Wither Dellin Betances?
Joe Girardi did not have to say it, but Betances likely will not be anywhere near the mound for the Yankees if the score is close Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Division Series with the Indians.
Baseball parlance has taken to the term “leverage’’ in describing the situations where relief pitchers enter a game. The highest leverage is the ninth inning with a one-run lead, the level where Mariano Rivera thrived.
With the Yankees leading, 7-3, after seven innings in Game 4, Betances was called into a medium leverage situation. When he walked Francisco Lindor and Yan Gomes, the first two batters he faced, Betances’ job as the 8th inning go-to guy was over for this series and maybe beyond, too.
The Yankees have options, and on Monday night it was Tommy Kahnle, who retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts to end the inning. For good measure, he struck out the side in the ninth. That saved the Yankees from going to closer Aroldis Chapman, who on Sunday had thrown 34 pitches in a five-out save.
“Dellin struggled throwing strikes and I just felt like I had to make the move to go to Kahnle,’’ Joe Girardi said. “And in a night where you’re trying to stay away from Chapman, I’m trying to do everything I can to stay away from Chapman, so I just felt like I had to make the move. His other [three] innings [in two appearances against the Indians] have been really pretty good. But tonight, he was a little off.’’
Betances had been battling mechanical issues on and off during the season.
“I felt like I was a little too all over, a little out of whack,’’ he said of this outing. “I gotta thank Tommy Kahnle, he did a hell of a job behind me. I can’t put them in that situation. I got to be better than that.
“I just put two guys on, it’s a 7-3 ball game. You can’t put guys on and expect to keep pitching. I got to be able to dial it down a little bit, make pitches.’’
Asked if thinks he lost his late-inning job, Betances said, “I’m being ready whenever my name is called. I know I’m going to help this team out. If it’s Wednesday it’s Wednesday. If not, hopefully after we win, the next series.’’
If part of Betances’ problem was being too excited, Kahnle seemed the opposite.
“To be honest I didn’t feel any pressure,’’ he said. “I take every outing as the same, go in just be aggressive, try to get outs. I’m coming in, I’m going to try to help out my teammate, get out of there without giving up his runs and save the team as well. Slow down, don’t get too amped up. I stay calm and make pitch-by-pitch. It seems to work. Same approach I’ve always had, tried to be aggressive and get the outs. Anything to prevent the other team from scoring.
Kahnle said he doesn’t have any designs on the eighth-inning job.
“No not at all, whatever they need me to do, I’m just going to keep doing that. I don’t think [pitching the eighth] it’s a big deal with us. We have plenty of guys that can handle the job.’’
Kahnle started the year with the struggling White Sox and now is in his first postseason. He hasn’t given up a hit in five innings of relief.
“You always have to have it in the back of your mind one day you may be on the team in this situation,’’ he said. “My whole life I’ve been waiting for this moment.’’