Lefty gets final 2 outs to seal win over Royals; Yates optioned to Pulaski
By Bryan Hoch
KANSAS CITY -- Yankees reliever Chasen Shreve said that recording his first career save was "unexpected," and there was a whole lot of that going around in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium late on Tuesday, as the Yankees celebrated an unlikely 5-4 win in 10 innings over the Royals.
Recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day when Kirby Yates was optioned to Rookie-level Pulaski, Shreve extinguished a bases-loaded, one-out jam by striking out Kendrys Morales on three pitches and inducing Salvador Perez to line out to center field.
"I've been looking for something to get me going; I've been up and down," Shreve said. "I need something to put me over that edge and hopefully finish strong."
That echoes the statement that the Yankees are trying to make over the season's final weeks, though they remained 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the American League WC race. They were happy to take the victory, considering New York was 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base.
"We had a lot of opportunities that we didn't cash in on tonight," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's going to happen. Pitchers need to pick up the hitters sometimes."
The decisive hit was delivered by Jacoby Ellsbury, who rapped a bases-loaded ground ball back to the mound in the 10th inning. Joakim Soria kicked the ball over to third baseman Christian Colon and Ellsbury was safe at first base with his fourth hit of the night, tying his career high.
"They weren't playing me up the middle, so even if it misses him, it potentially might still be a hit," Ellsbury said. "You need breaks throughout the whole season. Fortunately it was a break for us and it ended up working out, and we got out of a jam in the 10th inning."
Masahiro Tanaka provided five strong innings before being iced by a 59-minute rain delay, and Girardi had to lean heavily on his bullpen. Tyler Clippard induced a key double play to preserve a one-run lead in the sixth, recording five outs before handing the ball off to Dellin Betances for what would have been a six-out save.
"I was hoping to get one more out of Clippard because my feeling was, Dellin gets in a couple of long at-bats, now you're asking outs from some guys that are a little less experienced," Girardi said.
Instead, Lorenzo Cain stole second on Betances' first pitch and took third as catcher Gary Sanchez's throw bounced into center field. Cain scored on Morales' sacrifice fly. Despite retiring all six batters he faced, Betances was charged with his first blown save in seven chances since taking over the closer's role.
After Ellsbury's grounder put the Yanks on top, Girardi was in a situation he had been trying to avoid. His first choice was to try to lock down the 10th inning with rookie Ben Heller, making just his third career appearance.
"I just chose to go to the young kid. He's closed before in the Minor Leagues," Girardi said. "We like his stuff a lot. I like his breaking ball. I know it's a tough spot but it's baptism by fire."
A hit batsman, single and intentional walk loaded the bases and had the Royals poised to celebrate, but Shreve proved to be the right man for the moment.
"I want to be that guy. It's been a frustrating year for me," Shreve said. "I'm just trying to finish strong. If I can help the team win, that's what I'm here to do."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.