With rookie Domingo German called up from Triple-A, Joe Girardi had the choice of using a conventional starter Sunday, albeit one making his major-league debut. Instead, he opted to go for the high-wire act and try to get through the game with a relay of his relief pitchers.
The approach means more chances for a pitcher having a substandard day to sink the effort, but with one of the three best relief corps in baseball, the Yankees’ manager wasn’t making a wild gamble.
Spot starter Chad Green and four other relievers — in order, Chasen Shreve, Jonathan Holder, Adam Warren and German — delivered the outs needed in the Yankees’ 14-3 win over the Orioles at the Stadium. In a sense, they also got Masahiro Tanaka off the hook.
Tanaka, the struggling ace, had his scheduled start pushed back a day because Girardi didn’t want him to face a potent Baltimore offense that already has dinged him up twice.
The Orioles took a deliberate approach to try to run up the pitch counts, but there wasn’t much drama as the Yankees scored five runs in the first inning and just kept adding on.
Five of the seven Orioles hitters Green faced in the first two innings worked him to full counts and got his pitch count to 43. He looked tapped out as he gave up a pair of doubles to start the third. Shreve came on and gave up two more doubles before retiring three straight to escape the inning up 5-3.
“I could have went to German in the third inning and pressed it, but with a lead, I wanted to go to the experienced guys and see what happens,” Girardi said. “I chose to do it that way and I was really pleased. Guys got big outs for us, they really did. We had the one inning where we got in trouble . . . but then we settled in and guys got some big outs.”
Holder and Warren each got five outs to get the Yankees into the seventh without allowing another run. Holder faced seven hitters, Warren six.
“As a bullpen guy, you’re prepared to pitch, but when you know you’ve got to piece together stuff and that you’re going to pitch — it’s kind of weird,” said Warren, whom the official scorer credited with the win. “The anticipation is different. Certain guys are going to be called on to give more than they’re used to. It worked well.
“There is definitely some pride involved in it,” he added. “We have a lot of confidence in our guys down there, and to be able to use a lot and have all of them pitch well? It was neat for us to come together as a unit and do that.”
With the rout on in the seventh and neither setup man Tyler Clippard nor closer Dellin Betances needed, German came in to get the last eight outs. He retired the first five batters he faced before allowing two hits and a walk in the ninth, but a double play allowed him to escape unscathed.
German started the season at Double-A, moved to Triple-A and found out he was going to New York on Saturday afternoon while with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was returned to Triple-A on Sunday night. Righthander Ben Heller will join the team as insurance against a poor start by Tanaka on Monday night in Anaheim.
“It was super-exciting: You get an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues,” he said through an interpreter. “I felt calm, actually, in the bullpen. The coach told me to go out and attack the hitters, and that’s what I did.”