In a St. Patrick's Day MLB Spring Training interleague matchup, the visiting Baltimore Orioles defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-6 in Bradenton, Florida.
Both teams wore green caps in this afternoon's professional baseball game in recognition of the St. Patrick's Day celebration. Many fans in attendance were also decked out in green.
The Pirates are now 13-7 overall, and 8-2 at their LECOM Park (formerly known as McKechnie Field) home field just north of Sarasota. Following today's action, the Orioles are 11-8-2, with a 5-6 mark as the away team. Note: Ties are permitted in Spring Training, with a deadlocked game going no more than 10 innings.
Opening in 1923, LECOM Park as it is now known is the oldest Spring Training stadium still in operation, as many MLB teams have poured millions into upgraded facilities.
For example, the Atlanta Braves are winding down their final Grapefruit League season at Champion Stadium, located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, near Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World in Orlando. The team is moving to Sarasota County in 2018.
LECOM Park is also the third oldest stadium currently used by an MLB team after Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Once the Pirates go north, it becomes the home of the Bradenton Marauders, Pittsburgh's Florida State League entrant.
Orioles first base/outfield prospect Trey Mancini continued his hot hitting (.351) with a home run today off of Pirates starter Drew Hutchinson in the second inning. Vying for a spot in the regular season rotation, Hutchinson did not particularly impress, giving up seven hits and six runs in 3-1/3 innings of work.Pitching only 2-2/3 innings, Orioles starter Gabriel Ynoa, who is also trying to work his way into his team's five-man rotation, got the win, while reliever Scott McGough got the save. Ynoa allowed two runs on five hits.
"Orioles Minor League right-hander Michael Zouzalik followed Ynoa in the third and balked in a run, which was charged to Ynoa, before he threw a pitch," the MLB website noted.
While it looked like the Pirates might be mounting a comeback, the Orioles scored twice in the eighth, putting the game out of reach, one of which was a bunt single by left fielder Joey Rickard that scored Alex Castellanos from third.While Spring Training baseball is a lot of fun, it is very much a caveat emptor situation for the fans. For example, in today's game, both teams rested many of their frontline players, and as typical for the Grapefruit League, established stars often don't make road trips.
Pirates star Andrew McCutchen, who is moving from center field to right field this season and was the subject of trade rumors during the "host stove" period, also was one of the notables who got the day off. Back from the World Baseball Classic where he played for Team Italy, catcher Francisco Cervelli was behind the plate for the Bucks, however.
Two days earlier, the Pirates defeated the Orioles 6-5 at LECOM Park, thanks to utility player Phil Gosselin's grand slam.
Pirates second baseman Alan Hanson (.379), who played the entire game which is unusual in Spring Training when the manager will insert bench players and minor leaguers into the lineup after about the fifth inning, went 3 for 5, and scored two runs. Although the Pirates play in the National League with no designated hitter once the games count for real (other than interleague away games), manager Clint Hurdle started Erich Weiss as the DH. Weiss homered in the eighth inning, but was optioned to the minor league camp after the game.
In the 2016 campaign, the Orioles finished in second place in the American League East behind the Boston Red Sox, with a record of 89-73. The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Orioles 5-2 in the AL Wild Card one-and-done game in 11 innings, in a game where manager Buck Showalter controversially declined to use lights-out closer Zach Britton.
In his second appearance of the spring, Britton pitched a scoreless fifth inning, with one walk (closers normally enter practice games in the fifth before the manager makes wholesale lineup changes as alluded to above). The Birds are expected to challenge the Red Sox and Jays for AL East domination in the upcoming 2017 season, which will commence in a matter of weeks.
The Pittsburgh Pirates finished third in the National League Central at 78-83 (with one tie because of a game against the Cubs suspended at 1-1 in the sixth winning for bad weather that was never resumed), out of playoff contention.
[Featured Image by Robert Jonathan]