One day after shaky 'pen performance, acting closer K's 3 in clutch outing
By Matthew Martell
NEW YORK -- Over the past few weeks, the Yankees have struggled to secure the bridge between their starters and right-handed relief ace Dellin Betances, who is the acting closer with Aroldis Chapman on the disabled list.
So with one out and runners on second and third in the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Athletics on Saturday, Betances bridged part of the gap himself by completing an impressive five-out save.
"It's crazy how good Dellin is throwing the ball," said Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday. "It's pretty much over when he comes in. It's awfully nice to have someone like him who can step in and fill the closer role."
Betances has looked as dominant as ever through the early part of this season, especially since taking over in Chapman's absence. Betances is 5-for-5 in save opportunities and hasn't allowed an earned run since May 17. But none of those outings were as important as Saturday's, when he entered the game with a one-run lead and two runners in scoring position.
Betances struck out the next two A's hitters, Trevor Plouffe looking and Chad Pinder swinging, with his slider to get out of the jam.
"I'm not trying to give up that run. I'm not trying to give up that lead," Betances said. "I'm doing the best I can to throw my best pitches. A strikeout is obviously huge there, but we've got infield in. So whatever we can [do] without letting the run score, that's my goal."
Betances worked a smooth 1-2-3 ninth and struck out Matt Joyce, again with a slider, to end the game. Opposing hitters are now 0-for-27 with 19 strikeouts this year against the pitch.
Manager Joe Girardi said he was planning on using Betances in the eighth inning for either a four-out save or for five outs, regardless of whether reliever Tyler Clippard retired Ryon Healy.
But when Healy doubled and Khris Davis advanced to third, it was obvious Betances was getting the ball.
"We needed a strikeout," Girardi said. "And he's the best at that."
The Yankees' bullpen hasn't performed as well since Chapman went on the disabled list on May 14. With Betances moving to the closer's role, Clippard was pushed from the seventh to the eighth inning and Adam Warren was bumped from the middle innings to the seventh.
In his six appearances since Chapman went down, Warren has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in six innings. Clippard has given up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in that stretch, though his troubles have come in each of the last two games.
Betances, however, has been the guy the Yankees have needed him to be.
"He was phenomenal," said pitcher CC Sabathia, who started Saturday's game. "Obviously that's a tough spot he came into, but he was able to get out of it and it was huge for us."
Matthew Martell 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.