BOSTON — Do the Yankees have a Chad Green problem when it comes to closing games?
The sample size isn’t close to being large enough to make that determination, but the righthander, mostly electric out of the bullpen since his breakout 2017 season, has had two high-profile meltdowns in the last two weeks.
The first, not that any Yankees fans need reminding, came in the last game before the All-Star break in Houston on July 11. Green helped flush a 7-2 ninth-inning lead, recording only one out, allowing two runners he inherited from Domingo German to score and being charged with four runs of his own, giving up two doubles, a single and Jose Altuve’s walk-off three-run homer in a shocking 8-7 loss that prevented the Yankees from sweeping the series.
Green threw well in appearances last Sunday against Boston and Tuesday against Philadelphia, but on Thursday night, when he was called on to protect a 3-1 lead against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, he allowed two singles and Kike Hernandez’s two-out, two-run double that forced extra innings.
Green is 3-for-5 in save chances this season — hardly a train wreck in the role — and he was called on Thursday only because Aroldis Chapman pitched Wednesday night. Chapman had been demoted from the role the week before the All-Star break but reassumed it Wednesday.
Luis Cessa had needed only five pitches to record three outs in the eighth, but Aaron Boone opted to bring in Green for the ninth. After he allowed the Red Sox to tie it and the Yankees scored a run in the top of the 10th, Brooks Kriske threw four wild pitches and allowed two runs in the bottom of the inning in the Yankees’ 5-4 loss — the most recent devastating defeat in a long string of them this season.
Relievers for years, including Mariano Rivera, have discussed how inning No. 9 just feels different. Boone, however, said he does not believe Green is one of those relievers who, for whatever reason, can’t translate his effectiveness from innings five through eight into the ninth.
"No, not really," Boone said. "I actually thought he threw the ball really well tonight [Thursday]. I thought he was crisp. I just thought they put some really good swings on him. I thought he was sharper tonight than, say, in Houston, when he was struggling out there to find it a little bit. I didn’t think that was the case tonight. I just thought they put a few really good swings on balls to square him up."
Green, who did not speak with the media after Thursday’s loss — as long as he’s been a Yankee, he has always been among the most accountable players in the clubhouse when things have gone wrong — has never shied away from the difference in pressure. He’s enjoyed the closer role.
"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," Green said July 8. "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."
Green, who is 3-5 with a 3.06 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 50 innings this season, assuredly will get more opportunities to get those three outs in 2021.
"I think when anybody closes out the last three outs of the game, I think it just means more," Green 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."