Yankees 5, Red Sox 4
“It’s not a big deal…it’s an exhibition game,” Damon said.
This was Round 1 in a 20+ round heavyweight bout. Both fighters came out sparring, feeling out their opponent, doing some light jabbing. By the middle rounds in June and the end game as October draws near, this will be a bloodbath. Already, there were 3 hit batters and warnings were issued to both teams. Play ball!
So, the Yankees do indeed take the first battle, but they also got a glimpse of the future. Papelbon pitched 5 OK innings, struggling a bit with his control. Wily Mo Pena went deep, and Adam Stern (hitting a lofty .429 in the spring) was 3-for-5 with a homerun and a stolen base. Craig Hansen pitched a strong inning, giving up just a single. Alejandro Machado went hitless but turned a nice double-play in the field. Some of these relatively-new faces, Wily Mo in particular, will become very familiar as the season progresses.
For New York, Chacon was also “OK” giving up 3 runs over 5 innings, but fanning 6. Rivera and Myers each pitched 1-2-3 innings. Jeter, Cano and Bernie continue to play well but the Giambino looks like he might need another cycle. He’s batting .227 in the spring and last night had a glaring 3 LOB.
Looking at the big picture, both teams are deep in pitching but have some question marks. Jaret Wright is one step away from the DL and Pavano is throwing practice sessions. Both were non-factors last season. And big-money set-up man Kyle Farnsworth (3 years, $17 million) has not looked impressive. But there’s always Mr. Sandman. For the Sox, Schilling and Foulke will be under scrutiny. Schilling will likely be closer to his 2004 presence than he was last season but Foulke could very well struggle, putting the Sox in the same undesirable position they were in last year: Who pitches the 9th? A set-up-guy-made-closer, or young Mr. Hansen?
In the outfield, both teams are stacked;
RF: Sheff/Trot (or Wily Mo?)
The Yankees get the slight edge on the infield;
1B: Giambi/Snow (Youk?)
Rounding out the order, The Sox get the edge;
C: Posada (oh, my nose!)/Tek
DH: Bernie/Big Papi
Nineteen more times in the regular season these teams will face each other. Each game will play a role in the difference between winning the AL East and possibly not making the post-season. In ten days, the games count. Ten short days.