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Montas wins season debut and Yankees clinch 31st winning season by beating Royals

Kyle Higashioka Aaron Judge New York Yankees Kyle Higashioka Aaron Judge - The Canadian Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The New York Yankees clinched their 31st straight winning season by beating the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

They'd rather be clinching something more important.

Like a playoff spot.

But the chances of that evaporated long ago, when the Yankees scuffled so badly through the middle part of the season that many wondered whether they would finish with a losing record. With a 5-2 victory in which Frankie Montas got the win out of the bullpen in his season debut, the second-longest streak in major league history at least remained intact.

“I mean, we're going home tomorrow. That's inevitably kind of the takeaway from our season,” countered Yankees manager Aaron Boone, whose club has finished strong after floundering six games below .500 last month. "We expect to be playing in October and the fact that we're not going to be doing that beyond tomorrow is tough."

So much for celebrating a feel-good, come-from-behind win over the Royals.

Montas had surgery on his labrum in late February and spent all season working his way back, even though he will be a free agent after the season and easily could have called it a year. But the long hours of rehab work paid off when Montas walked out of the bullpen and proceeded to retire four hitters while allowing two hits and a walk.

“So many emotions going on,” he said after his first big league appearance since last October's AL Championship Series opener. “It was just like my first time pitching.”

Montas earned the win thanks in part to Gleyber Torres, who drove in a pair of runs during a three-run sixth inning. Oswaldo Cabrera, Everson Pereira and Estevan Florial also drove in runs for New York.

Clay Holmes pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 27 chances.

“You know,” Boone said, “we've been through a lot this year and I'm super, super pleased with how these guys have shown up and continued to get after it day-in and day-out. I'm glad we're finishing this way, and playing with purpose, and playing with meaning, because that wasn't always the case."

Alec Marsh (3-9) replaced opener Steven Cruz and allowed three runs, six hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings for Kansas City, which fell to 55-106 and matched the 2005 team for the most losses in a season in club history.

“I think it was just, maybe, the end of the season and trying to hype up that last outing, go out there and try to do too much,” Marsh said. “I did make some good pitches in some good times in big situations to limit. It could have been a lot worse.”

The Royals, who got their first 10 batters on base and score nine runs in a 12-5 rout the previous night, got off to another hot start on a steamy final night of September. Garcia opened the game with a single and later scored on Nelson Velázquez's single, and Salvador Perez added a homer in the third to give Kansas City a 3-0 lead.

The Yankees got two runs back against Marsh in the fourth before tying the game in the sixth on Florial's single. Collin Snider proceeded to walk DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge before Torres ripped a two-run single to give New York the final margin.


The Yankees' Carlos Rodón and pitching coach Matt Blake spent time talking Saturday after clashing on the mound the previous night. Rodón was in the midst of allowing all eight batters he faced to reach and eventually score in a 12-5 loss when Blake came out to talk to him. Rodón turned his back on Blake and gestured for him to return to the dugout.

“He’s been in the league for a while. We want him to go out and have a lot of success and behave in the right ways,” Blake said Saturday, “and you know, this is one were going to look back on and wish we had back.”


The Royals' Bobby Witt Jr. was thrown out trying to steal second, tying Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. for the major league lead with 14. Witt needs one steal to become the fourth player in big league history with 50 in a season with at least 30 homers.


Yankees: To reinstate Montas (shoulder inflammation) from the injured list, OF Jasson Domínguez (elbow surgery) was moved to the 60-day list and RHP Randy Vásquez optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.


Royals OF Drew Waters left after the third inning with tightness in his left quad. He doubled in his only at-bat. ... Velázquez left the game after fouling a pitch a pitch off the top of his knee.


Yankees RHP Michael King (4-7, 2.50 ERA) will start the season finale against Royals RHP Zack Greinke (1-15, 5.18), who could be making his last start with Kansas City. The 39-year-old Greinke will be a free agent after finishing his 20th big league season.