Clay Holmes’ stuff ends record chase, nullifies Stroman’s excellent Yankees outing

Yankees' Clay Holmes and Marcus Stroman are at Yankee Stadium in the game vs. the White Sox on May 20, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Tuesday May 21, 2024

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Yankees closer Clay Holmes‘ stuff fails to protect a three-run lead on Monday night allowing the Seattle Mariners to score four runs in the ninth and secure a 5-4 victory before 37,590 fans in Yankee Stadium. This ended his 20-game scoreless streak this season, becoming the second-longest such string in Yankees history, trailing only Dellin Betances‘ 26-game streak to begin 2015.

Clay Holmes had been the epitome of reliability in the ninth inning for over a month, reminiscent of his All-Star performance in 2022, despite moments earlier this year when he escaped jams and collected saves with spotty command. However, the Yankees closer failed to continue his dominant streak on Monday night. Clay Holmes took full responsibility for the loss, acknowledging that it was on him, despite feeling that his sinker-slider combo was in good form.

New York Yankees pitcher Clay Holmes, second from left, hands the ball to manager Aaron Boone, left, as he leaves during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Monday, May 20, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“Yeah that one’s on me,” he said. “I feel like I made some good pitches and definitely some balls found some holes, but I was ahead on a couple guys there, 0-2, 1-2, and put them on base which could’ve been big outs. It was one of those outings where I felt like my stuff was there, maybe trying to go for a little too much chase with a couple guys there. Some balls found some holes and it didn’t go our way there.”

Clay Holmes described the outing as one where he felt his stuff was there, but the Mariners still managed to collect three soft hits and two walks before tying the game on Dominic Canzone’s sacrifice fly and taking the lead on Ty France’s two-out RBI ground single. The closer emphasized that he needed to make pitches to overcome the situation but was unable to do so, even after retiring the leadoff batter in the ninth inning before Seattle’s comeback.

“My stuff I thought was good enough tonight, I just didn’t make the pitch when I needed to,” the Yankees closer acknowledged. “Some of the two strike pitches were competitive, some weren’t, and I think if a few more were competitive and in the zone, tonight would have looked different.”

While admitting that he failed to pitch when it mattered the most despite a feeling to be capable to do a double play, Clay Holmes promised to bounce back. Aaron Judge, one of Holmes’ teammates, expressed his unwavering faith in the closer, stating that even the best closers in the game are bound to experience setbacks from time to time.

Clay Holmes promises to bounce back for Yankees

The loss, which ended the AL East-leading Yankees‘ seven-game winning streak, came at the hands of the AL West-leading Mariners, who demonstrated their resilience by clawing their way to victory.

Despite the disappointing loss, Clay Holmes remains confident in his ability to “bounce back tomorrow,” thanks to the support and encouragement from his teammates and coaches in the clubhouse.

Clay Holmes acknowledged the emotional impact of blowing a game and losing, but he emphasized his complete confidence in himself and the people around him, including catcher Jose Trevino and the pitching coaches. He believes that the process he has in place will enable him to recover quickly and be ready to perform at his best the following day. The closer also highlighted the importance of having supportive players and coaches in the clubhouse, as their presence helps him maintain his readiness and focus.

“Yeah, you feel it, anytime you lose and you blow a game,” Clay Holmes said. “I have full confidence in myself and the people around me, Trevy, the pitching coaches. The process I have in place, I know where I’m at that I’ll be able to bounce back tomorrow and get the job done tomorrow. Like I said, having the players in here around you, the coaches, it helps you stay ready and I think we’ll be ready to get one tomorrow.”

When asked about his reaction to Clay Holmes’ inability to close out the ninth inning, manager Aaron Boone recognized that such occurrences are a part of baseball and can happen occasionally. Boone noted that despite the unfavorable outcome, he thought Clay Holmes threw the ball well throughout the inning, but the game simply didn’t bounce their way. He mentioned that the Mariners were able to take advantage of a couple of swinging bunts, a bloop hit, and some well-executed at-bats to complete their remarkable rally.

Boone reiterated his belief that Clay Holmes performed well, but the inning didn’t unfold in the Yankees’ favor. He acknowledged that sometimes in baseball, the opposing team could make contact and find holes in the defense, leading to unexpected outcomes. Despite the setback, both Clay Holmes and the Yankees skipper remain optimistic about the closer’s ability to rebound and continue to be a reliable presence in the ninth inning for the Yankees.

Marcus Stroman’s Yankees masterpiece goes in vein


Marcus Stroman delivered a stellar performance over 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on two hits, with the only blemish being Dominic Canzone’s solo home run with one out in the eighth inning. Stroman’s night ended with the Yankees leading 3-1.

Alex Verdugo, who went 3-for-4, drove in three runs, and Jon Berti’s RBI single extended the lead to 4-1 as Clay Holmes entered the game to his new light show and video montage introduction. Prior to the tumultuous ninth inning, Holmes had pitched 20 scoreless innings, converting 13 saves in 14 opportunities.

Stroman expressed his belief that Clay Holmes is the best closer in baseball and attributed the Mariners’ rally to very weak contact. He suggested that if the Mariners had hit the ball harder on some of those plays, the situation might have been different.

With his signature sinker, Clay Holmes is always just one pitch away from inducing a crucial double play. However, manager Aaron Boone pointed out that hitters tend to make more contact against Clay Holmes compared to flame-throwing closers, and the Mariners put together some great at-bats in the ninth inning.

Boone praised Stroman’s performance, stating that he was as good as he has been all year, with all of his pitches working effectively. Before the ninth inning, the Mariners had managed just three hits and a walk against Stroman.

The Yankees’ starting rotation has been nothing short of sensational, boasting a minuscule 0.86 ERA over their last eight starts. As Marcus Stroman exited the game with a 3-1 lead, he responded to the standing ovation by clapping his hands above his head and tapping his heart, a gesture that he later explained meant the world to him.

Stroman, a Long Island native who had always dreamed of playing for the Yankees before signing as a free agent this past winter, expressed his desire to reciprocate the love shown by the fans. 

He emphasized the significant impact of their support on his performance, noting that he feels even better when he has the crowd’s energy behind him, and that he can sense this energy even before the game begins when he takes the field.

Marcus Stroman’s impressive performance against the Mariners included six strikeouts over 96 pitches, and he watched as Luke Weaver quickly wrapped up the eighth inning. 

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