Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier: There’s no quit in this team
The Royals rallied to take a one-run lead in the eighth and seemed poised to salvage a series split and bounce back from back-to-back losses before it turned into a full-fledged losing streak.
Instead, the Yankees tied the game and sent it into extra innings where a Royals baserunning blunder squashed a potential opportunity in the top of the 10th, and the Royals bullpen couldn’t hold on in the bottom half as the Yankees came away with a 7-6 walk-off win in front of an announced 40,523 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“Just the way the game had been going all day (and) to rally back for six in the eighth, obviously our emotions were high,” Royals outfielder Alex Gordon said. “But we were still focused on the task at hand and trying to get the job done. It’s just one run. With the Yankees offense, it’s definitely something that you can’t just sit on.”
After having won the finale of their series in Chicago and taking the first game of the series against the Yankees, the Royals concluded the middle leg of their 10-game road swing with three consecutive losses and a second straight series loss.
Hunter Dozier singled to start the 10th, and speedster Terrance Gore pinch ran as the potential go-ahead run with no outs. However, Yankees left-handed reliever Zack Britton’s pick-off move to first base caught Gore so far off the bag that he had no chance of scrambling back to the base. Gore ended up getting tagged in a rundown.
The Royals didn’t put have another batter reach base in the game.
“I had my key, and I didn’t follow through with it,” Gore said. “So it’s just me messing up, basically.”
In the bottom half of the inning, the Yankees capitalized on Jake Diekman’s struggles with command. Diekman, who had allowed one run in his previous six appearances, started the inning by walking the first two batters he faced.
Diekman, one of the off-season additions to the bullpen, said he didn’t feel an mechanical issues and he simply “just didn’t get it done.”
“Can’t start off an inning in the bottom half walking two people,” Diekman said.
After reliever Ian Kennedy took over for Diekman, Thairo Estrada’s sacrifice bunt put the winning run on third with one out. Then Austin Romine’s deep fly ball went over the drawn-in outfield for the walk-off hit.
Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton overwhelmed Royals hitters for six scoreless innings. He allowed just three hits and one walk. Paxton kept the momentum rolling from his start against the Boston Red Sox last Tuesday (12 strikeouts, eight scoreless innings).
“He’s been neasty,” Gordon said of Paxton. “The last two years, he’s probably the best lefty maybe in the league right now, as far as a starter. He’s just the combination of fastball and slider that almost look pretty much identical. You see some of the swings that we take. You’ve got to gear up for 97, then when he throws that slider, it’s pretty filthy too.
“It’s hard to hit him. He did his thing today and made us look kind of foolish at times, but give us credit for rallying back, getting him out of the game and making this interesting.”
Paxton became the first Yankee and 11th pitcher all time to strike out at least 12 batters and not allow a run in consecutive appearances.
Royals batters struck out a franchise-record 20 times in the game, and manager Ned Yost credited the gaudy strikeout numbers to a combination of Paxton, some hitters just having a tough time at the plate and a generous strike zone.
“We’re definitely swinging at pitches that aren’t strikes,” Yost said. “Swinging at pitches that are strikes. Big strike zone here in New York for some reason, that played into it some over the course of the series. I think we struck out 60 times in four games or something crazy, too many.”
Once the Royals weathered the storm that was Paxton, their offense found new life against the Yankees’ bullpen.
The Royals batted around against Yankees relievers Chad Green and Adam Ottavino in a six-run eighth inning that featured five hits, including two home runs, and a string of six consecutive batter reaching base at one point.
Adalberto Mondesi’s two-run double with the bases started the scoring, and Gordon followed up with a game-tying three-run home run to right field. The next batter, Dozier, hit his sixth home run of the season on the first pitch he saw from Ottavino to give the Royals a 6-5 lead.
“We were having good at-bats,” Dozier said. “That’s tough pitching we faced. Paxton did a good, and I felt like we were having some good at-bats. It was just a matter of time.”
The Yankees pulled even in the bottom half of the eighth when Mike Tauchman doubled off reliever Wily Peralta, advanced on a ground out and scored on Romine’s RBI single with two outs.
That prompted the Yankees to bring in dominant left-handed flame-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mph fastball in the ninth inning.
Billy Hamilton’s single up the middle gave the Royals a promising start. After he stole second and third to get 90 feet away with one out, Chapman struck out Mondesi and got Gordon to fly out. Scott Barlow pitched a scoreless ninth for the Royals to keep the game tied going into the 10th.