Somehow the Yankees and Tigers managed to forge on in the sub-arctic temperatures this afternoon, though clearly the Yankees were better equipped to win in those inhuman weather conditions. They jumped out to an early lead, built a big cushion on one key swing, and used that cushion to make it comfortably to the finish.
The early lead came off of Detroit starter Mike Pelfrey, who really didn't have much today. Alex Rodriguez drove a 3-2 sinker into deep left field for a solo home run, his first of the year, to get the scoring started in the top of the 1st. Didi Gregorius singled home Brian McCann with 2 outs in the 2nd to make it 2-0, and then that key swing came in the bottom of the 4th.
McCann got things started with a 1-out walk, back-to-back singles by Carlos Beltran and Starlin Castro loaded the bases, and a Didi sac fly plated McCann again to make it 3-0. Ronald Torreyes singled on the infield to reload the bases, and the lineup turned over for a third time. Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-2 on the day coming into his third at-bat, but he got a 1-0 sinker from Pelfrey that didn't sink and he laced it into the right-center field gap to clear the bases and double the lead to 6-0. It ended Pelfrey's day and gave the Yankee pitching staff all the breathing room it would need.
CC Sabathia was the anchor of the staff today, making his first start of 2016 and trying to build off his strong finish to last season. He sat down the Tigers in order over the first 3 innings and looked like the kind of lower-velocity pitcher we always hoped he'd become. He was mixing all his pitches well, he was getting ahead in the count locating down in the strike zone, and generating a lot of weak contact that his defense easily handled.
Sabathia did get into trouble in the 4th and 5th, however, and the Tigers got 2 runs back in the 4th on a trio of walks and a 2-run single by James McCann. CC wasn't as sharp out of the stretch as he was in the first 3 innings, but he did a good job of limiting the damage to 2 and became the first Yankee starter to successfully navigate the 6th when he went 1-2-3 on the middle of the Tiger order. Not a bad way for the old workhorse to get his year started.
The brief Tiger rally in the 4th was snuffed out by a monster Beltran home run in the top of the 5th and even a messy 7th inning wasn't enough to cause anybody to break a sweat. Joe went for the sure win by using Dellin Betances in the 8th and Andrew Miller in the 9th and they responded as they normally do. The Yankees evened the series and have their ace on the mound tomorrow night as they look to go 2-2 in series wins.
- Solid all-around start for CC. 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. He looked pretty good in the first 3 innings when he was keeping the ball down, less so in the 4th and 5th when he started missing spots and pitching carefully with runners on base. It seemed like he was trying to be too fine with his pitches out of the stretch because he knows he doesn't have much margin for error anymore, and I can live with that when he works out of those situations. At the end of the day, you'll always take 6 innings and 3 runs from your #5 starter.
- Both A-Rod and Beltran's home runs were absolutely murdered. Feel like that's been the case on almost all the early Bronx bombers. Not many, if any, cheapies.
- Gardner has been an OBP machine in his first 4 games. On base 10 times in 20 plate appearances (5 BB, 4 H, 1 HBP). That'll do.
- And how about the start for Big Mac?? 7-15, 3 BB, 3 RBI, 8 R scored. He's looked really good at the plate, as loose and comfortable as I can remember seeing him in a Yankee uniform. Doesn't even seem like he gives a crap about the shift.
- Betances struck out the side in the 8th but he needed 26 pitches to do it. That probably means he won't be available tomorrow, but Joe will still have Miller and Shreve after only using him for 1 batter in the 7th. He'll also have Barbato and Yates and maybe Cessa if he needs him. I know people are quick to complain when Betances and Miller are used in non-save situations, but I didn't have a problem with it today. Get the win and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.