Watching the Yankees stomp Virginia Tech 11-0, allowing just two hits to the Hokies along the way, my wife asked me how exactly it was supposed to lift the spirits of the students to have their asses handed to them by the Yankees. I explained that, for most of those on campus, it was in part the gesture and in part getting to see a major league team on their own turf and performing on their intimate ball field. For the players, just getting to meet and compete against major leaguers as equals was a tremendous thrill, as few if any of the Virginia Tech players are likely to make it to the major leagues themselves. Indeed, the Yankees did their best to make themselves available to the students and players and put their starting lineup on the field, with only Hideki Matsui staying behind from the expected Opening Day starting nine.
Beyond all that, there were small victories enjoyed by the Hokies throughout the game. In the first inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs, bringing Alex Rodriguez up in a situation that had me wondering if maybe my wife had the right reaction to the game in the first place. Rodriguez swung at the first pitch and hit a sac fly to right field and Jason Giambi followed by grounding into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play that was started beautifully by VT second baseman Matt Hacker, surely a great moment in the life of Hokies' starter Andrew Wells.
In the second inning, the Yankees again loaded the bases and this time pushed across three runs, one on a boot by Hokies' shortstop Ty Hohman that was ruled a hit and two more on walks to Bobby Abreu and Rodriguez. Jason Giambi then lifted a ball to deep right, but it fell short of the wall for the final out. Despite having given up three runs, Hokies' pitcher Dave Zappacosta had stranded three Yankees on the bases and was received enthusiastically by his teammates out in front of their dugout.
These small victories repeated themselves throughout the game as Rob Waskiewicz retired Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Shelley Duncan in order in the third and, in the fourth, redshirt freshman Brandon Fisher struck out Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg to wrap up his own scoreless inning of work. Rob Whitley then retired the Yankees in order in the fifth, setting down Greg Porter, Chad Moeller and Cano.
The Yankees scored seven runs in the final two frames of the seven-inning contest, but I don't think the Virginia Tech players or their classmates, teachers, or families much minded. Obviously having a major league baseball team come to the campus and romp to a mismatched victory in no way compensates for the thirty-two lives lost last April, but though they may seem painfully insufficient and even disturbingly illogical, random acts of kindness can go along way toward restoring the spirit. Sometimes it helps just to know that someone cares enough to do something. Exactly what that something is doesn't matter nearly as much as the gesture. The Yankees done good.
Back in Tampa, Mike Mussina pitched six efficient innings in a triple-A game, turning in a quality start by allowing three runs on seven hits, but walking none and throwing 74 percent of a mere 72 pitches for strikes. Jose Molina and Hideki matsui both went 1 for 4 in that game. Mariano Rivera pitched the first two innings of a double-A game and was perfect while striking out four and using up 24 pitches. Both games were against the Blue Jays' affiliates.
More: Chad Jennings updates us on Kevin Reese (he retired and has become a Yankee scout) and J.B. Cox, who is throwing again and is expected to get back on track in triple-A later this year.