YANKEES 5, TWINS 4
Sometimes the difference between good pitchers and great pitchers is how great pitchers deal with the fact that they do not have their best stuff that given day. Masahiro Tanaka proved on Saturday he can succeed on a day when he does not have command of his pitches.
Tanaka (1-0) yielded three runs on five hits and a walk and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees scored four runs in the fourth inning to back him up as New York won its seven straight Grapefruit League game by edging Minnesota in front of a record crowd of 9.298 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
The Twins got to Tanaka in the bottom of the first when Brian Dozier led off with a double, he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a RBI groundout by Joe Mauer.
Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Twins scored two more runs off Tanaka when Kurt Suzuki singled, Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch, Jason Kubel stroked an RBI double to score Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe scored Willingham on a groundout.
That ended Tanaka’s afternoon and relievers Fred Lewis, David Herndon, Shane Greene and Yoshinori Tateyama held the Twins to one hit and one run the rest of the way.
Despite giving up a solo home run to Eduardo Escobar in the ninth inning, Tateyama was credited with a save.
The Yankees managed only one hit in the first three innings off Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (1-2). But they sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs off him in the fourth.
After loading the bases with one out by hitting Francisco Cervelli with a pitch, Correia unloaded a wild pitch allowing Eduardo Nunez to score the tying run. Scott Sizemore, in the same at-bat, followed with a two-run single to score Kelly Johnson and Cervelli.
Zelous Wheeler capped the inning one out later by drilling an RBI double that scored Sizemore.
The Yankees added what was an insurance run in the seventh off reliever Anthony Swarzak. But it ended up being the game-deciding run.
Zoilo Almonte led off the frame with a double and Wheeler followed with a single. One batter later, Raybell Herrera, a catcher who was added to the traveling squad and was making his first plate appearance of the spring, slapped an RBI single that scored Almonte.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-9-2. The Twins are 7-12.
- Though Tanaka was far from dominant, he did show that he could pitch his way out of trouble and limit the damage. He held the Twins to just the one run in the first after the leadoff double. With the bases loaded and two out in the third inning, he retired Willingham on a fly ball to left. There were stretches in his outing where he retired six and seven batters in a row, respectively. The bottom line is held the lead when he got it and he got credit for the victory.
- Sizemore, 29, is trying to make the Yankees’ roster after suffering two straight seasons in which he had to undergo surgery to repair ligament tears in the same right knee. He also is not likely to make the roster as a backup infielder because he needs to more reps in the minors. But he did come through a clutch two-run single in the fourth. Sizemore is 4-for-5 (.267) on the spring.
- Wheeler, 27, is also trying to make the team as a backup infielder and he also can play the corner outfield spots. He was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI. Wheeler is now 11-for-32 (.344) with seven doubles and six RBIs in 20 games. But Wheeler also is not likely to make the team because Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte are playing well and are ahead of him.
Considering the Yankees brought only two starters (Brett Gardner and Johnson), the fact that Tanaka was not at his best and the Twins were a determined bunch, the Yankees found a way to win. Every team has days like this and the Yankees proved they could adapt. There is nothing wrong with that.
Cervelli took an absolute beating in the game. The 28-year-old backup took two foul tips to the groin and was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Correia in the fourth inning. Cervelli, however, remained in the game until he was replaced by Jose Gil in the seventh inning. . . . The Yankees won a crucial replay challenge in the third inning that ended up helping them win the game. With Aaron Hicks on first after a leadoff single, Pedro Florimon at the plate and no outs, Hicks attempted to steal second. As Florimon swung at strike three, Cervelli threw a perfect strike to Sizemore at second. Hicks, however, stopped his right foot in the baseline and swung his left foot onto the base as Sizemore swept his right leg with the tag. Umpire Marvin Hudson ruled Hicks was safe. Manager Joe Girardi got word that Hicks was tagged on the right shin by Sizemore and he challenged the call. Within two minutes the call was reversed. Had the call stood the play would have changed the outcome because the Twins ended up loading the bases.
The Yankees will come back to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who has a chance to nail down the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. Pineda (2-0) has not allowed a run in nine innings in three starts, giving up just eight hits and walk while striking out 14.
The Blue Jays will counter with veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle (0-1, 3.60 ERA), who will be celebrating his 35th birthday.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.