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Yankees’ Michael King struggling after strong start to season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In the first month of the season, Michael King has become one of the biggest weapons in the Yankees bullpen.

Over the past three weeks, however, the reliever has seemed more human, especially on Saturday against the Rays.

King went into a tie in the seventh inning, with runners at first and second and one out, but couldn’t escape blocking cleanly in a 3-1 Yankees loss at Tropicana Field.

The Rays turned on a right-handed insurance run in the eighth inning, marking the fifth time in his last seven games that King has given up at least one earned run. He had allowed an earned run in just one of his first eight appearances of the season as a multi-inning stoppage threat.

“Definitely frustrating,” King said. “I threw a few pitches today that I felt like I didn’t condemn like I should have. It hurt me. I hate doing that because it’s not even a pitch I wanted to throw and I still got burned on it, so I would prefer to get burned on pitch I had a lot of confidence in and didn’t do that a couple of times today.

Michael King

King’s tough time — he has a 7.15 ERA in his last seven games, with opponents batting .326 (15 for 46) against him — came at a tough time, the bullpen of the Yankees already struggling with injuries to Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga.

In a 1-1 game in the seventh inning, Lucas Luetge created the jam for King by putting the runners first and second with one out. King came in to face Taylor Walls, who hit a fly ball to second base but rushed down the line to beat the potential late-inning double play.

Yandy Diaz came next and hit a helicopter high at third base, where DJ LeMahieu had to wait for the ball to come down. Once he did, LeMahieu had no play at first base, allowing the runner to score from third for the Rays’ 2-1 lead.

“I didn’t do the job,” King said. “Yeah, there was soft contact, but there are times when you need strikeouts and swing-and-misses and I didn’t get it.”

King, who entered the day averaging 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings, didn’t register a punch in 1 ²/₃ innings, only the second time he’s been goes from one in 15 appearances this season.

Wander Franco started the eighth inning with a front-line triple against King and came home to score an out later on a Manuel Margot single.

“I actually thought tonight he threw the ball well,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Last outing [three runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday against the Orioles] I thought it was pitch selection and just execution.

New York Post

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