Their season could have ended Tuesday night but the Yankees had one advantage in this AL Wild Card game as opposed to what they had two years ago in the Bronx against the Houston Astros. They had a starter, Luis Severino who was ineffective and a bullpen that made a statement for a possible nice run this October.
Severino did not get out of the first inning but there was that bullpen, which was supposed to be the deciding factor if the Yankees were moving on in October.
And there was that home run ball, three of them. Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge leading to a 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins and now the task awaits against the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.
And all that can be asked for is more home runs and enough from the starting pitching, if not there is that Yankees bullpen that tossed 8-⅔ innings and gave up one run and four hits when Severino could not get out of the first inning.
“Our bullpen was remarkable tonight,” said manager Joe Girardi. “The innings they gave us, the innings that David Robertson gave us, how they saved each other’s runs, I mean, it was remarkable.”
And in postseason baseball, it is the team with a bullpen that can get the job done. Chad Green in the first inning that did not let the game get away and kept it 3-0. The length from David Robertson, who may not be available for that important first game Thursday night in Cleveland, so Girardi may have to have the confidence again with Dellin Betances.
But for now, the Yankees will take this one to Cleveland and have the confidence they can get out of town with a split, or maybe two games against the Indians who to many are the best team in baseball.
“We got some length out of Tommy Kahnle and obviously turned the ball into Chappy in the ninth and he looked great,” Gardner said. Aroldis Chapman is the closer and you know he will be available to work those first two games in Cleveland and last October that was the difference when he closed those games in the postseason for the Chicago Cubs.
Green, Robertson, Kahnie and Chapman struck out 13 Twins, and again if the Yankees are making this deep run this October those valuable arms out of the pen, with the second most strikeouts in baseball this season, will get them there.
“And you know,” Girardi said, “ part of it is trying to decide who to bring in, and we talked about Greeny and Robby would be the first two guys that we would bring in tonight, no matter when the situation was, to try to put innings out, and to get as much out of him as we could.”
It is this bullpen that GM Brian Cashman built at the trading deadline. Robertson had an impact once before with the Yankees and in his fifth career trip to the postseason has held opponents in 17 of 20 career playoff relief appearances.
So this win was more than the first Aaron Judge career postseason home run, and Luis Severino giving up a first inning home run ball and his inability to get through that inning. It was all about this Yankees bullpen that can take this team deep into October, regardless if the Indians are overwhelming favorites to move on to the ALCS a second straight year.
“When Joe calls on me to go out there and pitch, I’m going to pitch” Robertson said. “If it’s the second or third inning and that’s when I’m need to help us win a ballgame, that’s what I’ll pitch. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to win another World Series.”
We saw this from the Cubs last October, the bullpen did their role when the starters could not. And get enough runs to give that pen some room to work. The Yankees had that plan in motion Tuesday night and there is every reason to believe that this will continue in this upcoming series with the Indians.
Robertson threw 3-⅓ innings on 52 pitches and said, “I felt like everyone was on board and no one wanted the season to end tonight.”
Neither did 49,000 fans in the Bronx want the season to end and they get at least one more game Sunday night when the ALDS moves to Yankee Stadium Sunday night for Game 3.