The Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday offered a reminder of how the team’s relief pitching is supposed to work. David Robertson and Dellin Betances each pitched a scoreless inning in a tight game to set up closer Aroldis Chapman for a scoreless ninth. It’s a fairly simple formula.
However, things have been anything but simple because Betances and Robertson have battled periods of ineffectiveness. Betances’ ERA hung above 5.00 for most of the first six weeks of the season. Robertson has given up runs more often than not in May; after a bad outing last week, he said: “I’ve been very poor.”
The way they executed in helping the Yankees take the series from the Angels might be an indication that the team’s end game is getting right. None of the three pitched exceptionally — each had to get multiple outs after allowing a runner to get on base — but they delivered when they needed to. As manager Aaron Boone put it, “We made a lot of quality pitches when guys were on base.”
The most recent concerns about Chapman came after his four-out save in Friday night’s win. After the game, Chapman had a wrap on his left knee. He was up throwing in the bullpen in the seventh, although Boone said it was “just playing catch” and not testing the knee.
Betances got Mike Trout to hit into a forceout and Andrelton Simmons to hit into a double play in the eighth. He believes that whatever was afflicting him early has passed.
“I feel like I am back. I feel like my mindset is strong,” he said. “My pitches are there. I’m throwing strikes with my fastball and my breaking ball. I can kind of throw it any time I want. Last year there was a lot of inconsistency there [and] at times I was lost on the mound. Every time I go out [now], I feel my stuff is playing very well.”
Robertson’s scoreless seventh included a one-out single by Martin Maldonado, but it was his second scoreless appearance in a row since a poor showing in Texas. “That happens in baseball and it happens to all of us. Sometimes you go through a rough patch,’’ Gary Sanchez said. “To me, he looked sharp today. He wasn’t that far away from where he usually is.”
Boone indicated that the way Sunday’s end game played out — with Robertson in the seventh and Betances in the eighth — is what the Yankees want it to be going forward. “When it lines up . . . when the game unfolds, we’ll see [them] in that spot,” he said.
Boone always believed that he would have the shutdown back of the bullpen clicking at some point because Robertson and Betances “are really good” and “you’re going to have a hiccup along the way over the course of a long season.
“But those guys not only have a track record but have a track record of being highly successful,” Boone added. “So you continue to work through it. As long as we are seeing the stuff from them that has made them elite — which I am — then you work through it with them and try to put them in spots where they have been successful.”