If Tyler Clippard’s next appearance comes at Yankee Stadium, there’s a real chance boos will drown out his entrance music.
That’s how bad the results are for the Yankees reliever right now. In less than a month, he has gone from a trusted setup man — part of a bullpen that was supposed to be a strength — to completely unreliable.
Last night’s appearance in a 9-4 loss to the Brewers was another low. After a 51-minute rain delay derailed starter Jordan Montgomery’s night and Tyler Webb was ineffective, Clippard came on with two men in scoring position, none out and a two-run lead in the sixth.
The first batter he faced was Jesus Aguilar, and by the time he was done with him, the lead was gone. Clippard’s wild pitch brought in one run and Aguilar’s sacrifice fly tied it at 4-4.
By the time Aguilar’s second turn against him was over, Clippard was gone. He loaded the bases on three walks (one was an intentional pass) and then gave up Aguilar’s grand slam over the centerfield fence. That made it 8-4, and boos washed over Clippard as he was removed.
Joe Girardi said Clippard has struggled for many reasons: walks, a fastball that’s not high in the strike zone and a changeup that’s not low in it. He added of the walks, “Hitters are dangerous and it can lead to big numbers.”
Clippard did not agree, saying “I’m on track.”
When June 13 arrived, he had a 1.72 ERA and had pitched in 21 Yankees wins. He’s been in 10 games since, nine of them losses, and has pitched 8 1⁄3 innings to a 16.20 ERA and a 2.52 WHIP.
Asked if this might have jeopardized his spot on the team, he replied, “I don’t know how they feel. I know how I feel and I feel very good about where I’m at on the mound right now. Tonight the result was a bad result and it can’t happen.”
He didn’t allow a run in his three previous outings, offering hope, but his ERA now is 5.24, and it’s hard to imagine Girardi putting him in another high-leverage situation unless there are no other alternatives.
The Yankees have lost 17 of 23 in the last three-plus weeks, and it is no coincidence that the three pitchers who were designed to be their end game — Clippard-to-Dellin Betances-to-Aroldis Chapman — all are struggling. But Clippard’s malfunction is the most stark and presents problems that must be resolved — and fast.
“[His confidence] is not where you want it because he’s struggled . . . There’s frustration there,” Girardi said. “Clip has been through this before and I believe he will come out of it and be fine. But when you’re going through hard times, of course you’ll question things that you do.”