Lakeland, Fla., March 1, 2020; Detroit 10, Yankees 4 — The fatigue anticipated coming into the Yanks’ 10th game in nine days appeared on the field Sunday, as the home-standing Tigers beat the visiting Yankees 10-4 on the strength of an ugly six-run bottom of the seventh inning. The end-of-game box score listed two errors for Detroit and none for New York, a scoring Yankee fans in the stands would rush to dispute.
Not that the Tigers played a perfect game. Riding a 2-0 lead they had posted against David Hale in the second, the home team was keeping the Yankees off the board by rarely allowing baserunners on one hand (a single and two walks through four), but then by promptly inducing double play grounders when someone reached. The visitors bounced into twin killings in both the third and fourth frames. And they tried their darnedest to repeat the trick in the fifth. Following a one-out walk, Thairo Estrada grounded sharply to short but Jonathan Schoop dropped Willi Castro’s throw at second base. With both runners safe, Detroit certainly made at least one error.
One of the unsung heroes of this camp (though I did call him out the other day) is nonroster invitee and 10-year minor league free agent Rosell Herrera, a switch hitter who in a week has played third base, second base, and right field. He had a game-deciding two-run triple in the first Yankee win on Tuesday, and later in the week twice crossed the plate after two singles. Rosell followed Schoop’s misplay in this game by doubling into the left field corner for two more runs. By the time the smoke cleared, New York led 4-2 on a following double and single by Brett Gardner and Luke Voit, respectively.
Even though the rally was tainted by Schoop’s error, it displayed the kind of attack the Bombers have been mounting over the last week, taking advantage anytime they get their foot in the door, so to speak. But it turned out that the failure to add on once placing leadoff batters on base the next two innings figured in the loss. Detroit’s second error, a seeing-eye grounder splitting the third baseman and shortstop by DH Gary Sanchez opening the sixth, could easily have been ruled a hit, as was the case with the slow roller Herrera hit toward third for a single to start the seventh, Rosell’s third safety of the game. Three fly ball outs closed the sixth, and even though Gardner walked with one down in the seventh, that frame, too, would net no Yankee runs.
On the pitching side, righthanders Brooks Kriske and Miguel Yajure retired six of seven through the home fifth and sixth, and Yajure was dominant, striking out the side. Whether Aaron Boone’s decision to extend Yajure into a second inning was due to an overextended squad, or that the team wants to build his innings, it did not work out. He would post a fourth strike out, but not before two singles around a four-pitch walk plated a run, and moved the tying run to third with one down. Recovering a bit with a strike out, Yajure was then replaced by righthander Kaleb Ort, who promptly issued a four-pitch walk, loading the bases. He started backup center fielder Derek Hill with another ball, but finally poured in a strike. The game turned on the next pitch.
Hill lofted a ball to short right, and outfielder Isaiah Gilliam appeared to break in slowly. Still, it appeared he could reach the ball, getting a second out and potentially holding the tying run at third. Truth be told, a friend felt he had no chance and was just trying to deke the runner at third. The ball, of course, dunked in, and we had a tie game. But it gets worse. Shortstop Ryan Kreidler popped an 0-2 pitch up, foul, a little beyond first. Although forced to awkwardly track a ball drifting over his shoulder and head, first sacker Dermis Garcia settled under the ball. But at the last minute, second baseman Hoy Yun Park called him off, then missed the ball. Kreidler hit a grand slam home run to left field on the next pitch. An inning that could have ended at 4-3 Yanks now stood at 8-4 Tigers. The Yanks had posted no errors, but their defense had been atrocious.
The Tigers added two runs in the eighth for the final, but this one was over when Kreidler’s ball cleared the fence. On the good side, the Yankees took advantage of a mistake, and took what could have been a safe lead, given their day-to-day bullpen. And they took that lead because a player who was a complete unknown in Yankee world 26 days ago continued to light up the spring. As shared the other day, the switch-hitting Rosell Herrera has played both outfield and infield over the last 10 years, with the Colorado, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Miami organizations. He has spent time with the Casper Ghosts, the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Asheville Tourists, the Modesto Nuts, the Hartford Yard Goats, the Gigantes del Cibao, the Louisville Bats, and the Omaha Storm Chasers, to name a few. On the other hand, the Yankees chose to start him in right field for their Spring opener, placed the number 12 on his back, and have benefited from his play in the infield and outfield.
So now, the team has an off day, or at least has no games scheduled for Monday. They pick up play on Tuesday hosting the Red Sox with a 6-3-1 record. They’re missing key players in the outfield, and in the starting rotation, so guys who didn’t figure to be in the position may be battling for a trip North three and a half weeks from now, or even later in the season. On this day in 1944, vocalist Roger Daltrey of the monster rock group The Who was born. The question I and the rest of Yankee world has for Rosell Herrera is,
Who Are You?