Tack-on runs keep Chapman in bullpen
Yankees fans nearly got their first look at the new bullpen formula Thursday night, the one envisioned by general manager Brian Cashman when he traded for Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in the offseason. Chapman’s 30-day suspension for violation of Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy postponed his joining the Yankees until this week but already he has picked up one save.
It appeared that Thursday night would be the first time manager Joe Girardi would use all three power relievers in the same game, and it was against a Royals team that had a similar bullpen setup in reaching two World Series with Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
Dellin Betances worked a perfect seventh inning before Girardi called on Andrew Miller to pitch the eighth, which he did with the same result as Betances. But when the Yankees scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to boost their lead to 7-3, the save opportunity for Chapman was lost if he started the inning. Girardi brought Chasen Shreve to open the ninth but also had Chapman up in case the Royals rallied to create a save situation. That never occurred as the Yanks’ lead held up.
I actually heard some boos when Shreve’s name was announced as he trotted to the mound. This poses an interesting dilemma for Girardi. The buzz Chapman’s 100-mph heat has brought to Yankee Stadium means that more fans stick around at the end of the game the way they did for Mariano Rivera. They could see Chapman warming up in the bullpen and had their appetites whetted only to be disappointed that he did not enter the game.
Girardi made the right call. Why waste Chapman with a four-run lead when he may be needed Friday night against a White Sox team that has the best record in the American League? Taking three of four games from the reigning World Series champions puts the Yankees in a good frame of mind going into the weekend series against the White Sox.
Watching Starlin Castro take batting practice before the game I noticed that he concentrated on hitting the ball to the opposite field, not a bad approach for a right-handed batter at Yankee Stadium. Several of Castro’s BP swings resulted in his driving the ball over the comfy right field porch.
It does not always happen that a player will carry his pregame success into the game, but it did this time for Castro as he drove a a 1-1 pitch from the Royals’ Ian Kennedy to right-center for his fourth home run that put the Yankees on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Castro also went the other way against another former Yankees pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, for an RBI single in the two-run seventh.
More than a month into the 2016 season, Castro has adapted well to the Stadium. He is batting .333 with six runs, two doubles, one home run and two RBI in 21 at-bats on the homestand. Overall at the Stadium, Castro is hitting .348 with eight runs, six doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI in 69 at-bats.
Castro’s shot was just the beginning of a long-ball procession for the Yanks against Kennedy, the former Yankees prospect who entered the game with a 2.13 ERA but had it swell to 3.25.
Chase Headley finally got an extra base hit. It came in the Yankees’ 33rd game and his 103rd plate appearance. Batting left-handed against the right-handed Kennedy, Headley also went to the opposite field and hit a two-run home run down the left field line in the second inning.
Headley has also showed signs on the homestand of being on the verge of breaking out of his season-long slump. He walked in the seventh and added a single in the eighth and is hitting .389 with seven runs and four RBI in 18 at-bats on the homestand.
After the Royals closed to 3-2 in the fourth against Nathan Eovaldi on a solo home run by Alex Gordon and a two-out, RBI single by Christian Colon, Didi Gregorius got into the act with a two-run homer to right in the bottom of the inning.
Eovaldi, who pitched eight innings in his previous start, against the Red Sox, barely got through five this time as his pitch count soared to 98. KC cut the Yankees’ lead to 5-3 in the fifth and threatened to go ahead, but Carlos Beltan made a leaping catch at the top of the wall in right field to take down Salvador Perez’s bid for a three-run homer