The Yankees make a Grand escape

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See what I did there with that headline? Clever, eh? You know, because Curtis GRANDerson hit the game-winning homer? Anyone?  OK, maybe not. But when 5,000 blog posts you have written, occasionally hacky too you will become.  Anyway:

The Yankees came close to blowing a great opportunity just like the Red Sox did, except rather than squandering a great outing against a great pitcher, the Yankees almost squandered a poor-even-for-Dontrelle-Willis performance.

Willis walked seven guys in his two and a third innings. It was a performance that will probably get him designated for assignment within the next 24 hours, but somehow the Yankees only scored two runs off him, thanks in part to some poor fundamental baseball: Nick Swisher was caught stealing and then a botched hit and run by Cano got Teixeira nailed in the first. Why Girardi decided to start playing small ball against a human pinball machine like Willis is beyond me, but the Yankees could have scored a gajillion runs against the guy if they just played some take and rake ball.

Because of that, the game remained close. Curtis Granderson’s 10th inning homer proved to be the game-winner, but unlike most situations in which Mariano Rivera is called on to lock it down he didn’t exactly lock it down. Rather, he got himself into a bases loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the tenth. While I would say most pitchers who escape such a situation without any runs scoring got lucky, Rivera has more than earned the benefit of the doubt, so I’m gonna say he bore down or something: two pop-ups and a strikeout, game over.

A high wire act for the Yankees to be sure, but a win all the same. And with the Rays and Sox both losing, they picked up another game in the AL East.

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.