Closer overcomes call on potential strike three that leads to Yost's ejection
KANSAS CITY -- The distractions were there for Royals closer Greg Holland in the ninth inning of Saturday night's 1-0 win over the Orioles.
First, there was Kansas City holding a tenuous lead and Baltimore threatening with the heart of its lineup due up. Then, there was the Kauffman Stadium faithful incensed at home-plate umpire Chris Segal both for a perceived missed strike call, and for Segal tossing Royals manager Ned Yost, who argued that Adam Jones swung and missed the ball.
But despite those distractions, Holland thought of one thing: Don't ruin a great start from Danny Duffy.
Duffy, who was perfect for 6 2/3 innings, had completed seven-plus innings of two-hit ball before handing it over to Kansas City's bullpen. But before the unit could secure a victory, controversy struck in the ninth inning with one out and Nick Markakis at first (walk), Manny Machado at third (single), and Jones at the plate.
Holland got ahead in the count -- 1-2 on Jones -- and tried to put away the Orioles outfielder with a low slider. Jones flailed at it, and the crowd erupted, assuming a strikeout and the second out of the inning. But Segal kept Jones at the plate, declaring the pitch a foul ball.
"I couldn't really tell what happened, I just knew that when they don't call them out, if I get mad and don't execute a bad pitch, then I've ruined a great start for Duffy," Holland said. "The whole time that situation's going on, I just told myself to regroup, stay composed and try to get Adam Jones out. I didn't care if it took 10 pitches or three."
The foul call forced Yost out of the dugout to protest. A heated discussion ensued and Segal ejected the skipper.
After the game, Yost said he "absolutely" could see that there was no contact.
"But [Segal] was convinced that he heard it, but what he heard is the ball hit the plate, I think," Yost said.
Royals catcher Brett Hayes had a better view.
"I thought he didn't hit it," Hayes said. "I didn't hear, so whatever [Segal] can hear that's fine, we just had to worry about the next pitch."
And two pitches later, Holland went back to the slider in the dirt. Jones again flailed at it. This time, Segal confirmed strike three.
But with only two outs, Chris Davis due up, and Nelson Cruz on deck, Holland wasn't out of the water. The closer quickly fell behind on Davis, and ended up walking him on four pitches.
"I had a plan, I didn't execute it, and once I fell behind, I wasn't going to make a mistake over the plate, because even 3-0, I didn't just want to float one over there to steal a strike, because he's a guy that [has] the green light at all times because he's a great hitter," Holland said.
The walk loaded the bases for Cruz, who is second in MLB in home runs and had mashed a two-run homer in the second game of the series.
Holland started Cruz with a pair of fastballs: the first clipped the outside corner, the second sailed outside. Then, Holland went to his slider, which Cruz waved at and missed. Ahead 1-2, Holland went back to his 96-mph fastball -- blowing the offering by Cruz for strike three to end the game.
Holland talked about the difficulty of controlling his emotions in such a tense situation.
"It's something I'm getting better at doing," Holland said. "It's kind of a process, you're amped up, you're trying to control your emotions. You think you get a guy and you're like, 'Oh wait, I didn't,' and at that point you kind of got to take your time and take a deep breath, and say, 'Hey I can't let that affect the outcome.'"
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com.