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Yankees fall to Braves, 2-0, in first spring night game

03/05/2013 10:12 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

David Phelps allowed one run over four innings on Tuesday night.(AP)
Tuesday night marked the Yankees’ first Grapefruit League game under the lights this spring, but they could not light up the scoreboard in a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

David Phelps made his third start of the spring for the Yankees and had another strong outing, allowing one run on two hits over four innings, but the Braves got all the offense they would need before the Bombers even came to bat.

Jordan Schafer, who is vying for a reserve outfield job with the Braves this spring, led off the game with a ground rule double to right-center field, advanced to third on Jason Heyward’s flyout to left, and scored on Justin Upton groundout to short to put the Braves ahead 1-0.

The Yankees would then have several chances, loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the first and putting at least two runners on in four of the first five innings, but Atlanta pitchers Paul Maholm and Cristhian Martinez were able to escape their jams every time and the Yankees went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position overall while leaving nine men on base on the night.

The Braves looked to add to their lead in the sixth when righty Branden Pinder loaded the bases after getting the first two outs, but Pinder got Chris Johnson to fly out to right field to end the threat; Atlanta would, however, tack on their insurance run in the seventh off Mark Montgomery, as Tyler Pastornicky singled, stole second, advanced to third when catcher J.R. Murphy’s throw sailed into the outfield, and scored on a balk.

Montgomery followed that balk by walking Matt Pagnozzi and Schafer and hitting Evan Gattis with a pitch, but lefty Francisco Rondon came on to get the final two outs of the inning and keep the deficit at two.

The Yankees went quietly after that, with Ronnier Mustelier’s eighth-inning infield single accounting for the Bombers’ only baserunner in the final four frames.

Brett Gardner was again the offensive star for the Yankees, going 2-for-3 to extend his spring hitting streak to seven games and upping his Grapefruit League average to .579. Ichiro Suzuki, Corban Joseph, and Mustelier all had one hit apiece, and Travis Hafner walked twice in three plate appearances.

On the mound, Joba Chamberlain pitched a perfect fifth inning in relief of Phelps, and following Pinder and Montgomery, Rondon allowed just two baserunners in his 1 2/3 innings before Shawn Kelley pitched a perfect ninth.

With the loss, the Yankees drop to 3-8 on the spring, but they’ll only have about 16 hours to ponder this loss; Robinson Cano and the Dominican Republic national team will continue their prep for the World Baseball Classic by visiting Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday afternoon, with coverage beginning at 1 p.m. on YES.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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