Once again the New York Yankees reached the .500 mark Friday night in the Bronx and for the fifth time this season they reached that plateau with a 5-3 win over the Lowly Minnesota Twins. But, the prevailing issue has been getting over that mark and not going below, and the Yankees with two more games against the Twins can finally do that.
Manager Joe Girardi said about being 36-36, “If you continue to win series you will be okay.” He also has the liberty of winning these close games with a backend of a bullpen of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, who most of the time have gone with the plan of putting a win in the books.
The plan worked Friday night. But it was Chapman who put on a show after Betances and Miller preserved a slim lead that was built by starter and winning pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, a 5-2 record that would be more if the Yankees scored more runs in his previous 15 starts.
Chapman needed three outs in the ninth inning. And if there was any doubt about his ability to throw a fastball over 100, there was none after he picked up his 14th save of the season.
“I think he’s an animal,” commented Betances who watched his bullpen mate from a clubhouse TV throw consecutive pitches of 103, and a slider clocked at 104. It was a show and the 44,808 at Yankee Stadium got one. It seems everytime Chapman takes the mound, there will be a show when he throws the fastball.
Added Betances: “For Chapman, he does it all the time. For him, throwing 100 is like me throwing 97.”
The Yankees acquired Chapman in the offseason to go along with Betances and Miller. They are supposed to be the dominating part of this team, and for the most part that “Three-Headed-Monster” out of the pen that makes it the best in baseball.
There is also talk that Chapman, a free agent making substantial money now, could be traded off to another team by the non waiver deadline because he is available and what team would not want a closer this effective in a pennant stretch come September?
The Yankees will know more about themselves at that time and if Chapman is asked for, surely they will listen.
And for the most part, the big three have done their job with an occasional blunder. The home run ball has been bothersome to Chapman in his past few appearances out of the pen. Betances has also sustained his issues with the home run ball and giving up some runs that is indicated by an ERA now at 3.06
But the Yankees, in need of the wins to keep pace in the AL East are 32-0 leading after eight innings. Again, the obvious reason is that three headed team out of the bullpen that at times seems unhittable. Yankees relievers have recorded 40 consecutive strikeouts since their last walk on June 15th at Colorado.
“I can feel the energy of the fans once I make a pitch,” Chapman said through a translator when asked if he hears the fans enthusiasm when taking the mound. “It’s something you can see and you can feel.”
He gets the fans excited, and Miller who preceded him with a perfect inning in the eighth has also become an observer watching from the bench.
“He’s incredible to watch,” Miller said. “He’s one of the most fun guys to watch in baseball. You don’t have to throw that hard, but when you’ve got such an exceptional pitch, I think it’s hard to take your eyes off it.”
Chapman also said, he will give an occasional look at the video board to see the velocity of that fastball. “To see where I’m at,” he said. “It gives me an idea how I’m pitching that night and how to approach the batters.”
So Chapman is also watching and enjoying his show. And if the Yankees can get more consistent pitching from the starters, and more of the timely hits, one from Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez, they can add to the Chapman show in the Bronx.
Aaron Hicks was a part of the show adding an important insurance run with his third home run in the eighth, more importantly the first one he has hit from the right side of the plate.
Girardi, a manager who hoped for more of this bullpen show said, “It’s kind of how we draw it up. That’s really how this club is built.” And when a manager has an effective pitcher like Aroldis Chapman, that show is just about certain to getting more wins.