Royal Crown, Yanks Let One Slip in the 9th

AP Photo/Noah K. Murray

It just wasn’t meant to be.

Salvador Perez hit a three run homer in the top of the ninth off of Yankee closer Clay Holmes to lead the Kansas City Royals to an 8-6 win. The Yankees usually reliable bullpen did not have a good day, capped off by the Royals’ veteran catcher’s clutch hit that sealed the deal.

The Yankees were going for their 70th win and a four game sweep while the Royals win ended a six game losing streak, overall this season against the AL East leaders.

Holmes entered the game with a 6-5 lead but you could see from the start that it wasn’t going to be his day.

With one out, Holmes walked Whit Merrifield and then hit Bobby Witt Jr. with a 95 MPH fastball, bringing up Perez. “Trying to get a ground ball there. He’s a pretty good fastball hitter, probably got too much of the plate,” Holmes said.

On a 1-2 count, Perez was able to take Holmes’ 97 MPH sinker and drive it over the center field wall for a demoralizing blow.

Has two strikes there with Perez, even when he’s searching for it a little bit there, you’re always one pitch away,” Yankee Manager Aaron Boone said after an exasperating loss. “Perez was able to elevate a sinker, you don’t see many righties do that against him, if ever. Probably didn’t quite have that bite on the sinker that he normally does, you know, a really good power hitter caught him.”

Holmes was lifted with two outs to save him for Monday’s game. Lucas Luetge walked Vinnie Pasquantino and then got Michael A. Taylor to fly out on a 3-0 pitch.

The Yankees took their shot in the ninth against Royals’ pitcher Taylor Clarke, who pitched a scoreless eighth and was in his second inning of relief.

After Aaron Hicks flied out, the red hot D.J. LeMahieu, who hit .341 in July, singled to right field to set up a dramatic confrontation. Aaron Judge, the leading candidate for AL MVP, came to the plate as the tying run to face the hard throwing Kansas City right hander.

It wasn’t exactly Bob Welch against Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series, but on this day, that’s what the 45,341 at Yankee Stadium came to see. Judge had been quiet in this one but he had a chance to add to his already impressive resume this season.

On the first pitch, Judge swung and missed Clarke’s slider but the Royals right hander threw two straight balls to make it a 2-1 count. Judge fouled off a slider and a four seam fastball and then took ball three on a close pitch.

Judge swung at a 3-2 slider and just got under it as he drove it deep to right field, but not deep enough, even with the short right field porch at the Stadium. “Clarke made some pitches against him. Made some good pitches down with that slider, where that kinda borderline strike gets you to chase.,” said Boone.

Anthony Rizzo walked but Gleyber Torres lined out to centerfield on a 2-1 pitch as the Yankees came up short.

Yankee starter Jordan Montgomery and Royals starter Zack Greinke dueled each other for four scoreless innings. Montgomery retired 11 batters in a row with six strikeouts heading into the fifth, but things unraveled quickly.

First, the lefthander issued back to back walks to left hand hitting Pasquantino and Taylor to start the inning. “I walked two guys, I never walk lefties, especially. Just can’t walk two guys in a row, comes to get ‘ya,” said Montgomery, who held himself accountable.

Montgomery has had problems putting hitters away when he’s ahead in the count and that was the case with the next hitter, M.J. Melendez. Montgomery had an 0-2 count on the Royals right fielder, but Melendez worked the count to 2-2 and then singled on the seventh pitch of the at bat to load the bases with nobody out.

Nick Pratto then lifted a bloop towards the left field line. Andrew Benintendi made a valiant dive to try and catch the ball but it hit off of his glove for a two run single. Maikel Garcia doubled down the right field line to make it 3-0 and Montgormery’s day was over. “He [Montgomery] didn’t get hit hard, the two walks and then got to be kind of a long inning on him too. It just kinda got away there a little bit,” Boone said.

Albert Abreu relieved the lefty and got Whit Merrifield on a ground out that scored the fourth run. Abreu got the next two outs to keep the score close.

Greinke also stumbled in the fifth as the Yankees answered with three runs to make it a one run game.

Matt Carpenter, who hit Greinke well in the past, led off with his second double of the game. After Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded to first, Carpenter took third and scored on a bloop single to right by Kyle Higashioka. LeMahieu followed with a two run homer off of Greinke to make it a 4-3 game.

In the sixth, the Royals left the bases loaded giving the Yankees an opportunity in the seventh.

Aaron Hicks pinch-hit for Higashioka and walked on a 3-2 pitch. After LeMahieu struck out, Judge walked and Rizzo hit a three run homer off Royals pitcher Dylan Coleman, deep into the right field stands to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead.

In the eighth, Hunter Dozier, who had been quiet all series, homered into the lower left field seats off of Ron Marinaccio to cut the Yankee lead to 6-5.

After Pasquantino struck out, Taylor singled. Melendez walked but Marinacco induced a double play ball from Nick Pratto to snuff out the rally.

We’re less than 48 hours away from the trade deadline and Boone was asked about what the Yankees may be looking to do. “I’m sure it’s gonna be a crazy 48 hours in the baseball world,” he said.

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