Sweet relief: Yanks' bullpen shuts down Astros

Yates, Shreve, Betances and Miller combine for four scoreless innings

Sweet relief: Yanks' bullpen shuts down Astros

NEW YORK -- Kirby Yates made his Yankees debut in relief of Nathan Eovaldi in the sixth inning of the Yanks' 8-5 win over the Astros on Thursday. The score was tied at 5 when Yates toed the rubber, and to that point the Astros had already shelled Eovaldi for two home runs and two doubles, and the ball seemed to be carrying further with each passing inning.

But Yates wasn't thinking about any of that.

"I don't ever kind of pay attention to that," Yates said. "If you start thinking about that or start thinking about, 'Well, the ball is really flying,' it's just negative thoughts you don't really need. So I just kind of went in there and focused on myself."

Yates fans White

It worked. Yates set down the Astros for a scoreless sixth, allowing only one hit and striking out two in the process. And Yates' inning begat more bullpen success. Chasen Shreve followed with a scoreless and hitless seventh. Then came Dellin Betances, striking out two in a three-up, three-down eighth inning against the core of the Astros' lineup. And to finish the day, closer Andrew Miller made his 2016 debut with three strikeouts, working out of a jam to secure the save.

In all, the bullpen allowed just three hits and no walks and struck out seven in four scoreless innings, securing the game and a series victory for the Yankees.

Betances strikes out two

For Betances and Miller, successful Thursday outings were vital for their psyche. After his Opening Day performance featured the Astros taking the lead as he committed a costly error on a controversial play in an eventual loss for the Yankees, Thursday was a return to normalcy for Betances.

"I was hoping [it would be] yesterday, but we scored a lot of runs," Betances said of his second chance. "But it was good to get back out there, especially after the first."

As for Miller, Thursday's season debut came with a few question marks, as some expected a fractured bone in his non-throwing wrist might hamper his pitching ability. But to Miller, that couldn't be further from the truth.

"Honestly, I know we have to talk about it, but I don't want to," Miller said. "I don't think it matters. It doesn't really affect my performance at all. It doesn't affect my ability to pitch. I just want to go out there and treat it like it's nothing."

To Yankees fans, Miller and Betances are known commodities. And when Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension in May, the trio is going to be among the most formidable late-inning groups in baseball. But to Miller, Betances and manager Joe Girardi, the true strength of the Yankees' bullpen is its depth, in the abilities of Shreve, Yates, Johnny Barbato, Luis Cessa and Ivan Nova.

In Betances' mind, all is good when the Yankees make a call to the bullpen.

"It doesn't matter who's in there," Betances said. "They're confident they're going to get the job done."

Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.