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Yankees 8, Royals 6: I hated it but they won

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A laborious victory in Missouri, as the Yankees blew four saves but still somehow won the game.

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I know that when I’m sitting around on a Monday, I want the Yankees to play a five-hour game against a team in the middle of a rebuild. The Yankee bullpen was literally, historically inept, blowing four saves in a single game, but somehow still managed to win this one in 11 innings, beating the Royals, 8-6.

Now I know you’re not going to believe this, but the Yankees had trouble hitting early. DJ LeMahieu had a stand-up triple for himself with one out in the second inning ... and got stranded. Giancarlo Stanton cracked a 122.2-mph ball, the hardest ever recorded ... right into a double play. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Yankees even put two men on base at the same time!

In that long-awaited frame, Aaron Judge doubled, before Joey Gallo — he of two bad-luck, hard-hit outs — bounced a grounder off of second base to set up men at the corners with one out. Cue LeMahieu, who tapped a weak comebacker to pitcher Carlos Hernández, who flipped the ball home.

It was a photo finish at the plate:

There was a review — initially, Judge was called out — and the call was upheld. I tend to think Judge was safe, but the call is the call. Luke Voit drove Gallo home in the very next at-bat with a single, snapping the Yankees’ 17-inning scoreless run, but boy, did that seventh inning feel all too familiar for fans of the 2021 Yankees.

You really have to feel for Jameson Taillon, and really, almost all the Yankee pitchers lately. We’ve talked a lot about how good Taillon has been in recent months, and that kept up tonight, throwing six-plus innings before getting pulled allowing a leadoff single in the seventh. Aaron Boone turned to Jonathan Loaisiga, who missed a pickoff attempt and balked in quick succession to put Jarrod Dyson at third with nobody out. A sac fly later, it was 1-1. It counted as a blown save for Loaisiga, though at the time, no one thought much of that stat.

The run was charged to Taillon, but he really was terrific yet again tonight, his ninth such start in his last ten. Once again, his curveball was his primary offering after the four-seam fastball, 16 of his 74 total pitches. He didn’t manage quite as many swings and misses tonight — just a 21-percent whiff rate — but the Royals are a really tough team to strike out, coming into the season whiffing on just 13.1 percent of pitches.

To counter that contact-oriented approach, Taillon was able to leverage more than a few called strikes, including locating the curve in the zone for punchouts:

The game came down to a battle of the bullpens, with the Yankees getting back out in front in the top of the eighth. Tyler Wade channeled his inner Jacoby Ellsbury to reach on catcher’s interference.

Then, a stolen base and Brett Gardner’s walk set up Aaron Judge for a key two-out hit:

Yes, Gardy was thrown out at third to end the inning, but we’re trying to find the positives here. Judge had a clutch hit! 2-1! Great stuff with just six outs to go.

But, then, well, Loaisiga’s issues continued, as he allowed the first two Royals to reach base in the eighth. On came Chad Green, who recorded a fly out before Andrew Benintendi re-tied the game with an RBI single. We headed to the ninth staring down Manfredball, and Green was charged with the Yankees’ second blown save.

You might remember how Luke Voit very publicly talked about letting the team down after yesterday’s loss to the Mariners. You know how he had a solid single to drive in the Yankees’ first run of the game? He wasn’t done making up for Sunday just yet:

The single best problem that the Yankees could face would be to have Luke Voit hit the way he has in his Yankee career down the stretch. Adding his bat to the lineup, and forcing the club to make real decisions about his playing time in parallel with Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo — because they’re all too good to sit — is the kind of trouble you want your teams to have. Hopefully tonight is a sign of that “problem” arising.

But, of course, nobody in the bullpen could do their job, and Zack Britton, with two outs, and two strikes, pitching to Nicky Lopez, gave up the lead and we had extra innings anyway! Chalk that up as blown save number three.

On to Manfredball we went, with the only solace and humor to be found in my colleague Matt Ferenchick’s political commentary...

Newcomer Andrew Velazquez was the ghost runner on second, and Wade recovered from a failed bunt to produce a good, solid single to push Velazquez to third. A sac fly from Kyle Higashioka and single off the bat of Brett Gardner made it a 5-3 game, and I have to say that after the last couple of games, a crooked number feels really good to see in the box score.

Now, if you notice, I’m about to start another paragraph with “but”...

BUT, Clay Holmes couldn’t do his job tonight either. He walked his first batter, which in and of itself wouldn’t be the worst thing. He had a walk problem with Pittsburgh; he has really pounded the zone with New York. Fine, one walk, it happens.

It’s the two runs, on a sac fly and single, that really stick. Now hey! If you’re thinking, “Hey, that’s kind of historically remarkable that the Yankees blew four saves in four consecutive innings,” well, you’d be right:

The Yankees scored three runs in the top of the 11th, continually daring the Fates to find some way to doom this game. LeMahieu doubled in the ghost runner Gallo, and then Gardner singled off the face of the shortstop Lopez to bring in two more runs. Now, at the time of writing we’re unsure of the status of Lopez, who looked really shaken up by taking a baseball off the face, so we hope there’s no serious issue.

Finally — I am not starting this paragraph with a “but”! — Wandy Peralta didn’t exactly do his job, but he did a good enough job in his half of the inning that the Yankees walked out of this nonsense with an 8-6 win (saving David Cone from having to punch himself in the face). Even the last out caused a brief scare, but Rougned Odor snared it and threw to first to mercifully finish it off:

Congratulations to Wandy on his first save in pinstripes (just the third of his six-year career), but what a truly bizarre path it took for that to happen.

I have no idea what this team’s gameplan is for tomorrow. Nestor Cortes Jr. gets the ball against Daniel Lynch, but Cortes is not known for going deep into games, and the bullpen’s performance tonight was certainly not inspiring. The Yankees will try to figure it all out, and go for the series win, with an 8:05pm Eastern start time.

Box Score