Before the game, Joe Girardi said, “You’d love to get five good innings” out of Jaime Garcia. Such are the relatively modest expectations nowadays for any Yankees starter not named Luis Severino or Sonny Gray.
The others? If Girardi has a full complement of relievers available, especially if it includes David Robertson and Chad Green, you could be pulled early at the first sign of trouble, and likely will be. It happened to CC Sabathia Monday night with one out in the fifth inning and to Jaime Garcia Wednesday afternoon with two outs in the fifth.
Robertson doused Tampa’s hopes of a rally Monday, and strikeout machine Green did that Wednesday in a taut 3-2 victory over the Rays in front of a crowd of 13,159 at Citi Field.
Garcia made his irritation known when Girardi came to take the ball with one man on, but had cooled down after the game.
“That’s the price we pay as starting pitchers, our bullpen has been unbelievable,” Garcia said. “This has been one of the best bullpens in the league. Whoever comes in after me, I know is going to be really good.”
On this day it was Green (5-0, 1.96), who has been better than good all season. The 26-year-old righthander struck out three in 1 1⁄3 shutout innings, giving him 99 strikeouts in 64 1⁄3 innings. Tommy Kahnle allowed two hits but no runs in the seventh. He gave way to Dellin Betances, who would become the second pitcher displeased with Girardi.
“I had a couple of difficult choices today,” Girardi said. “That was tough, too.”
The 6-8 reliever appeared to roll his eyes when Girardi came out to get him with two outs and one on in the eighth. He replaced Betances with Aroldis Chapman, a move the closer said was “a little bit” surprising. Chapman walked Steven Souza Jr. — who was 3-for-9 with a homer in his career against Betances compared to 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Chapman — and Adeiny Hechavarria smacked a 103-mph fastball up the middle for a single that made it 3-2.
Chapman struck out pinch hitter Wilson Ramos on a 102-mph fastball to end the inning. He walked Curt Casali to start the ninth but struck out Brad Miller, Kevin Kiermaier and Lucas Duda for his 18th save. That made it five straight scoreless outings since Sept. 1 for Chapman, a span in which he’s struck out 10 and walked two in 5 1⁄3 innings.
“I know today wasn’t pretty,” Girardi said of his bullpen. “But again, they go four and a third and they give up one run? That’s pretty good.”
The Yankees (79-66) wore their road grays for the finale of a three-game series held at the Mets’ home because of Hurricane Irma. They climbed within 3½ games of the AL East-leading Red Sox, who hosted Oakland Wednesday night.
The Yankees scored all of their runs off Chris Archer (9-10) in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead. They were miserable otherwise, going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranding 11.
Archer allowed three runs, six hits and three walks in four innings. Garcia, making his first start since Aug. 30, allowed one run, on Kiermaier’s homer in the third, five hits and a walk in 4 2⁄3 innings. Garcia said, “The ‘W’ was most important. That’s the No. 1 thing right now.” Girardi said Garcia “absolutely” would make his next start.
Girardi managed the game in postseason mode, which he said he’s been doing for the last three or four weeks, and if egos get bruised, so be it.
“I’m not always going to be right,” Girardi said. “The move might be right but it may not always work out, but I have to make the moves I believe in my heart. It’s always easier when you win. This is all about winning games.”