Not only is it part of the job, it really is the biggest part of the job. For a relief pitcher in general and a closer in particular, it is vital to be able to move beyond a bad game, or a bad season. Dellin Betances has done both.
He knows that any good reliever does not shy away from a chance to take the ball again after having thrown a clunker. The true reliever can’t wait to get out there again.
“The good thing about baseball is it’s an everyday game,’’ he said. “Football you have to wait a week, basketball you only play three times a week. In baseball a lot of times, you get an opportunity the next night. So why let that linger?
“Mo said it best: ‘Short-term memory,’ ” he said, referring to Mariano Rivera. “It’s a long season. We’re going to have some good games and some bad ones.”
For the moment, with Aroldis Chapman on the disabled list, Betances is the pitcher with the final word for the Yankees. The word on Thursday night was “awful,” or something like that, as he allowed two home runs in the ninth, gave up three runs, blew the save and took the loss against the lowly Tigers. But he got right back on the mound Saturday and shut down the same opponent with ease.
In making quick work of Detroit at Yankee Stadium, he also made history. By striking out pinch hitter Jeimer Candelario to start the ninth, he became the first reliever in major league history to record at least 100 strikeouts in each of five consecutive seasons.
And in the process, he put 2017 that much further behind him. You remember last fall, and so does he. The thing is, he does not dwell on it. Using the same mental strength that allows him to dismiss a bad outing, he has been able to disregard the fact that he could not find the plate last September and October, and that the manager simply could not trust him enough to put him in a meaningful game.
He has regained his technique, and like a champion golfer who can rely on a repetitive swing under pressure, Betances has allowed his mechanics to carry him.
“He’s really good and I think he’s in a really good place,” Aaron Boone said after Betances closed out a game with the slimmest of margins, 2-1, and threw with authority — as if Thursday never had happened. “When you have that kind of stuff, look, you’re going to run into something where guys run into pitches. But I don’t think he ever flinched, frankly, so [we were] confident to give him the ball in that situation again. And I thought he was really sharp tonight.”
The Tigers actually were not Betances’ greatest annoyance on Saturday, JaCoby Jones’ two-out single notwithstanding. What troubled him was the recurring cut on his right ring finger. He explained that it keeps happening because the nail on his thumb keeps gouging into that finger during his follow-through.
“The blood is the annoying part. It doesn’t affect me except for the blood,” Betances said after securing his second save of the season. “I’m not going to stop pitching because of that. I don’t use that part of the finger to throw any pitch.”
Nor did it keep him from becoming a thumbnail sketch in the record books. Who would have imagined he would be a landmark reliever when he was coming through the ranks as one of the “Killer B’s” alongside Manny Banuelos? Truth be told, many thought the other guy was the better prospect.
“It means a lot, honestly,” Betances said of the 100-strikeout streak. “I had a lot of time in the minor leagues, I came up as a starter. That didn’t work out for me, I got moved to the bullpen and from 2014 I’ve been able to stay healthy, which is the key. I’m always thanking God for the ability.”
You could say the Yankees really need him now, heading down the stretch with Chapman out. Brian Cashman said before the game that there is no guarantee that Chapman will be back at all in 2018.
Then again, reality says that the Yankees are unlikely to catch the Red Sox and are even more unlikely to be caught by the Athletics or Mariners. So it is pretty sure that there will be a wild- card game at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 3. The club has a month and a day to get healthy and repair its flaws (such as amassing only two hits Saturday against Detroit).
And as for the regular closer’s iffy status, Betances said, “I mean, I’m not Cashman, but I know Chapman is coming back . . . Chapman is a monster, man. You can’t keep that guy out. From talking to him, he’s trying to feel better. I just know he’s one of a kind.”
Still, it is reassuring and uplifting for the Yankees to see Betances on top of the mound, on top of his game. He too is one of a kind, one day at a time.