The Phillies (1-0-1) picked up their first victory of the Grapefruit League season today, downing the host New York Yankees by a 3-1 score at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida in what was the 2nd straight day of spring training competition between the two squads.
Unlike yesterday’s game at Bright House Field, the Yanks populated today’s lineup with a handful of their anticipated regulars for their “home” fans. Easily the most anticipated appearance was the first of the spring by Alex Rodriguez, who was returning after serving a suspension for the entire 2014 season due to his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
ARod was greeted with a mixture of cheers and applause, along with boos and catcalls. Despite slicing a clean base hit to left field in his first at-bat, the boos seemed to increase a bit as the game wore on. He went 1-2 with a walk on the day, serving as the Designated Hitter for the Yankees.
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The Phils got on the board early against Yanks’ fireballing starter Nathan Eovaldi, with Darin Ruf doubling and then coming around to score on a base hit by 2nd baseman Cord Phelps for a 1-0 lead in the top of the 1st. In the 5th, Maikel Franco singled to score Odubel Herrera. Domonic Brown was thrown out at the plate on the hit, but the Phils had stretched their lead to 2-0.
Meanwhile, the Phillies pitchers were breezing through the Yanks lineup. Starter Kevin Slowey went the first two innings, striking out 2 and allowing just 1 hit. Paul Clemens was up next, and yielded just a walk in his two innings. Ethan Martin then came on and set New York down in order in the 5th inning.
Mar 4, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA;
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Ethan Martin (49) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the New York Yankees at a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In the 6th, in his 2nd inning of work, Martin got into trouble, loading the bases with nobody out. A sacrifice fly from catcher Gary Sanchez pulled the Yanks to within 2-1, but Martin got out of the big jam by rolling a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play ball to end the inning with the Phils still on top.
In the 7th, Herrera scored his 2nd run of the game on a base hit off the bat of Aaron Altherr. Batting out of the leadoff position and playing centerfield, the speedy Rule 5 draftee Herrera was the story on this day. He was 3-4 with the 2 runs scored and also had 3 stolen bases.
Hector Nerris came on for two perfect innings in which he struck out a pair of batters, and then we finally saw the first appearance of the year by one of the anticipated regular back-end Phillies relievers as Justin De Fratus came on for the 9th. He allowed two hits, but struck out a batter, and earned a Save as he kept the Yanks scoreless in closing out the 3-1 win.
The outing was a big one for Slowey to get off on the right foot. While he is likely ticketed for the AAA-Lehigh Valley rotation, he could beat out David Buchanan and others in the competition for the 5th spot in the Phils starting rotation. And with trade rumors continuing to swirl around the Lee-Hamels combo, there could be multiple rotation openings at some point.
Tomorrow the Phillies will travel to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida to take on the host Houston Astros. The Phils will send Cliff Lee to the mound, beginning a key spring in the career of the veteran lefty. He will be opposed by righty Collin McHugh, who had a strong 2014 campaign with Houston.