Sunday in New York: A disappointing split
The first Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in 17 years brought back some nostalgic thoughts, among them that this was awful lot of baseball in one day. For the diehard fans, that was fine. Consider me among those who do not mind two games back-to-back on the same day, provided as it used to be and was again this time that the next day is an open date.
That was the case years ago when clubs had 16 to 18 doubleheaders on their schedule. The economics of the game changed all that. There is no way in this day and age that clubs would concede that many dates. Truth be told, a separate-admission doubleheader may have been scheduled to make up for Friday night’s rainout but conflicts with national television networks FoxSports Saturday and ESPN Sunday forced the Yankees and the Pirates to play a single-admission twin bill Sunday.
Another issue with any doubleheader is fatigue. The Pirates on the last leg of a six-game trip through Milwaukee and New York looked like a tired team. They made two errors that resulted in two runs for the Yanks in the second inning and ran themselves out of two rallies with a couple of blunders on the bases. The Pirates were able to overcome those early lapses to salvage a split of the doubleheader with a 5-3 victory after the Yankees had won the first game, 4-3.
The Yankees did not play all that soundly in the second game, either. They, too, had a pair of errors in the top of the second that gave the Pirates a freebie run. In the first inning, Brett Gardner, who led off with a triple, got picked off third base by a former teammate, catcher Chris Stewart, who hurt the Yankees again the next inning with an RBI single. Stew got a second RBI in the ninth with a sacrifice fly for an insurance run.
“There were a lot of weird things that happened in the first two innings,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Then it became a baseball game.”
Vidal Nuno was following in the string of solid starts this turn in the rotation with no earned runs over the first five innings. The lefthander was stung by a two-run home run by Starling Marte in the sixth that put the Bucs ahead, 3-2, but the Yankees quickly tied it on a homer by Yangervis Solarte in the bottom of that inning.
Josh Harrison’s solo home run off Alfredo Aceves (0-2) with two out in the seventh regained the lead for Pittsburgh. Harrison also made the defensive play of the game one inning later. After Derek Jeter singled as a pinch hitter leading off the eighth, Harrison, who had moved to left field from third base the previous inning when Marte came out of the game with a hamstring injury, made a diving catch on the warning track to rob Solarte of a potential extra-base hit that likely would have scored Jeter with the tying run.
Jeter stayed in the game at shortstop the next inning, which led to an unusual alignment as Ryan moved over to first base. Kelly Johnson started there but was lifted for Jeter. It was the first time in his major-league career that Ryan played the position. He handled one chance without incident.
Mark Teixeira was already in the game as the designated hitter, so moving him would have put the pitcher in the batting order. Ryan had to stay in the game because there were no other infielders available if God forbid one of them got hurt.
The second game was definitely a downer against a team that seemed to be handing them the game at the beginning. Nevertheless, the Yankees ended the day in first place in the American League East and a pitching staff that is making do despite losing three-fifths of its Opening Day rotation to injury. The starters were 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 30 2/3 innings over this turn in the rotation. It starts all over again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound.
One other piece of nostalgia: This was the Pirates’ first victory at the Stadium since Game 5 of the 1960 World Series and in nine regular-season games during inter-league play.