The clouds hung low over Tampa this morning, dark and threatening. About 2 hours before the game, the skies opened up and flooded the field. The rain blew through the area quickly, but left the grounds crew with quite a messy field to clean up and push the game back about 25 minutes.
After the rain delay, Hiroki Kuroda took the mound, and I’m guessing he wishes he could erase that first inning against the Tigers. A lead-off single scores on the next batter’s single because of a catching error on 3rd baseman Johnson, and that batter ended up on 3rd. A sacrifice fly scored another run. Two more singles and a fly out put runners in scoring position when a Tigers’ batter doubles deep into center field. That batter almost scored on another single, save for the quick reflexes of a long throw home to Francisco Cervelli to get the out at home. 6 hits and 4 runs is probably the worst way to spend a half inning, especially for a usually great pitcher like Kuroda. By the 2nd inning, Kuroda was back to being Kuroda.
His 3rd inning suffered some as well, allowing a lead-off single and 2 back-to-back doubles to score 2 more runs. Cervelli popped up again to catch a runner stealing 3rd base that inning. And then Cervelli came in the bottom of that inning and sent his 2nd home run this Spring over the wall to put the Yankees on the board, still trailing the Tigers 6-1.
Kuroda’s 4th inning struggled a bit, allowing a single, a fielding error, and a couple of ground outs. Whitley came in to get that last out, saving Kuroda from an outing I’m guessing he’d like to forget (overall allowing 10 total hits and 6 runs, with just a single strikeout).
The rest of the bullpen kept the Tigers pretty hitless and scoreless — Kelley, Campos, Lewis, and Burawa through the 8th inning. Cervelli came back to the plate in the 5th and promptly hit yet another home run. So it was 6-2 and sat there until the bottom of the 8th inning. That’s when the Yankee batters came alive again.
With 1 out, 3 back-to-back singles loaded the bases and gave all Yankees fans hope, at least those still there on a slightly overcast, often sunny and almost too warm day. Murphy grounds out but scores Zoilo Almonte. A walk then loads the bases again, and the entire crowd held their collective breaths. So Zelous Wheeler walks up and smacks a long hit that ended up being a ground-rule double, scoring Solarte and Garcia. And suddenly, the score was 6-5 Tigers.
So they went to the 9th, with high hopes. Coello walked the first batter, who stole 2nd on a passed ball and ended up at 3rd on a ground out. The next batter reached 1st on a fielder’s choice that had the Tigers’ runner score a run, though most people (especially where I was sitting with full view of the slide and tag) really thought it was supposed to be an out. Two outs later, the Yankees trailed 7-5 and crossed their fingers for the bottom of that inning.
Jose Gil hit a lead-off ground-rule double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. Then Almonte proceeded to smack a long ball right into the right field bleacher section. And suddenly, the Yankees were tied 7-7. And into the 10th, we went, hope alive and strong. And all I kept thinking about was all the fans who left early and thought the Yankees had lost the whole game. Even with a lead-off double, Tateyama kept the tie intact. But the Tigers returned the favor, and we end up with the second tie of the Spring.
Players to watch: (and I have to choose someone other than Cervelli because he’s technically part of the 25 regular roster) Almonte (40 man, but will probably spend most of the year in AAA), Zelous Wheeler, and Jose Gil. A trio of power hitters that saved the Yankees from a loss and delivered a tie instead. All three continue to amaze and surprise. I’m loving this year’s farm system.
Oh, and dare I forget: I was musing about the fact that they had nicely fixed the office window that had been hit and shattered last week. And just then, a Yankee batter smacked a foul ball right into the exact same window. Someone somewhere needs to put up a bulls-eye for Spring, because the Yankees are certainly using it for target practice. It was more than slightly amusing, and it certainly made me grateful for shatter-proof glass.
So a tied game, the same window broken, and Francisco Cervelli. It was a pretty good game, despite the rain.