Clay Holmes delivers amid return to ‘same page’ with Yankees
There were still six withdrawals. Gerrit Cole had brought the Yankees this far. He had mostly lived up to his status as a staff ace, leading with his heart and his fastball on seven innings and 110 pitches. He had brought out 21 Cleveland Guardians. The Yankees led, 4-2. Six outs for the Bronx.
But Cole was cooked. He wasn’t going to have them. The Yankees had to come up with 27 outs, a night after stalling at 26, a night after the bullpen door — and who was available behind — became the most unlikely focal point of this split series. the American League.
A night after the Guardians glued the Yankees’ backs to the cold wall of winter.
This time, the bullpen door at Progressive Field opened and Clay Holmes trotted out. On Saturday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone declared him unavailable « except in an emergency. » This was news for Holmes, according to Holmes. There were il-dits/il-dits. There were pre-match explanations.
« We had a good conversation about the situation last night, » Holmes said.
« I think we’re on the same page with that, » Boone said.
« I trust the people making the decisions here, » Holmes said.
So here’s Holmes, the unwitting face of the Yankees’ most critical crisis of the year, working in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, he walked Steven Kwan, unsurprisingly as Kwan has been a havoc on everyone in this series. There were 36,728 people inside the ballpark, and they felt a Moment. They got up. They roared.
On Saturday, they had seen their Guardians do something that hadn’t happened the previous 167 times the Yankees had entered a ninth inning of the playoffs with a multi-run lead: They would come back. They had won the game. They surprised the Yankees. They probably even shocked each other.
But they didn’t face Holmes on Saturday, and while Holmes had his troubles in the second half of the season, he remains the Yankees’ best bullpen option. Now he had to prove it.
He knocked out Amed Rosario. He hit Jose Ramirez. He threw 17 pitches, and his sinker had his sinker and he looked the picture of health. Within the span of two batters, he got a hold off the wall of Progressive Field and helped lead the Guardians to midnight and that series to the Bronx.
« I think he threw the ball really well, » Boone said.
« I felt good, » Holmes said. « I felt more than capable of doing my job. »
« We’ll see what we have tomorrow, » Boone said.
That would be Monday, Game 5, and that means it’s win or gone at Yankee Stadium. It also means Boone may have to seal Holmes in plastic bubble wrap if he wants to keep him out of the game.
« It’s all on deck, » Holmes said. « I want to be there. »
It’s sure to be a packed rally in the bullpen tomorrow, as just about anyone with a working arm who isn’t Cole or Luis Severino will be an option — even, Boone hopes, Wandy Peralta, who pitched for the third straight day on Sunday and roughly dismissed the Guardians 1-2-3 in the ninth to recover a super-efficient seven-pitch save.
Jameson Taillon will get the ball to start, but he’s only a nominal starter. Both teams are likely to empty their bullpens in a bid to be the first to 27 out, to be the one to board a plane bound for Houston and the AL Championship Series. Cleveland’s strength is its pen, and its main relievers have mostly taken the weekend. They will be ready to eat as many of these 27 outputs as needed.
But so will Yankees relievers, especially Holmes. He was clearly uncomfortable becoming the subject of such post-match obsession on Saturday – although it was also clear he was at least a little annoyed if there had been any perception that it It was his choice to be absent.
« As a competitor, » he said, « you want to be out there as much as possible. »
This is a good thing. Because if things progress the way they have progressed in all four games of this series, it will be a close game. And if things go according to the Yankees’ best-laid plans, they’ll keep the lead. And it’s impossible to believe Holmes wouldn’t be trotting to the mound to officially book his passage to Texas.
« It’s going to be crazy, » Holmes said, and he seemed genuinely grateful to be referring to Yankee Stadium on Monday night and not Communications Snafu Heard Round the World.