Yankees win, A-Rod disappoints in home debut

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Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 in his season debut at Yankee Stadium and closer Mariano Rivera blew his second save in a row, but the Yankees won anyway thanks to a Brett Gardner walk-off single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th.

In the bottom of the first, Rodriguez strode to the plate for his first at-bat of the season at Yankee Stadium. The crowd of more than 46,000 greeted him with a mixture of cheers and boos. Rodriguez quickly struck out swinging against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, which resulted in a cascade of boos.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova was solid over seven frames, allowing one run on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven. David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth for the hold. Rivera could not work around a one-out Austin Jackson double, surrending a game-tying two-run, two-strike, two-out home run to defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, knotting the game at three apiece.

The Yankees went down quietly in the bottom of the ninth. The combination of Boone Logan and Shawn Kelley danced out of trouble in the top of the tenth, giving the offense another opportunity to set things right. Against Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque, the Yankees quickly put two runners on thanks to a Jayson Nix walk and Curtis Granderson single. They would advance to second and third on a wild pitch. With one out, Eduardo Nunez drew an intentional walk, setting up a plethora of RBI opportunities for Chris Stewart. Stewart struck out swinging, a gut-wrenching way to go down in that spot. Brett Gardner picked his teammate up, though, singling up the middle on the second pitch he saw from Alburquerque to help the Yankees walk off winners.

A lot of notable things both did and didn’t happen tonight. The Tigers had their 12-game winning streak snapped, and the Yankees broke their four-game losing streak. Rodriguez missed out on his 1,951st career RBI, which would have tied him with Stan Musial for sixth all-time. Alfonso Soriano entered the night with 1,999 career hits, but went 0-for-5. Rivera failed to convert save #644 of his career, and blew his second consecutive save for the first time since April 5-6, 2005 against the Red Sox (via ESPN Stats & Info).

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.