King was chosen to protect a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning against the meat of the Blue Jays order, a 1-2-3 featuring George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s “Murderers Row” if all the murderers had exceptional flow and bristled at being called “cheater”.
It was a task fit for a King, especially less than 24 hours after ESPN’s Jeff Passan had waxed poetic about Guerrero Jr.’s special day (in the sixth game of the season), labeling his valiant effort to tie for the AL East lead (again, six games) a “king maneuver”.
The only problem with placing King on the precipice of greatness here? The task seemed impossible. He was destined — no, guaranteed — to fail.
How’d he get here? Uh, not important. Certainly can’t remember any other pitcher appearing in the ninth, nope. Surely, if another pitcher had started that inning, they would’ve thrown enough strikes to make their appearance memorable.
After Aroldis Chapman left King all the mess in the world by walking the 7-8-9 hitters (Santiago Espinal swung, dammit) to load the bases for three of the league’s scariest hitters, the righty responded by making the cleanup terrifyingly … easy.
And who’d have ever thought, after those rapid walks, that the Chapman who would ultimately blow this game … was Matt.
Yankees’ Michael King pulled a David Robertson vs the Blue Jays
Special attention will be paid to the double play looper that ended things when Chapman, a pinch-hitter who Aroldis Chapman didn’t even come close to, veered way too far off first with the bases clogged and got caught napping for the final out. But the tone-setter was the Springer at-bat — or, should we say, the immediate dismissal of Springer, looking, on two nasty cutters and a masterfully-placed four-seamer on the outside.
All week long, Springer had been successfully nabbing the last laugh, as he so often seems to, turning the Yankees bleachers’ chants of “CHEATER!” into fuel. So much was Springer peacocking that you wanted to reach your hands through the screen and tell the crowd to shush, Luis Severino-style.
Instead of succumbing to the threat and giving him one last moment, King silenced him almost immediately, flipping a lost inning on his axis.
This was King’s first career save; after the game, he volunteered that Anthony Rizzo handed him the ball to memorialize the occasion. It was more than just a save, though. It was a David Robertsonian Houdini act, and the first time since Opening Day the competition has felt this elevated (and tilted in the Yankees’ favor).
If you’re reading this in the morning, it’s OK to remove your heart from your throat now.