Ever since closer Aroldis Chapman went on the disabled list two weeks ago, it has not always been easy to get the ball to Dellin Betances.
Relievers Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve and Tyler Clippard, mostly effective this season, each suffered a hiccup or two in that stretch.
And so some nervous energy pulsated throughout Yankee Stadium, and maybe even the Yankees’ dugout, on Saturday afternoon when Joe Girardi pulled CC Sabathia with one out in the seventh, a man on second and the Yankees leading by a run.
On this day, Warren did his job, but for the second straight game, Clippard did not.
Betances, however, continued his run of dominance this season regardless of his role. He recorded the final five outs, picking up consecutive strikeouts to escape a second-and-third jam in the eighth and pitching a perfect ninth in a 3-2 victory over the A’s in front of 40,218 at the Stadium.
“He’s our guy,” Aaron Judge said after the Yankees won despite picking up only two hits. “I trust him. Even if it’s bases loaded and no outs, I want Dellin out there.”
Added Matt Holliday, who broke up Jharel Cotton’s no-hitter with a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth that gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead: “It’s crazy how good Dellin’s throwing the ball. It’s pretty much over when he comes in.”
It was the third career save of at least 1 2⁄3 innings for the well-rested Betances (who had pitched only one inning in the previous four days) and the first since June 17, 2015, against the Marlins.
The 6-8 righthander, who struck out three of the five batters he faced in lowering his ERA to 0.52, has struck out 32 and allowed only eight hits in 17 1⁄3 innings.
“I enjoy coming in in those situations,” he said. “Game’s on the line and I have to execute and make pitches.”
CC Sabathia (5-2, 4.42 ERA) was terrific for a third straight outing, allowing two runs and six hits in 6 1⁄3 innings and striking out nine.
But after Josh Phegley hit a long home run to leftfield with one out in the seventh to make it 3-2 and Adam Rosales doubled, Girardi called on Warren. The righthander, who had allowed seven earned runs in his previous 5 1⁄3 innings, got pinch hitter Matt Joyce to ground out and struck out Mark Canha to end an eight-pitch at-bat.
“We know we have to step up with Chapman out,” Warren said. “Yeah, we’ve had a couple bumps, but I still think there’s a lot of confidence in that bullpen in ourselves.”
Clippard, who allowed an inherited runner to score and gave up a run, two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning Friday night, struck out Jed Lowrie looking to start the eighth (Lowrie was ejected by plate umpire Will Little, whose strike zone was, to put it generously, inconsistent).
Then Clippard walked Khris Davis and allowed a double to Ryon Healy, necessitating the call to Betances.
He struck out Trevor Plouffe looking at a borderline pitch — A’s manager Bob Melvin was ejected — and then struck out Chad Pinder swinging on a pitch in the dirt to end the threat. Betances struck out Joyce swinging in the ninth to end it. All three strikeouts came on breaking balls.
“It’s not something we want to make a habit of, really don’t want to make a habit of the five-out save,” Girardi said. “But I just felt like today we needed it. We needed a strikeout, and he’s the best at that.”