An element of the Yankees that is supposed to be an unquestioned strength finally was exactly that Thursday night.
The bullpen mostly locked down the Blue Jays for 4 2⁄3 innings in the Yankees’ 4-3 win at the Stadium. Chad Green, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman followed CC Sabathia and allowed one run and two hits, striking out eight.
“One of the strengths of our club, obviously, is that pen and those guys’ ability to close out games,” said Aaron Boone, whose team took a 4-2 lead on Aaron Judge’s homer in the seventh. “It’s four dynamic guys that came in there and did their job. Even though Robby had the little hiccup there, [his] ability to self-correct and still wiggle out of it . . . Excited to see it roll out like that.”
Though the Yankees (9-8) committed their American League-worst 18th error and Gary Sanchez was charged with two passed balls — including one that allowed a run to score with two outs in the third — it was nonetheless a nice bounce-back against surprising Toronto (12-6) after Tuesday’s blowout loss to the lowly Marlins.
Sabathia, who came off the disabled list to make his first start since April 6, allowed two runs (none earned) and four hits in 4 1⁄3 innings. He departed with one on and one out in the fifth, and Green (3-0) struck out two in 1 2⁄3 innings. Betances added a perfect seventh. Robertson gave up two hits and walked two in the eighth, but he allowed only one run after the Blue Jays loaded the bases with none out.
“Big sigh of relief is what it was,” Robertson said. “I didn’t have my best stuff.”
Aroldis Chapman did, striking out the side on 12 pitches in the ninth for his third save.
“We went in there and did our job,” said Chapman, who has struck out 17 in eight innings. “The bullpen hasn’t been what we expect of ourselves, but the good thing is it’s early.”
Judge reached 61 career homers in his 199th game — the fastest in major-league history — with a solo shot off former teammate Tyler Clippard in the seventh to make it 4-2, setting up Robertson’s cliffhanger.
He allowed a leadoff single to Teoscar Hernandez and walked Justin Smoak and Yangervis Solarte to load the bases. Robertson then went into his Houdini act, honed in his first stint with the Yankees from 2008-14.
He struck out Kevin Pillar swinging at a curveball. Curtis Granderson pinch hit for Aledmys Diaz and flared an RBI single to left to make it 4-3, but Robertson struck out Randal Grichuk swinging at a curveball in the dirt and got Luke Maile on a fly to left.
“Whenever it’s a tough situation like that,” Judge said, “I want D-Rob on the mound.”
Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.
Tyler Wade had an RBI groundout and Ronald Torreyes added a two-out RBI single in the second to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Sanchez’s first passed ball, which came on a cross-up as he put down the sign for a slider but got a Sabathia cutter instead, produced a run in the third to make it 2-1. Torreyes’ error helped the Blue Jays tie it in the fourth.
After Judge beat out a potential double-play ball to keep the fifth inning alive, Didi Gregorius’ two-out RBI single gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
The story this night, however, was a relief corps that had been inconsistent.
“I like our chances against anybody,” Betances said of the relievers. “One to seven, we have great stuff in the bullpen.”