Clay Holmes has been so automatic this season that when he got a three-run lead in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, the buses would have been wise to start warming up.
Instead, the newly named All-Star seamer never found his command and threw away the Yankees’ win as he did with a few pitches to the backstop.
The Reds did what no other team had this season, scoring four runs ahead of Holmes in the ninth inning to stun the Yankees, giving them a 4-3 loss and only their second losing streak in three games this season.
The Yankees (61-26) led 49-0 after the eighth inning this year. But in a rare clunker on Tuesday, Holmes allowed more runs than he had all season combined (three) while not recording an out.
“It can’t happen,” said Holmes, who threw just five of his 16 shots for strikes as his ERA skyrocketed from .46 to 1.37. “I need to be a little bit better at making some adjustments in the game. … There [were] a few pitches where the sinker just didn’t feel right and I think I just started getting a bit lost of direction there. Once that happened, it was really difficult to get the ship back in order. Just a lot of uncompetitive pitches.”
Holmes went into the game with a 3-0 lead, hitting five batters and retiring none. He loaded the bases on a walk, single and hit-by-pitch, which led to a visit from pitching coach Matt Blake. But his struggles continued from there, allowing for an RBI single that got under the hand of a diving Isiah Kiner-Falefa before hitting Kyle Farmer to make it 3-2.
“He just wasn’t in command,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Just unusually really out of zone.”
Boone then drew Holmes for Wandy Peralta, who nearly pulled off the escape act. He got Donovan Solano and Nick Senzel to dig into outfield decisions, though both might have had chances to make double plays.
On the former, catcher Jose Trevino caught the power at home before bucking the transfer and losing a chance to throw first. In the latter, Josh Donaldson grounded in third and threw home for secure second place rather than attempting to start a 5-4-3 doubles game. Boone said he thinks it’s the right game in real time.
“The only ball I wanted to go to second base with at that moment was like a one-hop ball at me that had enough steam,” Donaldson said. “Know how good [Senzel] Runs, it has to be a perfect throw to second, a perfect transfer, a perfect throw to first base.”
The Reds (33-54) took advantage when Jonathan India came up next and with two shots lofted a broken racquet and two runs into right midfield to give the 4-3 lead.
Holmes’ night off wasted seven shutout innings by Gerrit Cole, who struck out 11 and seemed poised to get the Yankees back on track after back-to-back losses to the Red Sox over the weekend.
“[Holmes has] picked us up so many times, it’s just a shame we couldn’t pick him up tonight,” said Cole. “Sometimes those nights will happen. We will look for the next opportunity to pick him up, that’s for sure.
The Yankees had at least one baserunner in each inning but could not muster more than three runs. Gleyber Torres was their main attacking source, playing 3-on-4 with two doubles, a walk and two runs while also playing a strong defense. It was his sixth multi-hit attempt in his last eight games, coming from No. 2 on the lineup on a night when Aaron Judge was resting.
But it was all for naught when Holmes’ rough night resulted in an equally rare three-game slip for the Yankees.
“Obviously the last few games don’t say who we are,” Donaldson said. “It happens, it’s baseball.”