A year ago, Joe Girardi tried to avoid using a struggling Dellin Betances in the playoffs. This year, Aaron Boone made his first bullpen call of this postseason – and the first of his postseason managerial career -- to bring in the big righthander.
And, boy, is Boone glad he did. Betances threw two perfect innings with three strikeouts and was the winning pitcher in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the A’s in the AL Wild Card game on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
With eight other pitchers at his disposal, Boone called in Betances to relieve Luis Severino against the meat of the Oakland order with two men on and none out in the fifth inning with the Yankees leading 2-0.
Betances rewarded Boone’s faith by getting Matt Chapman to fly out to right, Jed Lowrie to fly out to center and AL home run king Khris Davis (48 longballs) to strike out to end the inning.
Betances had his back to the plate when Davis swung and missed. The fired-up righthander backpedalled toward the Yankees dugout in a new celebration that could be called the Betances Shuffle.
“I’ve been waiting for that moment since last year,” Betances said. “Obviously, last year I didn’t finish the season the way I wanted to. So for me to be able to go out there and do that, it’s a dream come true.”
Betances gave the Yankees another scoreless inning with a pair of strikeouts in a perfect sixth. The Yankees scored four times in the bottom of the inning to take a 6-0 lead.
Boone then turned to David Robertson, who gave up a screaming line drive to Marcus Semien to open the seventh. Adeiny Hechavarria, who had entered the game at third base to replace Miguel Andujar for defense in the sixth, made a spectacular leaping grab for the first out.
Robertson retired the next two batters without too much fuss.
Zach Britton spoiled the pen party briefly when he allowed a two-run homer to Davis in the eighth to make it 6-2.
Giancarlo Stanton, in his first postseason game, got one of the runs back with a towering home run to left in the bottom half.
In the ninth, Aroldis Chapman allowed a leadoff single to Semien, but struck out the next two batters and got Matt Chapman to ground to first as the Yankees advanced to face Boston in the ALDS beginning on Friday night at Fenway Park.
“It’s amazing,” Betances said. “We’re familiar with each other. It’s going to be a tremendous series. We’re excited.”