Austin Romine and Clint Frazier, backups carrying the burden while most of the Bronx Bombers are out for repair, kept the Yankees from a devastating loss and boosted the injury-decimated team back to a winning record.
On a day that began when Aaron Judge became the 13th New York player on the injured list, New York cruised to a five-run lead over Kansas City behind six more scoreless innings from James Paxton and Frazier’s sixth homer.
Paxton, affectionately nicknamed “The Big Maple” because of his Canadian roots, had himself a historic gem of a game.
Big Maple has dominated.
He joins Clayton Kershaw (2015) & Roger Clemens (1987) as the only pitchers EVER to have 12+ Ks, 1 BB or less and 0 ER in back-to-back starts. pic.twitter.com/ehN8BA0uGl
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) April 21, 2019
The 30-year-old pitcher joined a rather exclusive club that only includes, arguably, two of the best pitchers in recent MLB history. With more than 12 strikeouts, just one walk and no earned runs given up, Paxton’s stat line has only been reproduced by Clayton Kershaw and Roger Clemens.
After the Royals surged ahead in a six-run eighth inning , Romine tied the score in the bottom half and followed with his third RBI single in the 10th for a 7-6 victory Sunday that got the Yankees back over .500 for the first time in two weeks.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” manager Aaron Boone. “A lot of good things happened for us to snatch that game back.”
Aroldis Chapman, flashing 100 mph heat for only the second time this season, escaped a ninth-inning jam, and Zack Britton got out of trouble in the 10th. New York improved to 11-10, its first time over .500 since it was 5-4.
“There’s a couple guys that are irreplaceable here, but we’ve got to find a way to do it,” Romine said. “We’re still winning games. We’ve got guys stepping up left and right.”
DJ LeMahieu scored on a first-inning passed ball, and Romine hit an RBI single in the second after Mike Ford doubled for his first big league hit . Frazier, a big league cleanup batter for the first time, hit a three-run homer in the fifth, a 429-foot drive off Jorge López that went over the left-field bullpen and gave him a team-high 17 RBIs.
Coming off eight shutout innings of two-hit ball over Boston, Paxton allowed three hits and induced 18 swings and misses plus a pair of foul tips for strike three. He fanned 12 and walked one for the second straight game, becoming New York’s second pitcher with 12 or more strikeouts in back-to-back starts after David Cone in June 1998.
He left after allowing Alex Gordon’s double leading of the seventh and walking Hunter Dozier, but Tommy Kahnle got three straight outs. Kansas City loaded the bases against Chad Green, and Adam Ottavino — the first No. 0 in Yankees history — came in and laid some Easter eggs: Adalberto Mondesi hit a two-run double , Gordon drove a cutter to right for three-run homer and Dozier sent the next pitch, another cutter, off the back of the right-field bullpen .
“There’s no quit in us,” Dozier said.
And little relief pitching on a team that wasted leads in 12 of 15 losses.
Mike Tauchman doubled off Wily Peralta leading off the bottom half and tied the score at 6 on Romine’s two-out single.
Chapman allowed a leadoff single in the ninth to Billy Hamilton, who stole second and third but was stranded when Mondesi struck out and Gordon flied out .
Britton (1-0) gave up a leadoff single to Dozier in the 10th and picked off speedy pinch runner Terrance Gore.
“It’s just me messing up basically,” Gore said.
Britton turned his right ankle as he applied the tag at first to end the rundown. Britton’s mind flashed back to his Achilles tendon surgery in December 2017.
“Any time something’s down there, it brings back some memories,” Britton said.
He took a practice pitch and handed the ball to plate umpire Ron Kulpa.
“Maybe I’m not as athletic as I was pre-surgery,” Britton told him, smiling
Britton then threw called third strikes past Jorge Soler and Chris Owings, giving Kansas City 20 strikeouts, two more than the previous team record. The Royals whiffed 53 times in the series, nine more than their previous mark.
“We’re definitely swinging at pitches that aren’t strikes,” manager Ned Yost said. “Big strike zone here in New York for some reason.”
Jake Diekman (0-1) walked Tauchman and Gio Urshela leading off the bottom of the 10th, and 23-year-old Thairo Estrada made his big league debut as a pinch hitter and sacrificed against Ian Kennedy. Estrada, his career slowed when shot in the right thigh in his native Venezuela in January 2018, laid down a perfect soft bunt to first off the end of his bat with the infield in.
Romine took a ball and lofted a knuckle-curve over Hamilton, a no-doubt fly that landed on the center-field warning track, 361 feet from the plate, for his first career walk-off hit.
“We’re fighting through,” said Frazier, who had snapped his bat over a knee in frustration when he struck out in the ninth. “Hopefully it rubs off on everybody.”
Tauchman was first player whose first six hits with the Yankees all were for extra bases since Dave Kingman in 1977. The streak ended in the third when he hit a grounder that nicked first base, changed direction and went off the right foot of Lucas Duda for a single.
Kansas City went with 24 players, optioning right-hander Glenn Sparkman to Triple-A Omaha after he allowed three runs and six hits in three innings Saturday.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (left shoulder impingement) allowed an unearned run and four hits over 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks for Northwest Arkansas against Springfield on Saturday night. He could be activated for next weekend’s home series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Yankees: C Gary Sánchez, out since April 10 with a strained left calf, is scheduled to play a rehabilitation game Monday with Class A Charleston and could be activated Wednesday.
Royals: RHP Brad Keller (2-1) starts Monday at Tampa Bay, his first appearance since hitting Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox with a pitch after Anderson homered. Keller appealed his five-game suspension.
Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (0-2) starts at the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a trip, facing RHP Matt Harvey (0-2).
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