It’s been a struggle the past few weeks for Tyler Clippard.
As the primary bridge man between the Yankees starters and Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman to close the game, Clippard finds himself pitching in high-pressured situations daily.
As was the case Tuesday night, when the Yankees erased a three-run deficit — the final run coming on a solo home run by Gary Sanchez to tie the score at three in the bottom of the sixth.
Sanchez’s blast could have been a game changer. When jogging down the first-base line, he glared a fierce look at his teammates on the bench as if to say ‘Follow my lead.’
But it didn’t take long for any momentum to be erased.
The Angels’ Cameron Maybin sent the second pitch of the seventh inning off Clippard just far enough to clear the leftfield fence to retake the lead. Kole Calhoun followed one batter later with double. Albert Pujols had a hard-hit flyout and Yunel Escobar delivered the final shot against Clippard with an RBI triple off the left-centerfield fence.
That was the end for Clippard and the Yankees, as Joe Girardi made the walk to the mound and took the ball from his reliever in what was ultimately an 8-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night.
“We’re going through a tough time right now,” said Girardi about his bullpen after the Yankees dropped their seventh straight game. “We’ll get it ironed out. These guys have had too much success and [Clippard] has had too much success and those guys have had too much success for this to continue. But right now, it’s a struggle.”
Clippard recorded his fourth loss of the season, raising his ERA to 3.14 after allowing three earned runs in just a third of an inning. He has allowed runs in three of his last four outings and four of his last seven after entering the month with a 1.64 ERA on the year.
“It’s just up to me to kind of pick myself up. We all have to do that in here,” Clippard said. “We’re in a little bit of a rut right now and we have to get out of it.”
It wasn’t only Clippard who struggled Tuesday night, as Jonathan Holder surrendered the final two runs in 2 2⁄3 innings, along with the inherited run after Clippard’s outing.
Girardi didn’t rule out the possibility of extending a pitcher like Betances multiple innings for the short term, but the manager doesn’t want to do that. Girardi hopes to get Adam Warren off the disabled list soon and for his bridge bullpen hurlers to improve.
“This is a fickle game,” Clippard said. “Baseball has a funny way of when you don’t get the results, you tend to second guess and it’s up to me to take a level-headed assessment of the results.”
But Clippard doesn’t want to be reduced to a lesser role.
“Those are the situations I’ve always pitched in my career,” said Clippard, who has a career 2.92 ERA with 57 saves. “That’s what I’m used to. Nothing’s going to change one way or another as far as my approach or what I’m doing out there.”