It was yet another tough, grueling match-up between the Yankees and Red Sox, that is until top prospect Austin Jackson stepped in. With two runs already in, Jackson came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out against ex-lobsterfisherman Devern Hansack in the eighth inning. He took the first two pitches for balls, then swung through two low-90’s fastballs to bring the count back to 2-2. He took another pitch for a ball and fouled the sixth pitch of the at-bat off. The seventh pitch was a meatball – belt high fastball – and Jackson crushed it, sending it literally over the left field foul pole for a good ol’ four run homer. Jackson’s reward for the granny? An assignment to minor league camp immediately after the game (along with Juan Miranda and Eduardo Nunez). Regardless, it was one of the more exciting moments of the spring, and hopefully a glimpse into the future.
The rest of the offense was highlighted by Brett Gardner, who came around to score after tripling in the 6th. He went 1-for-2 on the night. Melky Cabrera, Gardner’s competition for the center field job, scored a run after drawing a walk in his lone plate appearance. Ramiro Pena attempted to sacrifice Melk to second, but Manny Delcarmen and Chris Carter ran into each other on the infield grass, allowing Pena to reach safely and Melky to advance to third. Derek Jeter went 1-for-2 in his return to the team, while Johnny Damon and Robbie Cano both went 1-for-3. Angel Berroa ripped an RBI single, continuing his hot spring.
AJ Burnett made his fourth start of the spring, and this one was much more like the first two than the last one. He threw five and two-third innings, allowing one run on three hits and a pair of walks. He struck out four and went beyond his scheduled pitch limit of 75, throwing 49 of 81 pitches for strikes. He definitely tired as he reached his pitch limit and his control struggled, but the velocity was still there – his last fastball was clocked at 93, right where it was all game. Jon Albaladejo came in and retired the only batter he faced to get out of the bases loaded jam left by Burnett.
Mariano Rivera graced everyone with his presence tonight, throwing his third perfect inning in four one-inning outings. He struck out two and induced a ground ball from the other batter. Praise be to Mo. Damaso Marte struggled in the eighth, allowing a hit and walk before being removed because he reached his pitch limit after retiring just two batters. Edwar Ramirez relieved him, and struck out two while allowing one hit to close out the 7-1 win.
One of the biggest bright spots tonight was seeing Jorge Posada throw out Jacoby Ellsbury when he tried to steal second. Jeter got away with a phantom tag, but the throw was right there against an elite base stealer. After throwing out three of four attempted basestealers on Sunday, it’s great to see there were no lingering affects.
The Yankees will enjoy their second and final off-day of Spring Training tomorrow, although Andy Pettitte will throw in a minor league game. The rest of the team returns to action Thursday afternoon, when Joba Chamberlain takes on the World Champion Phillies in a game available on YES.