The Yankees rode a strong offensive start, battering Jeremy Guthrie for three runs in the first on their way to a 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in a split-squad game. The top of the Yankees’ starting order was as hot as a pistol, with Brett Gardner, Nick Johnson, Jorge Posada, and Robinson Cano going a combined 8-12 with 5 runs and 4 RBI. After Gardner led off the bottom of the first with a walk, Johnson doubled him in, followed by three consecutive singles by Jorge, RC, and Curtis Granderson to make it 2-0. After Randy Winn popped out, Juan Miranda hit a long sac fly for the third run.
Johnson himself had a stolen base, apparently rediscovering his Spring legs. He also executed a picture-perfect hit-and-run with Brett the Jet, singling crisply through the hole on the right side with Gardner running, and The Jet was steaming into third by the time Johnson rounded first; brilliant. I have admittedly had my reservations about Johnson hitting second, primarily because his dearth of speed makes me wary that the Yanks might experience certain limitations in the strongest part of their order. I’ve feared that he might be a part of too many DPs as either a base runner or batter, that combined with a rather athletic but not exactly speedy Mark Teixeira, Johnson might drag down the top of the lineup a bit. However, today was an object lesson in the upside of Johnson, who by the way is batting .455 after his 2-3 day. His bat in this lineup can be very dangerous, especially hitting behind Derek Jeter. His power is good and, even if that doesn’t result in a year that JD had in ’09 (24 HR, 82 RBI), Johnson can approach those RBI totals while providing strong gap power. His patience is a tremendous asset and, given the potent 3-4 combo behind him in Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, Johnson will see pitches. Thus far, he has impressed me quite a bit.
Ramiro Pena made two slick plays at short, including one in the top of the eighth to start a DP. That’s a guy that, to me, must stay in the majors. His glove is first rate, he is versatile defensively, can bunt, run, and pinch-run offensively, and adds the kind of defensively depth the Yankees need for a run at repeating.
Javier Vazquez was overall good, fanning two but allowing a two-run homer to Ty Wiggington to cut the lead to 3-2. His off-speed pitchers were sharp, throwing a nasty change and curve. Alfredo Aceves was again terrific, allowing a solo homer on a clear mistake fastball (letter-high) to start the fourth. Otherwise, Ace was tremendous, allowing just two singles and no walks. I’d be shocked if Aceves threw more than 55 pitches in those 4 IP. I would still be surprised if Ace or another pitcher outside Joba and Hughes were the fifth starter; at the same time, Ace is making this a debate, for he has an ERA of 0.90 this ST in very efficient work, and will undoubtedly have a valuable spot on the team.
David Robertson worked around a pop-up that should have been caught in shallow center, striking out two to close out the top of the ninth. The Yanks and O’s agreed beforehand to play the bottom of the ninth regardless of the score, with the bottom of the ninth stats rendered meaningless. Nonetheless, Jesus Montero banged a single up the middle in the bottom of the ninth, and will be Butch Wynegar’s pet project in AAA SWB this season as he hones his catching skills. That kid can flat-out hit.
Good win in one of the two games the Yankees had today.