Yankees blow one, but don't blame this one on Rivera

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Marcus Thames drops one.jpgYes, Mariano Rivera allowed two runs on a pair of hits in the ninth inning of
a tie game
, but no, this one wasn’t his fault. I mean, sure, on some level he has some blame because if bats don’t hit balls none of this happens, but you can’t strike everyone out — that’s fascist, you know — and you gotta have a little help out there. Rivera didn’t get any.

Rivera entered a 5-5 contest — a score largely attributable to Joba Chamberlain’s ineffectiveness in the eighth — and got Mike Lowell to ground out. Darnell McDonald then hit a single, bringing Marco Scutaro
to the plate. He popped it up to shallow right, where Marcus Thames muffed it, first taking his eye off the ball and then trying to make a basket catch with his eyes closed. Yeah, good luck with that, Marcus. Rivera
then got Dustin Pedroia to ground out, putting McDonald on third and Scutaro on second.

At that point the Yankees brought their
outfielders in to play extremely shallow. I’m not sure I get this. Yes, I understand that you want to set things up for a play at the plate, but isn’t a ball going over your head the last thing you want? The Yankees are the home team here, so it’s not like a single run scoring on a sacrifice meant the end of the ballgame. As it turned out, the ball hit by Jeremy Hermida went over Randy Winn’s head, allowing both McDonald and Scutaro to score.  The Yankees scored one in the ninth which would have sent the game to extra innings had Winn caught Hermida’s ball — which he would have if he was playing straight up — Scutaro would not have scored.

But that’s Monday morning quarterbacking, I suppose. More critical in this game was Joba Chamberlain’s ineffectiveness. Chamberlain has now allowed six earned runs in his last two appearances, and last night’s effort wasted what I’m contractually-obligated to call a “gutsy” performance by CC Sabathia. The bullpen is basically in shambles lately, Chamberlain has a lot to do with it and the Yankees need to do something about it.

So put this one on Chamberlain. Put it on Thames. Put it on Girardi. But don’t put it on Mariano Rivera.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.