Yankees Thoughts: Clay Holmes Can’t Complete Sweep

The Yankees were one out away from a four-game sweep of the Royals in Kansas City, but bad defense and bad pitching led to a 4-3 loss.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. There wasn’t a Yankees fan who had confidence in Clay Homes closing out Thursday’s ninth inning. I don’t know many Yankees fans who have confidence in Holmes normally, so when you add in him having not pitched since Sunday, having only pitched once in six days and entering a one-run game, well, you have a recipe for disaster. And disaster it was as Holmes blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth and the Yankees lost 4-3 to the Royals.

2. Ever since Holmes’ mirage ERA of 0.00 vanished with his four-earned-run performance against the Mariners on May 20, he has been incapable of pitching clean innings. In his last 10 innings, he has put 20 runners on base with just six strikeouts. In eight of his last 14 appearances, he has no strikeouts. As I have written in these Thoughts many times, when you allow the ball to be put into play bad things can happen. And because Holmes relies on balls in play to get outs, bad things happen.

3. The bad thing on Thursday was a ground ball hit between Holmes and Anthony Rizzo that neither wanted to claim. Eventually Rizzo fielded it and shoveled it to Holmes, but not before the runner slid headfirst safely into first. Rizzo’s indecisiveness to take balls to the bag himself has been a constant this season and negated his first home run since May 10 in the loss.

“We’re down, not much going, and scored three runs there to give ourselves a chance to win,” Rizzo said. “Just didn’t work out today.”

Well, yeah, it didn’t work out because you didn’t pick up the ball and make a play.

4. “Stuff is going to happen here and there,” Nestor Cortes said. “[We hope he] keeps on pitching the way he’s been pitching.”

That makes one of us, Nestor (who finally had a good road start). If Holmes keeps pitching the way he has been pitching, the Yankees are going to blow a lot of close games in the ninth inning.

On Thursday, he struggled against the bottom of the Royals order (with two outs, he couldn’t retire hitters with OPS of .632 or .675). On Sunday, with two outs, he let Gavin Lux and Enrique Hernandez bring Mookie Betts to the plate as the go-ahead run in the ninth. He struggled against the Angels and got knocked around for four runs recording just two outs against the anemic Mariners. He had trouble with the Rays and Diamondbacks, and if not for defensive heroics in the season-opening series in Houston, his ERA would have been destroyed for the year before the Yankees played their first home game.

5. It’s always an adventure with Holmes and rarely a pleasant one. Easy 1-2-3 innings are infrequent as are innings in which he throws fewer than 20 pitches. There’s always traffic on the bases because he relies on contact on the ground to get his outs. The Yankees need a closer who can strike out hitters to get outs, not one who needs ground balls hit right at fielders to get them.

6. The loss was the first since Juan Soto returned to the lineup. In the series, he went 4-for-11 with five walks and ended the no-hitter on Thursday and also drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth in that game as well. He did what he could to keep the winning streak going and sweep the Royals on a day Anthony Volpe, Aaron Judge and Alex Verdugo went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts.

7. The 5 through 9 hitters was a who’s who of miserable seasons with Torres (.654 OPS) batting fifth, Rizzo (.626) sixth, DJ LeMahieu (.497) seventh, Austin Wells (.615) eighth and Trent Grisham (.520) ninth. The Yankees really need Stanton to be better than a .288 on-base guy who only hits the ball out of the park when the score is lopsided because it doesn’t seem like any of the other options are going to hit. Stanton had a pair of lopsided-score home runs on Wednesday with the Yankees up six runs and on Thursday with the Yankees up nine runs. No one hits the ball farther when the game is out of hand than Stanton. (Torres also added a stat-padding home run on Wednesday with the Yankees up six runs.)

8. As for Rizzo, it’s nice to think that his second hit of June on Wednesday and his first home run in over a month on Thursday could be what he needed to get going, but let’s be honest, Rizzo isn’t going to go anywhere, other than hopefully the bench with diminished playing time. All his home run on Thursday did was buy him more time (think Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson) and add more fuel to his manager’s fire of telling everyone his first baseman is going to get it going soon.

9. I look forward to the day Jasson Dominguez is back in the majors where he belongs. Dominguez has hit .358/.402/.630 with six home runs in 87 plate appearances in the minors. He’s the bat they need protecting Judge and extending the depth of the lineup. Not Verudgo (who’s hitting .259/.314/.418 and only bats fourth because he’s left-handed), not Stanton and certainly not Rizzo.

10. This weekend is the first Yankees-Red Sox series of the season despite the season being nearly halfway complete. The Red Sox are mediocre at 35-34, and have surrounded Rafael Devers with close to nothing. The Yankees have been letting Devers beat them since he entered the league seven years ago, so it won’t surprise me if they let him do the same this weekend, but there’s no reason to. He is the offense, the way Judge was the offense before Soto arrived. Put him on and make others beat you and have an enjoyable weekend before the Orioles come to the Bronx next week.