Yankees unleash full power of bullpen

Betances, Miller and Chapman appear in same game for first time

Yankees unleash full power of bullpen

NEW YORK -- As a large group of media members surrounded him outside of his locker after the Yankees' 2-1 win over the White Sox on Saturday, Andrew Miller was a bit confused.

"I feel like this is a lot of people for a hold in a game," Miller said. "Usually relievers, we get talked to when we blow games."

For a long time, that was the case. But Miller, along with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, is part of no ordinary trio of bullpen arms. As Yankees catcher Brian McCann joked after the win, when he first broke into the league a decade ago, facing the bullpen was a reward for knocking out the starter. Not so much anymore.

Saturday was the first time this season that Betances, Miller and Chapman appeared in the same game, as the trio combined to throw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball with just one hit allowed and eight strikeouts. Betances initiated the chain, entering in relief of starter Ivan Nova with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and striking out Melky Cabrera to end the frame. He remained in the game and struck out the side in the seventh to end his day. Miller followed Betances with two strikeouts of his own in the eighth, and Chapman followed suit with a perfect ninth inning, throwing four of the 10 fastest pitches recorded by Statcast™ this season, including the two fastest at 102.49 mph and 102.38. 

Fans throughout the stadium were on their feet watching the flamethrowers do their job, especially when Chapman was on the mound. And it wasn't just fans. Betances and shortstop Didi Gregorius also mentioned how exciting it is to watch Chapman throw.

As for the man they replaced? Nova -- who allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings -- said he enjoys watching all three of them.

"I feel comfortable with all the guys that we have [in the bullpen], but those three guys especially," he said. "They're strikeout machines. Once you throw six, you can kind of relax [because] they'll get the job done."

Betances strikes out four

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he began to formulate his strategy of using the trio in succession Saturday around the fourth inning. But the strategy itself has of course been in the making far longer than that, dating back to when the Yankees acquired Chapman from the Reds in December. He didn't debut with the Yanks until Monday after serving a suspension to open the year.

"We knew that these would be the type of games that we would use all three of them, and that if we could line them up, it'd be pretty good," Girardi said.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the trio is how different the pitchers' approaches are. Betances recorded three of his four strikeouts using his curveball, Miller notched his two using his slider and Chapman rung two batters up using his signature fastball. Because of the differences between them, it's difficult to compare outings, or even to learn from the previous pitcher, as Miller explained.

Bullpen power trio closes it out

But to Chapman, even if the approaches are different, the results unify the group.

"In a game like that where the score is tight, there's a lot of adrenaline and energy," Chapman said through an interpreter. "But that's something that we feed off of, and I think it's a good formula that we have."

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.