As late as the seventh inning, it appeared as if the Yankees would beat a pitcher who made their offense look the worst it had all season.
They held a one-run lead over Royals lefthander Danny Duffy, who threw seven shutout innings at them Thursday in Kansas City. This time Yankees rookie lefthander Jordan Montgomery was providing the shutout innings. But the Royals went deep twice in the seventh, off Montgomery and the suddenly struggling Adam Warren, sending the Yankees to a 6-2 loss Tuesday night at the Stadium.
“It’s unusual because they have been so good,” Joe Girardi said of his bullpen, which allowed three home runs, helping turn a 2-1 lead into a 6-2 deficit. “They’ve done the job almost every time we’ve called upon them. Tonight just wasn’t their night.”
The Yankees (26-17), who came in tied with the Brewers for the most homers in the majors with 66, hit two, by Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter. They were outdone by the Royals (19-26), who hit four. Kansas City came in ranked 11th in the AL in homers with 48 and last in runs with 147.
“Pitches showing up over the middle of the plate,” Yankees catcher Austin Romine said, “are going to get hit.”
The Yankees, though 5-8 since reaching their high-water mark of 12 games over .500 (21-9) on May 8, did stay 1½ games ahead of the slumping Orioles in the East.
Montgomery took a 2-0 lead into the seventh and retired Mike Moustakas on a fly ball. Then he left a 1-and-2 fastball up to Lorenzo Cain, who blasted it to left for his second homer.
With two outs and Montgomery at 98 pitches — his season high is 100 — and Salvador Perez, the Royals’ leader in homers with 11, up next, Girardi brought on Warren.
“I don’t want someone tired facing Salvador Perez,” Girardi said. “So we made the move, it didn’t work, but I don’t second- guess myself.”
Perez singled to right and Jorge Bonifacio, who homered Monday, night, punched a first-pitch fastball to deep right for his sixth homer, which made it 3-2.
“Just one pitch got me but that’s the game, that’s what it is in those situations,” said Warren, who has a respectable 2.96 ERA in 16 appearances but has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in his 5 1/3 innings over his last five games. “It’s been a little something different every time. Just need to make the adjustments and get back on the right track.”
Montgomery, in his eighth big-league start, was the best he’s been, allowing one run and two hits in 6 2/3 innings, departing with a 2-1 lead. Executing all of his five pitches — two different fastballs to go along with a slider, curveball and slider — he struck out six and did not walk a batter. This after allowing five runs in five innings of Thursday’s 5-1 loss.
“I trust those guys coming out of the bullpen, I trust them all,” Montgomery said. “They’ve been so great throughout the year already. Nobody’s perfect.”
Certainly not this night.
Whit Merrifield led off the eighth with a homer off Jonathan Holder, who brought a 1.93 ERA into the night and had not allowed one. Moustakas, with a man on, put one in the second deck off lefthander Chasen Shreve later in the inning to make it 6-2. Shreve had not allowed a run in his first 11 1/3 innings to start the season.
“It’s always tough to give the lead away,” Warren said. “Definitely frustrating. Monty threw great, so you hate to take (a win) away from him.”