Kansas City Royals

Royals pitching again victimized by home runs in the Bronx

Royals’ Ned Yost, Heath Fillmyer react to a 9-2 loss against the Yankees

Royals manager Ned Yost and starting pitcher Heath Fillmyer speak with reporters after a 9-2 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2019. Fillmyer gave up four home runs in four innings to take the loss.
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Royals manager Ned Yost and starting pitcher Heath Fillmyer speak with reporters after a 9-2 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2019. Fillmyer gave up four home runs in four innings to take the loss.

Even without some of their big hitters on the injured list, the New York Yankees remain dangerous. If the series opener gave the Royals a false sense of comfort inside the bandbox in the Bronx, that changed in a hurry the past two days.

The Royals took a 9-2 pounding in front of an announced 42,013 on an overcast, 60-degree day at Yankee Stadium. The Royals, having lost the second and third games of the four-game series, will try to salvage a series split with a win Sunday afternoon.

After Royals starter Homer Bailey kept the ball in the ballpark for six stellar innings against the Yankees on Thursday, that lineup has taken its revenge out on subsequent Royals starters on back-to-back days.

Friday night, Jakob Junis gave up a pair of home runs to Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman. Saturday, Heath Fillmyer (0-1) gave up six runs on seven hits, including four home runs.

“If we were in our park, we’d be talking about a great game by Fillmyer,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We’re not in our park. And we hit two homers, too, that wouldn’t have been homers in our park either, so it’s not like we (didn’t) reap the benefits of it. But if a pitch is up — you make a little bit of a mistake — it doesn’t take too much to get burned on it.”

The tough outing for Fillmyer may leave him in a precarious position. It came on the same day when veteran starter Danny Duffy was scheduled to make a rehab assignment in the minors with the club’s minor-league affiliate.

While the Royals haven’t made any definite decisions on Duffy’s potential return, general manager Dayton Moore said prior to Saturday’s game that the club planned to keep Duffy as a starting pitcher as opposed to moving him to the bullpen.

Moore stressed that the organization would remain “open-minded” on Duffy, but Moore also said, “We’ve gotta have guys that can start. We’ve gotta have guys that can go out there and set the tone every fifth day.”

Saturday’s outing marked the second career start at Yankee Stadium for Fillmyer, a product of Florence High School and Mercer Community College, both in New Jersey. Mercer CC is located less than 70 miles from Yankee Stadium.

Yankees’ All-Star right fielder Aaron Judge, who left the game in the sixth inning with an oblique injury, and up-and-coming outfielder Clint Frazier took Fillmyer deep in the first and second innings, respectively.

The outlook of Fillmyer’s entire outing appeared to pivot on a replay in the third inning. After having given up a walk to leadoff batter DJ LeMahieu and giving up a one-out single to Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres hit a fly ball to left that just barely carried into the first row of the stands.

Royals six-time Gold Glove award winner Alex Gordon jumped and reached into the stands in an attempt to make the catch, but couldn’t. Upon video review, it was ruled a fan interfered with Gordon’s ability to make the catch, and the ruling wiped away what would’ve been a three-run home run. Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected as a result of arguing that call.

“It gives you another opportunity, a chance to get the out,” Fillmyer said. “It was nice that it went our way. I wanted to make the best of it.”

Fillmyer got Frazier to pop out in foul territory, and instead of having given up three runs or more in that inning, Fillmyer escaped having not allowed a run in that inning and having kept the Yankees lead to just two runs.

Unfortunately for Fillmyer, that replay reversal provided just a brief stay of execution. The next inning, he gave up all three of the runs that were taken off the board plus another.

A walk by Mike Ford and one-out double to right-center field by Austin Romine set the table for Tauchman. Tauchman hit a three-run homer on a line drive to right field. The next batter, LeMahieu hit a solo homer on a fly ball that carried over the wall in right-center field.

“You just look up at a few things,” Fillmyer said. “Where was that pitch and where it wasn’t, who’s up and if the ball is going to travel. They’ve got a lot of big guys over there, really strong.

“Coming into this kind of stadium, you got to know you’ve got to keep the ball down. Some of them just probably got up a little bit higher than I wanted them to, so I knew they were gone.”

Fillmyer made it through the inning but handed a 6-0 deficit over to the bullpen in the fifth.

Whit Merrifield’s solo home run in the sixth, his third of the season, put the Royals in the scoring column. However, the Yankees continued to tack on runs against reliever Glenn Sparkman and pushed their lead to 9-1 by the end of the seventh inning.

Chris Owings’ second home run of the season for the Royals came with one out in the ninth.

“In this park, you’re going to give up homers,” Gordon said. “That’s just the way it is. The righties here just have to flick the ball to right field, and it goes out. So you’ve just got to deal with it. Both sides have that advantage to do that. Give them credit for finding that wall and putting it in the right spots. They’ve got a lot of power on that team, and that’s going to happen every once in a while.”

Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (2-1) held the Royals to one run on four hits and three walks over seven innings. He struck out seven.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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