'That one's on me': Holmes' rough 9th ends Yanks' streak at 7

After entering with 0.00 ERA, closer yields 4 runs to spoil Stroman's masterful performance

May 21st, 2024

NEW YORK -- The lights went out as jogged through the bullpen gates late on Monday night, the blaring country strains of Chris Stapleton’s “White Horse” filling Yankee Stadium accompanied by trippy psychedelic graphics. At his teammates’ request, the Yankees have crafted a full theatrical entrance for the closer.

And why not? Until this latest trip to the mound, the sinkerballing Holmes had been nearly perfect, having not permitted an earned run across his first 20 outings. That came to an end as Holmes surrendered four runs in the ninth inning, with New York’s seven-game win streak snapped in a 5-4 loss to the Mariners.

“That one’s on me,” Holmes said. “I feel like I made some good pitches, and definitely some balls found some holes, but I was ahead on a couple of guys there 0-2, 1-2, and put them on base. They could have been big outs.”

With 13 saves already under Holmes’ belt this season, his assignment had been to protect a three-run lead following 7 1/3 dominant innings from starter Marcus Stroman, who had leaned upon Luke Weaver for the last two outs of the eighth.

Soft contact sunk Holmes. Julio Rodríguez singled on a one-out 67.8 mph tapper toward the mound, and after Holmes issued a walk, Luke Raley reached on a slow bouncer that Gleyber Torres tossed past first base for a run-scoring error.

Mitch Haniger dunked a run-scoring single in front of Aaron Judge in center field that snipped the lead to one, and as the crowd grew restless, pitching coach Matt Blake visited the mound. Dominic Canzone lifted a game-tying sacrifice fly before Ty France gave Seattle its first lead of the night with a run-scoring hit to right field.

“My stuff, I thought it was good enough tonight,” Holmes said. “I just didn’t make the pitch when I needed to. Some of the two-strike pitches were competitive, some weren’t. I think if a few more of those had been competitive, especially in the zone there, tonight could have looked different.”

Andrés Muñoz pitched around a Juan Soto single in the ninth to lock down a save. The Yankees had been 28-0 when leading after eight innings this season.

“A loss is a loss,” Judge said. “You’ve got one of the best closers in the game, and stuff like that is bound to happen at some point. It did, and you never like to see it and never want that outcome. But we lost, and we’ve got to come out tomorrow and right the ship.”

Watching the inning on television from the home clubhouse, Stroman obviously wasn’t thrilled to see the lead flushed, but the veteran said that he understood.

“To be honest, it’s baseball,” Stroman said. “Clay has been unbelievable; I think Clay is the best closer in baseball. It was very weak contact. Essentially, if they hit the ball harder on some of those plays, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation. Clay is going to continue to be incredible for us, there’s not even a slight worry there.”

In what manager Aaron Boone described as Stroman’s best start of the season thus far, the right-hander fired seven scoreless innings before being chased by a one-out Canzone homer in the eighth, exiting to a standing ovation from the crowd of 37,590.

Supported by a three-RBI performance by Alex Verdugo, who connected off Logan Gilbert for a two-run double in the first inning and an RBI single in the fifth, Stroman retired 15 consecutive batters from the end of the second inning into the seventh.

“I think I had some really good sequencing,” Stroman said, crediting catcher Jose Trevino’s game-calling. “I was just throwing whatever he called with conviction.”

Said Boone of Stroman: “He was dealing. He had it all going. He was working quick, and it felt like he had a little bit of everything that he could do to cut them up.”

Though he was visibly upset by the homer, Stroman walked off the field applauding into his glove while thumping his chest, exhibiting appreciation for the fans’ support.

“Being born here and coming out of the game to a standing ovation means the world to me,” Stroman said. “I’m just trying to show the love and reciprocate the love from the crowd right back to them. They don’t know how much that means to me, and how much that picks me up.”