Romine flashes familiar familial versatility

September 27th, 2020

The last time a Romine had to change defensive positions in a Tigers uniform, Andrew Romine played all nine positions on the next-to-last game of the 2017 season. didn't mention that as he shared a laugh with after a fifth-inning groundout.

Boyd and Romine have had plenty of pitcher-catcher conversations this season, usually at the mound. This was a pitcher-first baseman conversation after they both went to the bag.

“He told me, ‘Don’t need to get over there, big fella. I got it,’” Boyd said after the Tigers’ 4-3 win over the Royals Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.

Three years after All-Nine Romine, at the same point on the Tigers’ schedule, Andrew’s younger brother Austin had a two-run double, caught three innings from Boyd then played six innings of solid first base in a pinch.

The Tigers had lost their previous four games by one run apiece, the first time they’d done that since 1996. A bigger concern than close losses Saturday, however, was lost players. Shortstop and infielder left in the second and fourth innings with right shoulder soreness and low back tightness, respectively, leaving the Tigers short on infielders.

“I told everybody, ‘Nobody else get hurt,’” interim manager Lloyd McClendon said, ‘because I was going to activate [bench coach] Josh Paul.”

Austin Romine doesn’t have the positional versatility of his older brother, but he was an occasional first baseman for the Yankees in his younger years. However, he hadn’t played there since Aug. 27, 2017, a month before Andrew Romine played all nine for the Tigers. Once Harold Castro left and moved from first to second base, off went Romine to first.

“That was pretty fun,” Boyd said. “I don’t think I’d seen Dixon at second base since he was at [the University of] Arizona.”

Romine didn’t show any rust, fielding a grounder and outrunning Nicky Lopez to the bag in the fifth inning before handling a tricky chopper from Alex Gordon in the sixth.

“He told me he had tremendous range at first,” McClendon said. “I said, ‘By the way, you know the second baseman was right behind you.’”

Said Boyd: “Guys are going next-man-up. That’s the type of attribute that winning teams have. You’ve got to get the job done.”

Before Romine played at first base, he played a run production role; his two-run double off the center-field wall was part of a three-run opening inning that gave Detroit its first lead since Tuesday’s 10th inning in Minnesota at the start of the trip. Willi Castro added an RBI single before he left for what wound up being the deciding run. All the damage came off Royals rookie spot starter Carlos Hernández (0-1) before four Royals relievers held Detroit scoreless over the final 7 1/3 innings.

Boyd (3-7), staked to a 4-1 lead, held off rallies for six quality innings to beat the Royals for the second time in 12 days and end his difficult 2020 season on a high note. He allowed an Adalberto Mondesi homer in the first inning and Mondesi's third-inning RBI double to continue Mondesi’s torrid series, but stranded the tying run in scoring position in the fifth and sixth innings. Whit Merrifield’s seventh-inning double put the tying run on again, but struck out Mondesi -- Mondesi's first out of the series -- and Salvador Perez.

Closer walked leadoff man Alex Gordon in the ninth, but backup catcher -- who entered the game when Romine moved to first -- threw out speedy Nick Heath at second base on a bouncing throw thanks to a deft tag from shortstop en route to Garcia’s fourth save.

After four one-run losses, it was a close win, and a pragmatic one.

“We were in a playoff chase 'til the last week of the season,” Boyd said. “These are the kind of games you need to win if you want to be in that position next year -- to be in that position next year, if you want to be in the playoffs.”