Three rain delays could not stop the New York Yankees from winning their sixth straight game Friday night in the Bronx. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-5 and are knocking on the door. Who would have imagined five weeks ago that there would be important games like this in September?
But the Yankees are doing it different ways, and manager Joe Girardi is pushing the right buttons. It helps to have a deep bullpen this time of year and a closer, Dellin Betances wanted to finish the job after the last rain delay of 51 minutes, this after allowing the Rays to have runners on the corners with one out.
Betances threw 14 pitches, and 14 of them strikes that accounted for two strikeouts in that long and final inning. Throwing a 100-mile fastball was impressive when you consider that Girardi had doubts about his closer returning after the delay.
“Betances said he felt fine,” Girardi said about the decision to return is closer to the mound. “He probably won’t be available tomorrow.”
And that is a price during a pennant race in September.
Girardi will settle with the fact his closer is not available Saturday afternoon. But, that ability of having an expanding bullpen in a September pennant race made the decision easier. There is no Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, part of the fire sale at a trading deadline for the Yankees that was supposed to build for next year and the one after.
But something happened last month. Youngsters changed the complexion of a team that was not expected to be playing meaningful baseball this month, and teams ahead of the Yankees continued to struggle and allowed them to get back in the AL wildcard picture that narrowed their gap also for the division title.
Betances struck out Brad Miller and after giving up an RBI single to Logan Morrison, he got Stephen Souza to end the game with a swing and a miss on a fastball.
The last rain delay did not disrupt the closer from getting his 10th save. And it was an important one as the Yankees inched closer to within-one game of the wildcard.
“I ran a bike for a little bit, got stretched,” he said. Betances put some of that red-hot on his arm, and said, “just made sure I stayed loose as I can.” And there goes the theory that ballplayers play cards, watch TV in the clubhouse and fill their stomachs during rain delays.
This is what the Yankees are doing during this stretch run, one that is becoming more remarkable each game, and of course winning ballgames, 23-13 since that trading deadline.
And they are getting the contributions from that bullpen, more so before Betances gets to secure the wins. Tyler Clippard, who knows a little something about an amazing run, off a September last year with the crosstown Mets, tossed a scoreless eighth inning. In 18-games since being acquired at the deadline, Clippard has posted a 0.53 ERA and allowed only three runs.
“We are doing whatever it takes,” Girardi said. “We have to keep it going. Every team is in front of us and the guys have done a tremendous job.”
He was referring to the other guys in that bullpen,a lineup of youngsters and a veteran, Mark Teixeira who reached base four times and the most significant hit was the 11th grand slam of his career after the first 21-minute rain delay in the fourth inning.
“I didn’t know how many more grand slams I had left in me,” said Teixeira in the final season of his career. “I’m emptying the tank, I want to be a big part of this team. Whether it’s every other night, every third night, whatever it is.”
Betances is one of those relatively young guys at 28 years old. The youngsters are Gary Sanchez, Aaron Jude and Tyler Austin. One night or another, they are all contributing in this run and winning a game after three rain delays made the long night worth the wait.
“These young guys, man,” said Betances,”The energy is definitely feeding off everybody here.” And that includes Sanchez who hit the 12th home run in his 34th career game.
And for the Yankees, the energy of Betances and a bullpen is securing the wins.