Royals pitcher Jakob Junis: Yankees took advantage of mistakes
The Bronx blues continued for Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis.
The Royals couldn’t keep the momentum going from a stellar all-around outing on Thursday night, as they fell 6-2 to the Yankees in front of an announced 39, 668 at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.
The loss stopped the Royals from putting together their second three-game win streak of the season, and it evened up the four-game series at one game apiece heading into Saturday afternoon’s tilt.
One night after Royals starter Homer Bailey largely silenced the Yankees’ bats, that same offense came to life with a jump-start from the long ball.
The Yankees hit a pair of home runs off Junis (1-2), including one by Brett Gardner on a 2-0 pitch in the third to give them a 2-1 lead. They never relinquished that lead. Mike Tauchman added a home run in the fifth against Junis.
“(I was trying to) just go way,” Junis said of the pitch to Gardner. “I left it up out over the plate, and he took advantage of it. I thought the 1-0 pitch was pretty close. Didn’t get the call and just missed my spot a little bit up in the zone to Gardner.”
Junis has now given up 16 earned runs in his past four starts, including four earned runs (five total) on six hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Yankees on Friday night. He fell to 0-3 at Yankee Stadium for his career.
“I thought he threw good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He made a couple mistakes that they made him pay. The change-up to Tauchman was down, but it was center cut. The fastball to Gardner was up, but it was center cut. I thought he threw the ball okay. He managed his pitch count early. I thought his slider was much better, more consistent today. They just took advantage of a couple mistakes.”
The Royals’ half of the third went from sizzle to fizzle and back to sizzle quickly, but they ultimately were forced to settle for one run and left the bases loaded against Yankees veteran southpaw CC Sabathia.
With a runner — Martin Maldonado — on and no outs, Terrance Gore’s bunt single and a throwing error by Sabathia in a misguided attempt to get the fleet-footed Gore at first base put runners on second and third with no outs.
However, Maldonado tried to tag and score on Whit Merrifield’s fly ball to right field. The strong throw from outfielder Clint Frazier cut Maldonado down at the plate by several feet for a double play.
The Royals still had the chance for a big inning when Billy Hamilton reached on a fielding error, and Adalberto Mondesi hit an RBI single. Then a double steal put runners on second and third, and Hunter Dozier walked to load the bases. Alex Gordon got just enough of a piece of a Sabathia pitch to hit a dribbler a few feet in front of home plate where the catcher grabbed it and stepped on the plate for the force out at home and limit the Royals to one run.
“(He was) being CC,” Hamilton said. “He’s done it his whole career. He’s got almost 20 years in the major leagues. He’s out there being himself. He had a lot of stuff working for him. He didn’t really get out of the zone as much. He was throwing good pitches. There wasn’t really nothing down the middle, he was inside, outside, back-dooring things. He was just being the CC that everybody knows.”
Home runs by Gardner, a two-run blast to center in the third, and Tauchman, a solo shot in the fifth, gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead by the time Sabathia left the game after five innings. Sabathia, who began the season on the injured list coming off an angioplasty and knee surgery, was making just his second start of the season.
The Royals pulled within a run, 3-2, in the sixth thanks to back-to-back doubles from Dozier and Gordon off Yankees reliever Luis Cessa to start the inning, but Gordon was left stranded on third to end the inning.
After the Royals pulled within a run in the top of the sixth, Junis hit a bit of a wall in the bottom half. He allowed the first three batters to reach via a double to the wall by Aaron Judge, a walk to Luke Voit and an infield single by Gleyber Torres. Hamilton tracked down DJ LeMahieu’s sinking line drive to center to keep it from going for extra bases, but it went as a sacrifice fly and the run scored. Another run scored on a passed ball to give the Yankees a 5-2 lead.
“I felt great,” Junis said of the inning. “Pitch count was down. I felt like I was living down all day. I got a ton of ground balls today. Unfortunately, the one Torres hit, an infield single, we didn’t get an out out of it. That hurts. It just didn’t fall our way that inning.”
Royals reliever Jake Diekman got the inning-ending double play to close the wound in the sixth, but Brad Boxberger’s recent struggles continued when he came in to pitch the seventh for KC. Kyle Higashioka doubled and scored on an infield single by Tyler Wade and a throwing error as the Yankees’ lead stretched to 6-2. Wade was thrown out trying to advance to second base.
With one out, Boxberger walked three consecutive batters — Gardner, Judge and Voit — but Boxberger got back-to-back pop-outs to escape the inning with just one run having scored.
The Royals left eight on base and went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position.