Clay Holmes hides behind Yankees’ overall failure to deflect scrutiny

Yankees’ Clay Holmes reacts during the ninth inning against the Red Sox, Friday, July 5, 2024, in New York.
Charles Wenzelberg / The Post
Michael Bennington
Saturday July 6, 2024

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The New York Yankees endured a heartbreaking 5-3 extra-innings defeat against the Boston Red Sox in the series opener at Yankee Stadium. The game highlighted the Yankees’ ongoing troubles, marked by a sequence of costly errors.

A pivotal baserunning mistake in the third inning set the tone, followed by defensive lapses in the later frames that allowed the Red Sox to stay competitive. The most crushing moment came in the ninth inning when closer Clay Holmes, just one strike away from sealing the victory, gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Red Sox designated hitter Masataka Yoshida.

The extra innings proved disastrous for the Yankees. In the 10th inning, Red Sox’s Ceddanne Rafaela, batting ninth, hit a two-run homer off Tommy Kahnle, who had been solid with ten consecutive scoreless appearances. The Yankees failed to mount a comeback, stranding the tying run on base.

Holmes’ recent struggles continued, with this outing marking the fifth time in seven appearances he has allowed at least one run. Unlike his usual issues with weak contact or control, the home run was a rare but costly mistake.

This defeat highlights the Yankees’ urgent need to strengthen their bullpen before the trade deadline, as even dependable relievers like Kahnle are showing signs of strain. The loss adds to the Yankees’ mounting concerns in what has become a challenging season.

But Holmes finds refuge in Yankees’ collective woes

However, closer Clay Holmes faltered in the ninth inning. Despite being just one strike away from securing the win, Holmes struggled to finish the inning.

Yankees’ Clay Holmes reacts after the ninth inning against the Red Sox, Friday, July 5, 2024, in New York.

He, who has now blown five saves this season, conceded that the Red Sox hitters’ resilience in extending at-bats and fouling off good pitches wore him down, leading to the crucial mistake.

“I felt like the pitches were there and I was executing,” he admitted. “They did a good job of just fouling pitches off — pitches I thought were pretty good pitches. It started to add up. And obviously the sinker down and in to Yoshida, he probably saw one too many there. It probably wasn’t my best sinker. It was kind of close to him, so he’s able to just get the barrel to it just enough, especially after fouling a couple off.”

However, the Yankees closer surprisingly blame the team’s overall slump.

“It’s been tough, the last few weeks. We’re not playing the way that we know we’re capable,” Holmes said. “There’s definitely been some challenges. There’s no denying that. Nobody is playing to the level that they think they can, and I think we all want to be the guy that our teammates can depend on.”

Holmes unraveled in Yankees defeat

Yankees starter Nestor Cortes delivered another stellar performance at home, allowing just one run and striking out eight over six innings against the Boston Red Sox. His only mistake was a solo homer by Romy Gonzalez in the fifth inning. This outing lowered Cortes’ home ERA to an impressive 1.84 across nine starts, contrasting sharply with his 5.63 ERA in away games.

The Yankees capitalized on early opportunities, scoring three runs in the fourth inning against Red Sox starter Tanner Houck, aided by walks and a crucial error by Boston.

New York Yankees’ Clay Holmes pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Friday, July 5, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Reliever Luke Weaver effectively bridged the gap, pitching two scoreless innings and escaping a tense eighth inning by retiring Boston’s top three batters in order.

Manager Aaron Boone highlighted the Red Sox’s persistence, noting their ability to extend at-bats and make Holmes work hard, describing their approach as “spoiling, spoiling, spoiling.”

This grueling ninth inning set the stage for Boston’s comeback, leading to the Yankees‘ disappointing 5-3 extra-inning loss. The defeat underscores ongoing concerns about the Yankees’ bullpen reliability and their ability to close out games, even when holding a seemingly secure lead.

Clay Holmes’ ninth-inning difficulties reached a critical point against the Boston Red Sox. Ahead 0-2 on Masataka Yoshida, Holmes faltered by throwing three consecutive balls. Yoshida battled through the at-bat, fouling off two pitches before connecting on Holmes’ 27th pitch—a misplaced sinker.

Yoshida’s 405-foot, two-run homer to right field silenced the Yankee Stadium crowd, tying the game.

This outing adds to a troubling pattern for Holmes, who has allowed nine runs (eight earned) over his last 6 2/3 innings, causing his ERA to balloon from 1.23 to 3.00 across eight games. His struggles spotlight the Yankees’ bullpen issues, particularly their shortage of high-strikeout relievers.

Manager Aaron Boone expressed frustration over the outcome, emphasizing how the inability to retire batters in key moments cost the team. Holmes’ recent woes highlight ongoing concerns about the Yankees’ bullpen configuration and their capacity to preserve late-game leads consistently.

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