Clay Holmes meltdown halts Yankees' comeback bid after controversial Royals ejection

Damn. So close.
New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals
New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals / Kyle Rivas/GettyImages

The New York Yankees tried to punt the first game of this series. They won 4-2 with a B-squad lineup. They were getting no-hit through six innings in the finale and were down 2-0. They fought back to take 3-2 and nearly completed the four-game sweep before heading to Fenway Park for the weekend, but Clay Holmes couldn't shut the door in the ninth.

Things were going to feel almost too good if they finished it off, right?

On Thursday afternoon, the Yankees were playing with house money. They had little going for them on the offensive side of the ball. Nestor Cortes broke down in the fourth and allowed two runs, which felt like an insurmountable feat as the Yankees continued to go down in order.

But then Juan Soto broke up the no-hitter in the seventh with a leadoff single. The Yankees went down in order after that, but the weight was lifted. No more pressure of the no-hitter. They could play relaxed now.

And that's exactly what they did in the top of the eighth. Anthony Rizzo homered. Huge! Austin Wells reached on an infield single. Trent Grisham singled to right field. A slow grounder off the bat of Anthony Volpe scored Wells and moved Grisham to second. Soto finished the job with an RBI single to give the Yankees a 3-2 in a flash.

Yankees nearly demoralize Royals with late comeback after KC's manager's heated ejected

Luke Weaver got into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth, but he worked out of it and got a dramatic strikeout to end the frame by painting the corner on Nelson Velazquez. That was a close one.

But Holmes wasn't so lucky. He allowed a couple of baserunners in the bottom of the ninth (one on a misplay) and surrendered a two-run double to Maikel Garcia that sealed the Yankees' fate.

That wasn't all, though. There was more drama.

The back-breaking moment for the Royals nearly occurred long before the actual damage was done. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Yankees caught Bobby Witt Jr. stealing, which was huge because it prevented a runner from getting into scoring position and helped Cortes complete seven innings of work (2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB).

It wasn't without controversy, however. Anthony Volpe appeared to have blocked the bag as he applied the tag on Witt. The umpires didn't see it that way, so Royals manager Matt Quatraro came out to tear them a new one. He indeed did just that, but he paid for it. Quatraro was ejected from the game and left with a standing ovation from the fans, but then it shortly unraveled after that.

After looking at the replay, Quatraro had a point, and he was probably right.

But such is life with an imperfect umpiring and replay situation.

That seemed to have motivated the Royals, though, who wouldn't lie down when Holmes took the mound. Still, 49 wins heading into the first tilt with the Red Sox. Can't complain. Moving on. Another seires win. See you Friday night.