Well, there was no way the Yankees were going to go undefeated this Spring. Or ever. Even the 1998 Yankees (one of the best team records ever) still lost 46 games. Of course, they also won 114 of them too, which is why they dominated the postseason and swept the Padres for the Series. Actually, after that messy game win yesterday the Yankees eked out, my first thought was that at some point, some team is going to be the team to break their win streak. And apparently, that would be today.
The Yankees hosted the Tigers this afternoon under mostly sunny, rather warm, vividly blue skies. Luis Cessa got the start in today’s game, dominating in his first 2 innings, but when he came back in the 3rd, he just couldn’t seem to get an out. Cessa gave up 2 singles before what should’ve been a routine double play turned into a messy throwing error, scoring the Tigers’ first run with 2 runners safely at 1st and 2nd. Which then came into play as the next batter hit a solid 3-run home run to put the Tigers into the lead.
That was it for Cessa’s afternoon, turning the game over to Adam Warren. Warren’s solid scoreless 9 outs put a lid on the advancing Tigers. Dellin Betances got his Spring debut today, coming out for the 6th inning. But he did not seem to be able to get a handle on the inning, giving up a lead-off walk that stole 2nd and a 2-out single scored one more run for the Tigers.
It wasn’t going to happen today, especially in the heat of the afternoon, so the Yankees went to Brady Lail for a strikeout to get out of the inning. Lail continued for a strong, scoreless 7th inning. Minor league reliever Will Carter got his shot in the 8th but got into his own set of trouble. With 1 out, he quickly loaded up the bases with a single and 2 walks. A dribbling ground out at 1st moved all the runners up, scoring yet another run for the Tigers.
Before I go on, I know it seems like the Tigers just beat up on the Yankees, and they kind of did at times. But the Yankees weren’t exactly just sitting on their laurels either. They actually kicked off the game with a pretty good 1st inning. With 2 outs, Stanton hit a single into shallow right field and would end up scoring as part of Gary Sanchez’s bit 2-run home run over the left field fence, clearing even the big scoreboard out there. (It was so powerful that the left fielder just kind of stood there and watched it sail far over his head and the wall.)
But once the Tigers got and increased their lead, the Yankees kept looking for their opportunity to catch up. And like most games, it wasn’t until later in the game, with all the replacement guys in play that they found their chance. In the bottom of the 8th, with 2 outs, Kratz was hit by a pitch and McBroom and Wade worked walks to load up the bases. After a much-needed pitching change, prospect Estevan Florial hit a solid single to scored Kratz and McBroom and put runners in the corners. Distracted by Florial stealing 2nd, the pitcher threw a messy wild pitch that scored Wade as Florial ended up all the way at 3rd, beating out the tag. Danny Espinosa then technically struck out, but due to another wild pitch, he made it safely to 1st as Florial came in to score the tying run for the Yankees. After Espinosa beat more than a few pick-off attempts, he stole 2nd where he was eventually picked off there for the final out of the very long inning.
Okay, so the game was tied going into the 9th inning, and the Yankees called on minor league reliever Michael King, who followed a few of his predecessors and had a really messy 9th inning. He gave up a lead-off walk and 2 singles to load up the bases. A big double broke the tie, scored 2 runners and left 2 in scoring position. With no outs, the Yankees went to their bullpen to call on Andrew Schwabb, who had a bit of a better outing. A sacrifice fly added one more run for the Tigers before Schwabb pitched himself out of the inning.
The Yankees made a last-minute rally attempt in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases with 3 walks (and 1 out). But an infield fly rule became out #2 and a strikeout on a checked swing (though it clearly wasn’t) out #3 to end the rally, the inning, and the game. It’s worth noting the Tigers’ pitchers gave up only 5 hits, while the Yankees’ pitchers gave up 11 hits. And that’s a clear reflection of how they lost the game — too many allowed hits.
Final score: 9-6 Tigers
Next up: the Yankees start the month of March back in Clearwater against the Phillies tomorrow afternoon.
One to Watch: as if you couldn’t figure it out, today’s noteworthy player was Estevan Florial. An outfielder, Florial was the #3 prospect in the Yankees’ system in 2017, #44 overall in the MLB. Despite being just 20 and spending last year mostly with the Advanced-A Tampa Yankees, Florial is shaping into a very good player. Many of the long fly outs in the latter part of today’s game were fielded by him. So big hitter, excellent baserunner, great defender. What’s not to like? The biggest issue with the Yankees is that they have SO MANY really good outfielders. Florial won’t be ready for the big leagues this year, and that’s good news for him and everyone in front of him. It means he’ll be really fine-tuning those skills in the farm system once again to pounce whenever he will get the chance. My guess this far out? 2020-2021. That gives him 2-3 more solid seasons in Trenton and Scranton, making a huge splash and honing his potential into something up to the standard of what could be his fellow outfielder — Aaron Judge.