The Yankees pitchers were good even when they weren’t dominant in Friday’s 4-3 over the Cardinals which is what made the difference. Masahiro Tanaka gave up three runs in 6.1 innings but still retired 15 of 17 during one stretch.
After Tyler Clippard pitched out of a jam, Dellin Betances threw 10 balls and 10 strikes but still struck out the side in a scoreless eighth. And Aroldis Chapman picked up the save despite surrendering a walk and a double.
“You want to see them be able to do that because those are the big outs,” Girardi said. “When things are going great anyone can get outs. Not anyone, but to get out of some tough situations, runners in scoring position, second and third with one out for Clippard to be able to get out of that, and then Dellin to get out of his inning, and Chapman to get out of his inning just shows you the kind of stuff that they have.”
Tanaka entered the game with an ERA of 11.74, although in fairness to the righty it was only in two starts and a bad Opening Day can leave a pitcher trying to lower his ERA for the next month. Three batters into the game, Matt Carpenter crushed a two-run homer but Tanaka looked better after Starlin Castro tied the game in the bottom of the inning, almost giving Tanaka a mulligan. Girardi said that he felt Tanaka’s stuff got really sharp in the third inning. Between the second and sixth innings, the only runners to reach were Aledmys Díaz on a pop fly double that was just fair and bounced into the seats, and Matt Carpenter on a pitch around walk with first base open.
And Matt Adams began the seventh with a broken bat single to beat the shift. Randal Grichuk’s RBI double ended Tanaka’s night and Clippard entered with runners on second and third but recorded a pair of fly outs.
Betances struck out the side with a walk mixed and then Chapman got Dexter Fowler to ground out with the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. “They’re strikeout guys that can get big outs when they need to,” Girardi said.
As if hitting Chapman’s fastball, which occasionally can reach 102 or 103 MPH, wasn’t tough enough, he’s been throwing his off speed stuff more often. “I told you in spring training he had a lot better changeup than people knew about,” Girardi said. “And he’s throwing it. And it’s looked pretty darn good.”
The Yankees have been able to shorten games with their terrific bullpen over the years, and Girardi liked seeing them do it even when they weren’t at their best.