An abundance of bullpen options for Girardi
Among the added benefits of having Aroldis Chapman as the closer out of the bullpen is that it allows Yankees manager Joe Girardi to use Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller earlier in the game when the situation calls for a key pitching change.
Take Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the White Sox, for example, the first game in which all three power relievers appeared in the same game. Girardi had Betances warming up in the bullpen in the sixth inning in case starter Ivan Nova ran into trouble.
Nova, who made his second start since joining the rotation following CC Sabathia’s assignment to the 15-day disabled list, was not in any real trouble most of his outing. His sinker produced 13 ground ball outs, including the first two outs of the sixth. But when he walked Todd Frazier, out of the dugout came Girardi, who signaled for Betances.
Frazier had accounted for Chicago’s run in the fourth inning with his 12th home run, so Nova needed to be careful. Betances finished the inning with a strikeout of Melky Cabrera and struck out the side in the seventh as well.
That set up the Yankees’ new bullpen formula, which went into effect for the first time. Miller pitched the eighth and allowed one hit with two strikeouts. Chapman brought his trademark heat in the ninth with two more strikeouts for his second save. This was right out of the blueprint.
The 10-out performance by this powerful trio extended the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 15 2/3 innings. In 12 games since May 3, Yankees relievers have combined for a 1.54 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35 innings.
Nova is 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings in five games (two starts) at the Stadium this season. He has allowed one run in each of his past two starts (1.74 ERA) covering 10 1/3 innings. The quality start from Nova was very welcomed coming on the heels of a rocky start Friday night by Luis Severino, who was placed on the DL due to a strained right triceps.
The Yankees made several other moves Saturday. They signed righthanders Chad Green and Conor Mullee to major league contracts and called them up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, optioned catcher Gary Sanchez to SWB and transferred pitcher Bryan Mitchell, first baseman Greg Bird and outfielder Mason Williams to the 60-day DL. Those moves created space on the 40-man roster for Green, Mullee and J.R. Graham, a right-handed pitcher obtained from the Twins for a player to be named and cash considerations. Graham was optioned to Double A Trenton.
The Yankees guaranteed a winning homestand with Saturday’s victory that made them 6-3 with one game remaining. They are 13-2 against the White Sox at the Stadium dating to June 30, 2012. It was the Yankees’ first victory when scoring two or fewer runs since Sept. 26 last year, also by 2-1 and also against the White Sox. The Yanks had lost 18 consecutive games when scored two or fewer runs.
Both Yankees runs came in the second inning after two were out off Jose Quintana, the lefthander who originally signed with the Yankees and went to the White Sox as a six-year, minor-league free agent. Chase Headley walked and scored on a double to center by Aaron Hicks. A single to right by Didi Gregorius scored Hicks. Austin Romine followed with a double, but the automatic kind that bounced over the fence in right-center, which hurt the Yanks because Gregorius had to go back to third base. Brett Gardner grounded out to end the added threat.
Another positive sign was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on the field for the first time in eight games since injuring his right hip as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. At two hours, 24 minutes, the game was the shortest nine-inning game at the Stadium since a 2:20 game June 6 last year against the Angels