Before the Subway Series began, Joe Girardi noted that all the games the Yankees are playing right now are big games. And there’s a little added motivation. “It’s big because one of my best friends in New York is a Mets fan and I don’t want to listen to him,” Girardi said.
The Yankees won 4-2 on Monday night in a low scoring game that still featured five home runs. There was Aaron Judge’s game-tying blast. Aaron Hicks giving the Yankees an eighth inning lead with a solo homer.
And Gary Sanchez’s homer providing insurance.
But the unsung hero of this game was Chad Green. Green entered in the fifth inning in relief of an injured Luis Cessa. With the Yankees trailing 2-1, Green kept the Mets close with 2.1 innings of shutout relief, striking out four and allowing only a sixth inning walk to Yoenis Cespedes. “He’s been able to be a multiple inning guy for us, which in today’s world is really important,” Girardi said. “And you don’t always see multiple inning guys that are strikeout guys. He has both which is really important, especially a lot of times when you play at this ballpark. His season, so far up to this point, has been extremely impressive.”
Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver felt that the best place for a young pitcher is long relief. He would probably approve of Green, despite the pitcher wearing pinstripes and not Oriole colors. Green has been under the radar in a bullpen with superstars but has looked so good at other times that Girardi has fielded questions about Green possibly starting.
Coming into Monday, Green led the Majors striking out 49.1% of the batters he’s faced. He now has at least two strikeouts in fourteen of his last 15 appearances. And he’s fifth among AL relievers in ERA.
This is a long way from spring training 2016, when he was a non-roster invitee and was 0-2 with a 16.88 ERA. “I think every game right now is big,” Green said. “Especially after a tough loss last night it was good to watch that game.”
Sometimes a long reliever can find himself pitching in mop-up situations after a starter gets shelled, but Green has pitched in high-leverage situations. The right-handed pitcher isn’t overthinking things. “Just trying to take it a day at a time,” Green said. “Not looking too far into the future.”
Green went 2-4 with a save and a 4.73 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) last season. He kept shuttling between the majors and minors, with an impressive 1.52 ERA in 16 starts in Triple-A. A right elbow injury ended his season in early September but he’s been healthy this season.
He said that he talks to the other pitchers in the bullpen and takes a little advice from each of them.
Whatever it is they imparted on him, Green has been one of the better arms in the AL, let alone the Yankee bullpen. Plus Girardi can bridge the gap from his starters to set-up men so much easier.
Green had five stints with the Yankees last season and two this year, but it’s safe to say he won’t be sent back to the minors this season.