Chad Green more than up to the task of closing for Yankees while Aroldis Chapman struggles
HOUSTON — Mariano Rivera, the best ever at closing games, never ran away from the pressure of the situation.
And he often said that while it's technically true that each of the nine innings in a baseball game count the same, the ninth is different.
Chad Green agrees.
The righthander, who burst on the scene in 2017 with a breakout season out of the Yankees' bullpen, recorded the seventh save of his career and third this season in Wednesday night’s 5-4 victory over the Mariners.
"If you talk to every pitcher, I think anybody who's been in that situation, who's done multiple things, people who've started, people who've been middle relievers, long relievers, they'll say like those last three outs are just different," said Green, whose team began a three-game series against the Astros on Friday night. "Doesn't matter who's up, doesn't matter where you're at in the lineup or what you've done in the past, the game’s just different those last three outs."
He entered Friday night’s game against the Astros in the seventh with the Yankees holding a 4-0 lead and pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.
Green was called upon to close against the Mariners because of the recent struggles of Aroldis Chapman, who at that point had been demoted from the closer role. Before he entered in the seventh on Friday, it seemed as if Green, who entered the night with a 2.23 ERA in 35 games this season, was in line to fill that role until Chapman regains the trust of the Yankees’ hierarchy.
Green is perfectly fine with that, as has been the case whenever he's been called upon to do it.
"I think when anybody closes out the last three outs of the game, I think it just means more," he said. "I think anybody who's been in that situation in the past realizes how hard it is, and those are three very difficult outs to get. So any time you have the opportunity to finish the game, I think it's just exciting. I try not to take that moment for granted or try to take any chance I get for granted."
Green had a 5-0 record, a 1.83 ERA, an 0.74 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 69 innings coming out of the bullpen for Joe Girardi in 2017.
Aaron Judge, who was Green's teammate with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016 — both made their big-league debuts that season — recalled facing Green when the righthander was in the Tigers’ system before his trade to the Yankees.
"I remember facing him in 2015 when he was still the Tigers, he was a starter for them," Judge said. "He always had the good fastball, might have had a little bit of sink back then . . . slider, changeup, but once we got him, he kind of redefined his fastball a little bit, started pitching in the top of the zone and been playing around with that curveball-slider, man, it’s been fun to watch. Like I said earlier, doesn’t matter the situation . . . I remember him coming in in the wild-card game in ’17 [in the first inning against the Twins], nothing fazes him. That’s one thing I’ve always been amazed at with Greeny over the years."
That's the reason the Yankees are more than comfortable giving the ball to Green in the inning in which outs are hardest to come by.
"He's in a really good spot," Aaron Boone said, "He's making very few mistakes."
"I know I talk delivery all the time, and I don't always know what I'm talking about when it comes to delivery," he said, "but I know he is in a really good spot delivery-wise. We're seeing the breaking ball as consistent as it's ever been, but he's throwing the fastball where and how he wants to throw it over and over again."