Aaron Boone has had to preach resilience a lot this season. He had to do it when the Yankees' pitching was uneven, or when their hitting wasn’t living up to expectations. He had to do it as the losses racked up and the boos started raining down from the stands.
At times it could have sounded like coach-speak — empty rhetoric to make it seem like things aren’t as bad as they were — but Wednesday night, as the Yankees battled back again and again and finally beat the Royals, 6-5, on Luke Voit’s walkoff single with one out in the ninth, it simply looked like prophecy. The Yankees scored twice in the ninth, the first on Gary Sanchez’s solo homer off Greg Holland.
"These guys are resilient, they’re fighting," he said. "We understand how tough this season has been so far and they continue to grind, and they continue to fight. Obviously, this last week, we won a lot of games late in the game, we lost a tough one last night. It looked like one was getting away from us tonight, but they just kept grinding and hopefully we just continue to get better."
It was the Yankees’ 20th comeback this season, their sixth walkoff win and their sixth victory in eight games. Voit is 3-for-8 with two RBIs in his two games back from the injured list.
The eighth and ninth innings were both a struggle or a triumph — and which one it was for the Yankees seemed to change by the minute. First, Zack Britton gave up a go-ahead homer to Carlos Santana in the eighth, then, Rougned Odor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees the 4-3 lead.
In the ninth, Aroldis Chapman imploded, putting runners on first and third with two outs and then issued a Boone-sanctioned intentional walk to Santana. The move didn’t work, as he walked Sebastian Rivero on four pitches to tie the score at 4. Then, Ryan O’Hearn, who had already homered, hit a check-swing infield single that plated Whit Merrifield to make it 5-4. It was Chapman's third blown save in his last eight attempts.
"We knew we had to pick [Chapman] up and they had to go through the heart of our order and it just shows that we have tough outs and great at bats," Voit said. "We knew we were going to put ourselves in an opportunity to win."
Prior to that, the night was an exercise in frustration. Twice — in the second and seventh — the Royals gifted the Yankees bases loaded situations, courtesy of all walks. And twice, they ended the inning with a strikeout.
Yankees starter Michael King gave up a two-run homer to O’Hearn in the first, but allowed nothing else over 4 2/3 innings, finishing with three hits, three walks and five strikeouts.
The Yankees tied it at 2 in the fourth, when Carlos Hernandez walked Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar to put two runners on with two outs, and Clint Frazier drove them in with a well-stroked double to the wall.