‘Nasty’ Clay Holmes’ five-out save floors Orioles manager, leaves MLB fans awestruck

Clay Holmes celebrates after picking up his 10th save of the season in the Yankees’ 2-0 win over the Orioles in Baltimore on May 1, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Thursday May 2, 2024

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Clay Holmes emerged as the hero for the New York Yankees on Wednesday night, his dominant pitching securing a 2-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles and propelling the Yankees to become the first team in the American League to reach 20 wins for the season.

Responding to the pressure situation in the eighth inning, Clay Holmes faced a critical moment with the Orioles threatening to score. He showcased his exceptional pitching repertoire, striking out two key Baltimore hitters – Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman – to extinguish the threat. Following this impressive display, Clay Holmes continued to pitch the ninth inning, successfully securing his league-leading 10th save of the season.

His outing was a masterclass in pitching. Clay Holmes tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings, extending his remarkable streak of 15 consecutive appearances without allowing a single earned run. Throughout his performance, his breaking pitches displayed sharp movement, leaving Orioles batters baffled and unable to make solid contact with his diverse arsenal. A pitch overlay video, courtesy of Rob Friedman, revealed the significant difference between his 97-mph sinker and his 85-mph sweeper, highlighting the challenge these pitches pose to opposing hitters.

Even Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde acknowledged the dominance of Clay Holmes’ pitching. He praised the Yankees closer’s skills and acknowledged the difficulty his pitches presented for his hitters. Hyde specifically mentioned the challenge of scoring runs against the closer, given the combination of his blazing fastball and his effective slider.

Clay Holmes’ extended outing was crucial in preserving the victory for Yankees starter Luis Gil, who delivered his best performance to date. Gil pitched a career-high 6 1/3 innings, outperforming Baltimore’s ace, Corbin Burnes. This outing cemented itself as arguably the most impressive of the young right-hander’s career.

Clay Holmes’ dominant pitching adds to Yankees’ early push

At 31 years old, Clay Holmes has established himself as a formidable presence on the mound. He boasts an immaculate record, having yet to surrender an earned run in 15 innings pitched this season. This impressive feat is further bolstered by his impressive strikeout tally of 16, contrasted by just a single walk issued. On Wednesday night, Clay Holmes once again showcased his potent pitching arsenal, featuring a devastating combination of a sinker and a slider, aimed at silencing the top hitters in the Baltimore lineup.

Manager Aaron Boone couldn’t contain his praise for Clay Holmes’ exceptional performance. He lauded his consistency throughout the season, consistently delivering high-level pitching. Boone specifically mentioned the sharpness of Clay Holmes’ pitches during the game, highlighting their increased effectiveness compared to previous outings. The Yankees skipper also commended Holmes’ precise command, emphasizing his ability to locate his pitches exactly where he intended.

Yankees' closer Clay Holmes is with Jose Trevino after the win over the Orioles in Baltimore on May 1, 2024.
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In the ninth, Clay Holmes faced some initial pressure when he allowed an infield hit to Ryan O’Hearn. However, he remained unfazed, striking out the dangerous Ryan Mountcastle. He then displayed his poise by inducing a soft fielder’s choice from Colton Cowser before ultimately securing the victory by retiring Jordan Westburg on a ground ball to third base.

The key to Clay Holmes’ dominance lies in his devastating pitching repertoire. His sinker exhibits sharp movement back over the plate, coupled with a vicious late bite that leaves hitters off-balance. Complementing this is his sharp-breaking slider that dives away from right-handed hitters. This formidable combination was on full display on Wednesday night, and as evidenced by an MLB pitch overlay video, it’s no wonder opposing hitters are left awestruck by Holmes’ pitching. The video underscores the daunting challenge faced by any batter who dares to step into the box against the 31-year-old fireballer.

Clay Holmes, on the cusp of free agency and during a potential career year, attributed his success to a key mechanical adjustment – the synchronization between his stride down the mound and his arm action. This newfound rhythm has resulted in hitters consistently grounding out against his pitches.

Beyond the overall effectiveness of his pitches, Clay Holmes emphasized the importance of precise placement, particularly with his sinker. He elaborated that when his sinker was working as intended and with his arm usually in the optimal position, it allowed his slider to complement it perfectly. This newfound synergy, according to Holmes, has been the driving force behind his remarkable season.

“That’s just got my sinker in a good spot,” the Yankees closer said. “The direction is good, and I can trust that the sinker is going to do what it’s going to do. If the sinker is there, typically the arm is out front and the slider comes with it. That’s been the case so far.”

Fans in awe

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