Forget the stat sheet for a minute: As far as anyone is concerned, Miguel Andujar got the save on Saturday, and maybe even the win.
It was Andujar whose tiebreaking two-out, two-run homer to right-center in the bottom of the seventh inning bailed out the bullpen after Zach Britton and Dellin Betances coughed up the lead in the top of the inning.
And it was Andujar who gave Aroldis Chapman a little bit of a cushion in the pouring rain in the ninth inning as the Yankees held on for a wet, messy 5-3 win over the Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
(For the record, Betances, who balked home the tying run with two outs in the seventh, got the win and Chapman, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam, got his 30th save.)
Andujar produced his fourth career go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later, a no-doubt blast off Chris Martin to break a tie at 3. The third baseman — who now leads all rookies with 50 extra-base hits — has homered in three of his last five games and is 9-for-21 with seven RBIs in that span.
“Not only is he a good hitter, he’s a smart hitter,” Aaron Boone said. “I think he does a really good job of understanding what clubs or pitchers are trying to do to him… He’s versatile with what he can handle in the strike zone and there isn’t one way to get him out.”
Said Andujar: “You’ve got to stick to your plan. When I go out there, I have a plan — find your pitch to hit and hit it hard, hit it somewhere.”
Britton got two quick outs in the seventh, but Shin-Soo Choo reached on an infield single, Rougned Odor singled and Elvis Andrus walked to load the bases. Britton then missed on a 3-and-2 pitch to Adrian Beltre to cut the Yankees’ lead to 3-2 and walked off to a smattering of boos. Then, with two strikes on Jurickson Profar, Odor pretended to break for home and Betances flinched, balking home the tying run.
Former Orioles closer Britton, who came back from Achilles tendon surgery in mid-June and was traded to the Yankees a month later, has struggled in his setup role. He said his woes aren’t a result of any lingering physical ailment.
“It’s about as frustrated as I’ve been throughout my career,” he said, adding that he’s struggling with his control, which comes from not fully trusting what he can do after returning from surgery. “It’s something I need to figure out quickly … I think a lot of it is mental. The physical part is there. I think now it’s a mental block — getting over that and trusting my stuff.”
Betances bounced back from the balk to strike out Profar with his next pitch and retired the side in order in the eighth, but Chapman sputtered in the pelting rain in the ninth. Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off with a walk, Odor singled with one out and Beltre was hit just above the knee with a 100.3-mph fastball with two outs to load the bases.
Chapman, who has experienced trouble with his control and diminished velocity on his fastball lately, then fell behind Profar 3-and-1. He got a called strike with a 97-mph fastball and struck out Profar swinging with a 98-mph fastball, his 29th pitch of the inning, to end it.
Six days earlier, Chapman had thrown 39 pitches in the ninth inning while allowing three walks and three runs and blowing a save against the Red Sox in a game the Yankees would lose in 10 innings.
When asked if his knee tendinitis is leading to his command issues, he said, “The knee is getting better.”
“Chappy is just continuing to grind in brutal conditions out there,” Boone said. “Considering the conditions, considering where we’re at right now, to grind one out is nice.”
Before that, the Yankees played chicken with the inclement weather but otherwise cruised through the first six innings, thanks to some well-placed hits and yet another strong start by Lance Lynn.
In the first inning, after Giancarlo Stanton hit his 29th homer, Andujar singled with two outs and scored on Greg Bird’s double to right-center — his first RBI since July 31. Andrus’ RBI single in the third cut the lead in half.
Lynn, who has allowed one run and struck out 22 in 16 2/3 innings as a Yankee, was pulled after five innings and 99 pitches.
Bird doubled in the sixth and scored on a single by rightfielder Neil Walker, who started in the outfield for the first time in his 10-year career, for a 3-1 lead.
The Yankees fell 9 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, who swept the Orioles in a doubleheader, but remained 4 1/2 games ahead of the A's for the first wild card and six games ahead of the Mariners for the second wild card.
“It’s not always going to be easy and it’s hard for us right now,” Boone said. “But we did a lot of good things today and found a way to win a game when it was hard.”