Days pass, spring turns to summer, and the season flies by, and still, the story stays the same. In a game that quite literally begged to be a blowout win, it looked like the Yankees were going to squander a small army of baserunners and waste a solid start by Michael King, as they trailed 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. A stunning two-run home run by Rougned Odor appeared to change the entire story, though ... until a meltdown by Aroldis Chapman flipped the script again. However, a big ninth-inning rally flipped the script one final time, as the Yankees somehow won an ugly game by a score of 6-5.
Chapman simply wasn’t sharp tonight. After sandwiching a weak single off the bat of Michael A. Taylor between strikeouts of Hunter Dozier and Hanser Alberto, the closer allowed a double to Whit Merrifield to put the tying run on third with two outs. The Yankees then proceeded to intentionally walk Carlos Santana to load the bases. Chapman then proceeded to absolutely lose the strike zone, walking Sebastian Rivero — a rookie in his third career game who has yet to record a hit — on four pitches to bring home the tying run. A check-swing infield single to third by Ryan O’Hearn gave the Royals the 5-4 lead that they would take into the bottom of the ninth.
Aaron Judge led off the ninth with his fourth strikeout of the night, and it looked like the Yankees offense was going to meekly limp to the showers. Gary Sánchez, coming into his final plate appearance hitless, immediately picked up his closer with his 12th home run of the season, a 379-foot shot with an exit velocity of 110 mph, tying the game at 5.
Giancarlo Stanton was up next and was 0-for-1 with three walks to that point. He also picked a good time for his first hit of the ballgame by drilling a single to right field. Tyler Wade then came in to pinch-run, then reached second on a ball in the dirt.
That would prove to be the decisive moment of the game, as Wade went on to score on a 104.7-mph Luke Voit single off the left field wall.
Amidst all this excitement, however, lies the fact that the game never should have been this close to begin with. In a normal game, forcing a team to go to their bullpen to start the third inning, generating 11 walks, and loading the bases in two separate innings is a recipe for an easy victory. Scoring those baserunners becomes much more difficult, however, when the top five batters in the order combine to go 1-for-16 and the entire team records only 4 hits through eight innings.
Fortunately for the Yankees, two of those four hits came at the perfect opportunities. With two on, two out, and down by two in the bottom of the fourth, Clint Frazier ripped a double off the base of the right field wall to drive in Stanton and Miguel Andújar, both of whom had reached base via walks.
The second big hit came four innings later, with two out in the bottom of the eighth. After Andújar grounded into a 4-4-3 to erase a Gleyber Torres walk, Frazier worked his second walk of the night to bring Odor up to the plate as the go-ahead run.
The struggling infielder then deposited a 1-1 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right field, where Chapman was warming just in case.
This comeback, however, would not have been possible without a strong performance from the Yankees pitching staff. As a starter, King is very much a work in progress, and that fact was on display tonight. In typical fashion, he struggled in the first inning, allowing a double to Salvador Perez and a two-run shot off the bat of Ryan O’Hearn to give the Royals an early 2-0 lead.
To King’s credit, he settled down after that, allowing only two baserunners over the next three innings, via a single by Santana and a walk to Kelvin Gutierrez. Everything began to unravel with two outs in the fifth, though. Nicky Lopez reached on a one-out walk, and then moved to second on a wild pitch, The Yankees intentionally walked Santana and plunked Rivero to load the bases. With the game on the line, manager Aaron Boone brought in Chad Green, who got O’Hearn to fly out to left field to end the inning.
Overall, King ended the night having given up two runs on three hits in 4.2 innings, striking out five and walking three. He allowed only five hard-hit balls and limited opposing hitters to only a .201 xBA. While the Yankees would definitely prefer to see him complete five innings, this is his best start of the season, and a good sign for anyone hoping that King establishes himself as a long-term member of the rotation going forward.
Green certainly wasn’t part of the problem on Wednesday night. He followed up King’s outing with a brilliant performance, retiring seven straight Royals batters and guiding the Yankees through the end of the seventh. Green kept the game tied, but in the eighth, Zack Britton surrendered a leadoff home run to Santana to give the Royals a 3-2 lead. At the very least, he finished the rest of the inning mostly unscathed, fanning a pair of batters and stranding a runner at second after a two-out double by Jorge Soler.
Despite blowing the save, Chapman records the vulture win, improving his record to 5-2, while Royals closer Greg Holland falls to 2-3. With that victory, the Yankees improve to 39-34, and are currently 4.5 games out of the AL East lead. Additionally, this was the Yankees’ sixth walk-off win of the season, second-most in baseball behind the Colorado Rockies — as well as their 20th come-from-behind win, trailing only the Red Sox.
The rubber matchup will come tomorrow afternoon, as Jameson Taillon takes on Brad Keller. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 pm ET.