If teams didn’t change their view on facing the Yankees last Monday when Aroldis Chapman returned to the roster, they are about to. Saturday’s 2-1 win over the White Sox at the Stadium will see to that.
The end-game trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman should be the Yankees’ biggest strength this season and manager Joe Girardi got to deploy it for the first time to beat Chicago. Betances entered in the sixth and the White Sox bats made barely a peep as the threesome recorded the last 10 outs, eight via strikeouts.
“If you don’t get anything early, you’re going to end up with the back of their bullpen. They have a great back end of the bullpen,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You have to be able to get something early like we did [Friday] night.”
This Yankees weapon will loom over every game before it starts, especially if it’s clear all three are available. It’s because, as Ventura said, scoring against the starting pitcher becomes more essential and that’s an extra pressure that managers and players don’t need.
On the day before Chapman returned, Red Sox manager John Farrell conceded that when considering a full-strength Yankees bullpen, one might opt to manufacture an early run in a given situation. Ventura’s take was a variation on that riff.
“You have to be able to get something offensively,” Ventura said. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to bunt guys around and give up outs to do it. But you just want your offense to score some runs.”
Chicago’s Todd Frazier, who battled his former Cincinnati teammate Chapman in an eight-pitch strikeout, was asked about the players’ awareness of the trio and said, “We all know who they’ve got.”
“It seemed like Girardi couldn’t wait to get Betances in there after they walked me,” he added of the sixth inning. “You tip your cap to them today. They dominated the last three innings.”
What the Yankees are doing — having three high-power arms at the end of their bullpen — isn’t new. The Royals have used a similar approach in recent years and Yankees catcher Brian McCann said that facing any team with three closer-level relievers weighs on a hitter.
“There’s no doubt about it. It changes the way you think,” McCann said. “When I first broke in to the league it was ‘let’s get into the bullpen as quick as possible, get the starter out.’ It is not like that anymore. Everybody throws hard. Guys who are the seventh man in the bullpen are throwing 96-98 mph and 10 years ago it wasn’t like that.”
With Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers — nicknamed the Nasty Boys — the 1990 Reds won the World Series. The Royals have used their approach to reach two straight World Series.
Time will tell if this is the best group assembled, but as Ventura said “I think when you start measuring up guys, these guys are tough. All of them are closers.”