The New York Yankees jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the Grapefruit League lid lifter against two pitchers the Pittsburgh Pirates are counting on in 2014. But it was snubbed Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez who gave the record setting crowd at McKechnie Field something to cheer about with a three-run bomb that tied the game in the bottom of the seventh.
The Yankees plated their early runs against Francisco Liriano and Edison Volquez.
The Bronx Bombers broke the ice in the first against Pirates number one starter Frank the Tank who gave up a lead off walk to Jacoby Ellsbury. A single to center by Yangervis Solarte and then an RBI single from Brian McCann plated Ellsbury. Ramon Flores followed with another single to score Solarte before Liriano settled down. The Pirates southpaw was touched up for two runs on three hits.
Edison Volquez quickly got two ground ball outs before issuing a walk. Solarte, who would be a thorn in the Pirates side all day, followed with a wind aided homer to set the lead at 4-0 Evil Empire.
The 5’11″ 195 pound, switch hitting Solarte is in Yankees camp on a minor league deal. The 26 year old has hit well with the Rangers minor league AAA team including 23 bombs in 1,145 plate appearances the past two seasons. Solarte has never played in the big leagues. Did you ever watch a player a few times and think….damn, he would look good on the hometown club? Solarte is that guy for me, you know, if the love affair with Josh Harrison ever ends.
The Pirates battled back with two runs in the second, but missed adding even more. Gaby Sanchez started the second inning off with a walk and Andrew Lambo followed with a single up the middle. After a Jose Tabata flyout moved Sanchez to third, Jordy Mercer hit an RBI single. Starling Marte followed with a grounder to short that was bobbled plating Lambo. After a Russell Martin infield flyout, Andrew McCutchen walked.
But with the bases juiced, Pedro Alvarez struck out looking setting the score at 4-2 after two innings.
Jeanmar Gomez struckout the Yankees big offseason pickup Brian McCann on three pitches to lead off the third. A bouncer to Sanchez was tossed to Gomez for the second out of the third. After what looked like a certain called strike three was called a ball, Gomez got another groundball out as Neil Walker tossed the ball to Sanchez to end the efficient inning for the Pirates Gomez.
Most are overlooking the work that Gomez has done since becoming a Pirates pitcher. With an easy inning in his opener, Gomez is doing his part to remain relevant in the fifth starter/long man competition.
Walker led off the bottom of the third with a groundout to short, the second time he grounded out to short in the game. On a 2-2 pitch, Gaby Sanchez showed he is going to get on base at every opportunity possible. Sanchez singled past the diving third baseman Zelous Wheeler of the Yankees. Lambo followed with a blistering shot to second that was turned into a double play to end the inning.
Vin Mazzaro was the fourth Pirates pitcher in the game for the Bucs. Dean Anna greeted him with a single. A bouncer off the bat of Corban Joseph to Walker was turned nicely into a double play. The Pittsburgh Kid raced to his left and fielded the ball, pivoted and fired to Mercer and the double play was turned. A flyout to Jose Tabata was the final out as the skies become very overcast, even in Florida Mother Nature is causing trouble.
Brooklyn’s biggest pitcher Dellin Betances took the mound for the Yankees. If you haven’t seen him. Wow.
Tabata flew out to the shortstop against the 6’8″ right hander. Mercer followed by striking out looking bringing up Starling Marte. The Pirates left fielder opened up by showing bunt, but took the first pitch for a ball. Marte then did get the bunt down, but failed to run and was thrown out easily to end the inning.
Bryan Morris was greeted by Jacoby Ellsbury ripping a shot off the glove of Pedro Alvarez for an infield single. But Walker again reached a groundball and flipped it to Mercer for another nice double play. Carlos Beltran hit a ball sharply toward short where Alvarez was positioned. El Toro gobbled it up and threw across the diamond for the final out of the fifth inning.
Shortstop Solarte threw out Russell Martin for the first out in the bottom of the fifth. Andrew McCutchen singled to center. Alvarez hit a bouncer to second which forced Cutch, but the relay wasn’t in time. With two outs, Michael Martinez got caught looking.
The wholesale changes happened in the sixth ining. Matt Hague took third, Chris McGuiness took first, Alen Hanson to short, Gregory Polanco to right, Chris Dickerson in center, Tony Sanchez behind the plate, Martinez took second and Jared Hughes headed to the mound.
The Pirates right hander recorded a quick strike out and then jumped on a bunt attempt to record the second out. Third baseman Matt Hague made a fine play for the final out of the sixth.
Chris McGuiness hit a liner off the glove of Yankees third baseman Garcia to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Lambo worked a full count before popping out to Garcia. Polanco came to the plate and fell behind 0-2 and then hit a roller to short which was turned into an inning ending double play.
Duke Welker, the long drive winner in the Pirates Charities Golf Classic, took the mound. Dickerson tracked down a deep drive for the first out. Polanco tracked down the second out in right field. But the Yankees plated a run on a bobble by Dickerson in center before Welker got Solarte swinging for the final out to send the fans at McKechnie Field into their stretch with the Bucs down 5-2.
Hanson singled sharply to lead off the bottom of the seventh against Yankees pitcher Chase Whitley. The last two seasons Whitley has spent at AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre. Hanson easily stole second with Jaff Decker in the box. Whitley then hit Decker and Tony Sanchez stepped to the plate in front of the record breaking Opening Day crowd of 6,870 fans.
Sanchez then gave all of them something to remember. Tony Two Bags turned on a Whitley pitch, got it up in the windstream and it landed just left of dead center field. Yankees 5, Pirates 5. [Sanchez was a guest on the RumBunter Podcast about his offseason listen here]
The Pirates might be set on sending Sanchez to AAA, but at least Sanchez is going to make them think about it before it happens. Sanchez worked his ass of this offseason and all of that work is showing up early this Spring.
Chris Dickerson walked and then Matt Hague delivered against Yankees Preston Claiborne with a perfect hit and run to move Dickerson to third base. Claiborne then struckout Martinez. McGuiness then put the Bucs ahead for the first time in the game with a single. Lambo struckout and then Polanco, the ninth Pirates hitter to step to the plate in the inning, flew out to end the threat.
34-year old Josh Kinney from Port Allegany High School in Coudersport came into pitch for the Pirates and got a quick one-pitch out to center fielder Dickerson. Flores also flew out to Dickerson for the second out. The final out was recorded by Decker in left field who made a knee high catch.
Tony Sanchez would get another knock in the eighth with a line single.
Adam Wilk got the final three outs to ensure the Bucs win.
Think BigPops knew that his son was ready for the season?