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Tyler Clippard struggles a bit but finally nails down save

New York Yankees relief pitcher Tyler Clippard reacts

New York Yankees relief pitcher Tyler Clippard reacts after he strikes out St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Randal Grichuk to end an MLB game on Jackie Robinson Day at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, April 15, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

For a while there, it looked as if the Cardinals were doing everything but wrapping the game ball in a bright red bow. And for a while there, it looked as if Tyler Clippard was doing everything in his power to give it right back.

With Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances unavailable because of recent heavy workloads, it fell to Clippard to shut down the Cardinals on Saturday after the Yankees failed to fully capitalize on erratic pitching and flimsy fielding. After beginning the ninth with a two-run lead, he allowed a solo homer by Stephen Piscotty and (eventually) danced out of trouble to earn his first save of the year in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory.

Betances had pitched on back-to-back days (42 pitches) and Chapman had pitched three straight days (51 pitches). So Clippard, who usually is the Yankees’ seventh-inning guy, got a chance to close.

“It was fun,” he said. “Any time you get out there in those high-pressure situations and you’re helping your team win, it’s fun. To finish out the game makes it even more special, so it’s fun. It definitely wasn’t how I drew it up. I thought I made some great pitches today, pretty much executed everything I wanted to do.”

The pitches may have been great, but, as Clippard said, the result almost was not.

After Piscotty’s homer on an 0-and-2 pitch, Clippard struck out Yadier Molina for the second out but allowed the next two to reach: Matt Adams dribbled an infield single to the left side against the overshift and Greg Garcia walked, putting the go-ahead run at first. But Randal Grichuk struck out on four pitches — the last one an 83-mph changeup — to end it.

“The home run was a bit shocking because I felt like I threw a good pitch,” Clippard said. “ It was literally right where I wanted to throw it. He just got the barrel to it . . . I tip my cap. I was glad I was able to get us in the clubhouse with a W.”

After relieving CC Sabathia, Adam Warren had gotten two outs in the eighth, and Joe Girardi said he briefly considered sticking with Warren but preferred not to because he had warmed up too many times in the past few days. Instead, Clippard, who is hardly new to save situations (he has converted 57 in his career, including 32 for the 2012 Nationals), got the call, as he expected after being told before the game that Chapman and Betances would not pitch.

Sure, it may not have gone perfectly. But when you’ve won six in a row, as the Yankees have, you certainly can afford to look on the bright side.

“Clip did a nice job and made the big pitches when he had to,” Girardi said. “When you’re using your closer a lot and you have to give him the day off, it’s a good thing because that means you’re winning a lot of games.”

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