Lately, the pressure has been on outfielder Mike Tauchman to save his job. With Jay Bruce and others breathing down his neck, Tauchman’s been forced to justify why the Yankees shouldn’t give up on him just yet. There’s one week of spring left to go, and with more days like Tuesday against the Tigers, he might just keep his spot after all.
The Yankees were quick to jump on top Tigers prospect Tarik Skubal in the first. Tauchman immediately bolstered his cause by launching a leadoff homer to deep right, putting the Yankees in front, 1-0:
It was the start of an afternoon that saw Tauchman go 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and two runs scored. That will play.
The team ran into a couple outs on the basepaths, as after Luke Voit walked, he was retired at second when a Clint Frazier popup was lost in the sun behind first base. Unsure if it would fall, Voit was caught in between and thrown out at second. Frazier was then picked off when he took off on Skubal’s first move and was caught in a rundown. Whoops.
The Tigers countered with a quiet rally off Kluber. Robbie Grossman worked a leadoff walk and moved to second when Kyle Higashioka allowed a sinker to tick off his glove and through his legs for a passed ball. Nomar Mazara struck out, but Willi Castro followed with a base hit to right-center, plating Grossman. The inning continued with some shaky command from Kluber:
Corey Kluber doesn’t look that good. Never really had a great fastball and now he’s sitting 90, muscled up for 92. Vaunted command doesn’t seem all the way back either. Love his breaking ball and he’s had a great career, of course, but this isn’t anything close to vintage.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) March 23, 2021
Detroit ended up forcing Kluber to throw 30 pitches and put runners on second and third, but the veteran escaped the first-inning jam unscathed by fanning Harold Castro. For his part, Kluber said that he wasn’t concerned about spring velocity reports. As ESPN’s Marly Rivera noted, it might not be the biggest deal with Kluber anyway:
At his peak in 2014-2015, Kluber's fastball averaged 93-94mph -- Has been at 90-92mph this spring. Don't understand the velocity argument for a crafty pitcher, whose fastball velocity has always been towards average, and coming off pitching 1 inning in a year... but OK!— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) March 23, 2021
The Yankees punched right back off Skubal, as Tyler Wade beat out a bunt single, advanced to third on a single by Ryan LaMarre, and scored on a Greg Allen sacrifice fly. Tauchman did a nice job beating out an infield single to continue the effort, but the inning ended on some more odd baserunning when LaMarre was thrown out at third in a delayed steal of home attempt after Tauchman darted for second.
The next few innings were smoother sailing for Kluber. The Tigers’ only baserunners came on an infield hit, a walk, and a single to left. He departed after inducing a double play grounder from Wilson Ramos in the fourth. Kluber threw 71 pitches across 3.2 innings of work, allowing one unearned run on three hits and three walks, notching four K’s along the way. Although it wasn’t the breeziest outing for Kluber, credit to him for limiting the damage.
Nick Nelson entered in relief of Kluber, and looked filthy for his first four batters. He caught Greg Garcia looking to end the fourth, then threw a perfect fifth with two more strikeouts, this time of Grossman and Derek Hill. When he returned for the sixth though, it got a little dicey, as Castro led off with a triple down the line and into the right-field corner. Nelson then walked Miguel Cabrera, though he got Jonathan Schoop to bounce into a double play. Castro scored on the grounder to knot the game up — Nelson’s first run allowed this spring. His ERA is now a horrid 1.04. (The nerve of him.)
Meanwhile, the Yankees had their chances to break the game open against Skubal and the Tigers’ bullpen. They had runners on first and second to lead off the fourth and got nothing out of it, as the dregs of the lineup were retired and third-base umpire Jerry Layne blew a call by punching Wade out on a stolen base attempt where his leg slid in before the tag. The Yankees also loaded the bases on walks with two outs in the fifth, but Wade flew out to end the threat.
It took an even sloppier Tigers relief effort to break the tie. After a perfect sixth, Gregory Soto walked Tauchman and plunked Voit to begin the seventh. Bryan Garcia entered from the bullpen and coaxed a fly ball from Frazier, moving Tauchman to third. The outfielder then scored on a wild pitch to give the Yankees the lead. Derek Dietrich walked, runners moved up on a Ramos passed ball, and Wade was issued a free pass as well. Unfortunately, the next batter was LaMarre, and he struck out to leave ‘em loaded.
The Yankees’ B-squad atoned for their struggles with runners in scoring position in the eighth when Tyler Alexander threw a couple fat pitches. Greg Allen smashed a homer down the left-field line and Chris Gittens followed with an even longer blast to left-center field:
The back-to-back dingers put the Yankees up, 5-2.
The Tigers’ offense hadn’t quite packed it in for the day, though. Facing reliever Nick Goody in the eighth, they put the first two men on via singles from Victor Reyes and Daz Cameron. One out later, Eric Haase unloaded on a three-run shot to tie the game once again:
The takeaway from that pitch? It’s a good thing that so much would have to go wrong for Goody to make the Opening Day roster.
Neither the Yankees or Tigers would score again, so after Brooks Kriske blanked the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth with a pair of strikeouts, the game ended in a 5-5 tie. I’m just disappointed that it didn’t go to a home run derby shootout afterward because I think Gittens could’ve won it for B-squad Bombers. Alas.
Deivi García will get the ball tomorrow afternoon against the Blue Jays. The game will be on YES Network at 1:05pm EST.