Michael King’s resilience steals the show as Yankees shut down Blue Jays

Yankees starting pitcher Michael King in action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Center on Sept. 26, 2023.

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The way Michael King held ground in Toronto and prevailed over the Blue Jays lineup on Tuesday, his place in the Yankees 2024 rotation looks certain. In his brief yet impressive stint as a starting pitcher, the Yankees reliever has proved that he is not a mere stroke of luck.

While it has only been a five-week period, there is ample evidence to claim that Michael King is unquestionably deserving of a starting rotation position. Throughout last season and a significant portion of this year, the right-handed pitcher has displayed remarkable performance as a multi-inning reliever. However, since transitioning to a starting role in late August, Michael King has consistently performed at a level that rivals, and in some instances surpasses, the best starters in Major League Baseball, including Gerrit Cole.

Although he encountered some unusual control problems, Michael King once again exhibited his mastery on Tuesday night by overcoming five walks and pitching a one-hit, six-shutout-inning gem in a 2-0 Yankees victory.

Yankees are impressed with Michael King’s outing

Manager Aaron Boone said that it was impressive to see Michael King continuing in the starting role for the Yankees. He also admired the Yankees pitcher for being able to survive and thrive even when he was not at his best.

The contest remained without any runs on the board until the ninth inning when Gleyber Torres kickstarted the action with a leadoff single. Shortly after, rookie catcher Austin Wells stepped up and delivered a crucial two-run homer to the opposite field in left.

Yankees starting pitcher Michael King in action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Center on Sept. 26, 2023.
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Wells, a September call-up who is batting .190 with three homers in his first 16 big-league games, two in the last two days, expressed that getting a hit like that in the late innings was exactly what a player looks for his team.

In a 98-pitch performance, Michael King recorded five strikeouts and issued five walks, further lowering his ERA in eight starts to an impressive 1.49. If we exclude a two-inning outing in early August where he allowed two runs while serving as an opener, Michael King has maintained an outstanding 1.05 ERA over 36.1 innings pitched in his recent starts, during which he registered 50 strikeouts and only allowed four earned runs with nine walks.

Taking into account his relief appearances throughout the season, Michael King has maintained a solid 2.50 ERA over 100.2 innings across 48 outings. He is scheduled to make one more start in the Yankees‘ season finale on Sunday against Kansas City.

In his most recent start, Michael King performed exceptionally well in a head-to-head battle against Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman, who didn’t surrender a hit until the sixth inning, ultimately pitching seven scoreless frames.

This outing marked Michael King’s second consecutive start against the playoff-contending Blue Jays. In his previous appearance at Yankee Stadium, he limited Toronto to just one run over seven innings, amassing an impressive 13 strikeouts without issuing any walks.

Michael admits the rotation grind

The Yankees pitcher mentioned that facing the Blue Jays for the second time was a grind. He noted that it was a complete turnaround from the previous encounter, where he felt he had all four pitches working for him. Michael King also highlighted the excellent defensive support on Tuesday allowing him to execute well when he found himself in difficult situations.

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The most challenging situation for Michael King arose in the third inning when he issued two consecutive walks with two outs, resulting in a bases-loaded scenario for Vladimir Guerrero. The pitcher then found himself in a 3-0 count against Guerrero before delivering a fastball followed by two consecutive sinkers, successfully striking out the power hitter. The final sinker was called strike three, securing the crucial out.

Michael King explained that being able to groove a fastball on a 3-0 count helped him. He mentioned that at that moment, he decided, “If he hits it, he hits it.” Afterward, he shared that he felt a mechanical improvement and was able to execute a 3-1 sinker away for the strikeout. Although Michael King issued five walks, a higher count than he had totaled in his previous six starts combined, he managed to maintain a clean sheet by not allowing any runs.

Michael King acknowledged that successful starters are those who can effectively secure outs, maintain a shutout, and position their team for victory even when they don’t have their peak performance. He expressed a sense of pride in his ability to achieve these outcomes under tough circumstances.

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