin Pedroia’s head and a Matsui single were all it took to make the score 7-0. After 9 Yankees had come to the plate in the first, eight batter in the second, meaning Pettitte had more than 20 minutes to sit, two innings in a row.

He was not as sharp in the third inning, having trouble finding the strike zone from time to time. And he wasn’t helped by Damon who lost a ball in the sun that went for a double. Andy gave up two runs in that rally, one on his own wildness as a pitch in the dirt scooted between Posada’s legs and allowed the runner on third to score, and in the fourth he gave a solo homer to Kevin Youkilis. Still, compared to both Colon and Tavares, he looked brilliant.

Heath Philips, one of the many lefty control pitchers to get an invite to camp, took over, and did not pitch well, giving up another run on four hits, while both outs he records were both line drives to second, snared by Cano.

Everyone else for the Yankees pitched great. Jonathan Albaladejo, Billy Traber, Brian Bruney, and Scott Strickland kept the Sox in check, limiting their offense to two hits over the final five innings and no more runs.

All in all, a very pleasant afternoon.

***

STICK SHTICK
Jeter has always had some interesting rituals associated with his game, like rubbing Don Zimmer’s head and having Joe Torre hold his bat in the dugout. (Which makes me wonder… who holds his bat now?) This year prior to every at bat he seems to have adopted a procedure by which he uses the tick of pine tar, and then throws it at Bobby Abreu, usually hitting him in the stomach.

SCHIZOID FANS
It being a Red Sox-Yankees matchup, there were plenty of “mixed marriages” in evidence, and the Yankees, perhaps in a diplomatic move, invited an acapella group from Yale University to sing the National Anthem. (Though the boys were all wearing Yankees’ caps, no doubt provided by the team). Sitting in front of us was a man and his full grown son, both wearing Red Sox hats. But when Jorge Posada came to the plate, the man called out “Hip Hip!” starting a rousing round of Hip-Hip-Jorge. His son turned around and tried to take the man’s hat away. “Now now!” he said, grabbing the hat back, “I’m from Rhode Island! I’m allowed to root for both teams if I want!”

DANGER ROBINSON
Every inning in baseball is almost universally preceded by the first baseman tossing grounders to the other three infielders while the pitcher throws eight warmup pitches. After the final pitch, the catcher throws down to second as if catching a base stealer, and then the inning can begin. Well, at the start of the second inning, Robinson Cano was chatting away with Jeter all through the warmup tosses, and when Jorge was ready to throw through, Cano wasn’t in place. He waved his arms until Cano got in position and then threw down. Before the third inning, once again Cano missed his cue to cover second and Jorge, apparently fed up with waiting, just threw the ball into center field.

P.S. My interview with David Cone is up at Gotham Baseball magazine, here.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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