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Bullpen manages to shake off Yankees’ shaky sixth inning

Tommy Kahnle of the Yankees reacts after surrendering

Tommy Kahnle of the Yankees reacts after surrendering a sixth-inning two-run double against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Jordan Montgomery fell just short of a quality start, Tommy Kahnle wanted one pitch back and Jonathan Holder was glad Didi Gregorius’ career game at the plate helped obscure the reliever’s shaky appearance.

Montgomery had a three-run lead when he departed after five innings of the Yankees’ 11-4 victory over the Rays Tuesday. Montgomery’s evaluation of his first start?

“It was good,’’ he said. “I had them in-between speeds. I just didn’t execute a couple of curveballs when I had them.’’

Montgomery walked four and struck out four in his 80-pitch outing. “I would like to have cruised like I did the first two innings, but really I just have to stay ahead.’’ He gave up an unearned run in the third inning when third baseman Brandon Drury made a bad throw to first on Matt Duffy’s grounder, allowing Jesus Sucre to score.

Montgomery was prepared to out for another inning, saying “I was ready to, felt good. I was fine . . . Your legs were a little numb (from the cold weather), but you just have to battle through it.’’ He said his biggest challenge was gripping the ball.

Aaron Boone said five innings were enough.

“We thought he was coming toward the end. “We had a few more pitches we could have played with but we felt like he just struggled through that last batter, I think his legs tightened up on him a little bit out there as well in that fifth and we just felt like we would be pushing it to start the next inning with him.”

Holder was charged with three runs on four hits after he came in to start the sixth.

After striking out leadoff batter Carlos Gomez, he gave up a double to C.J. Cron, who scored on Wilson Ramos’ single. Adeiny Hechavarria singled in Cron and Holder allowed another single before being replaced by Kahnle, who struck out Brad Miller before surrendering a game-tying two-run double to Denard Span.

It was the second straight game the bullpen could not hold a lead.

“It’s not automatic, but with the guys we have a lot of times it feels that way,’’ Holder said. “I gave up some hits, glad that we had the offense that we had that could come back and pick me up. I just didn’t get the job done.

“Our bullpen is fantastic, we’ve got some guy who for a long time have done a really good job. I try to learn from them. I have to learn from the guys who have been there, done that.’’

Kahnle became the winning pitcher when the Yankees scored four runs in the seventh, three on Gregorius’ second home run of the game. Kahnle struck out four in 1 2⁄3 innings but wasn’t pleased.

“It was just a bad location,’’ he said of his pitch to Span. “I wish I could take it back. Pretty upset about it and frustrated. I thought I threw well — give or take a few pitches.’’

David Robertson and Chasen Shreve each pitched a scoreless inning in a game when the Yankees’ so-called vaunted bullpen needed rescuing from the offense.

New York Sports