MINNEAPOLIS -- Across both leagues, the early installments of this postseason have reinforced the value of relievers who can shut down rallies, a trait that has been absent within some of the other Division Series contests. Aroldis Chapman is thankful that his Yankees have been an exception to that.
“I think everybody has done an excellent job,” the Yankees' closer said through an interpreter. “I think the really important part of it has been that we've been healthy. In my humble opinion, I think we're one of the better bullpens in baseball. There was a lot of excitement, but at the same time, I think being healthy and being able to do our job has been big for us.”
Yankees relievers retired 12 of 15 batters in Game 2 of the ALDS, then finished the three-game series sweep with a 2.03 ERA (three earned runs in 13 1/3 innings). In Monday's 5-1 win in Game 3, five New York relievers combined to pitch five innings of one-run ball, including Chapman, who tossed 1 2/3 scoreless frames to earn the save.
By contrast, Twins relievers allowed 14 earned runs in 14 innings (9.00 ERA) in the three-game series, walking 12 batters.
“It's certainly one of the major strengths of our club,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We have a lot of confidence in those guys down there. They know how important they are to what we do, and if we're going to go far in this, they're going to play a huge role.”
The Yankees were the only Major League team not to use a reliever on three consecutive days this season, a decision that Boone attributes to the influence of pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bullpen coach Mike Harkey, among others.
“Even watching some of these other [postseason] games, you see how razor-thin success and failure is,” Boone said. “Especially this time of year, there’s a lot of talented people and it's just fun to see the matchups and the level of battles you have on a daily and inning-by-inning basis.”
Chapman in particular should be exceptionally well-rested for October. The left-hander made only five appearances in September, spanning 4 1/3 innings.
“You've got to pitch to stay sharp, but every day, I went out and I did my work,” Chapman said. “I was doing it with a purpose to stay sharp, because that's your job. You've got to stay sharp, so you've got to find a way to do whatever you can to stay ready.”
CC Sabathia continues to prepare for his potential inclusion on the AL Championship Series roster, should the Yankees advance. The 39-year-old left-hander was left off New York’s ALDS roster due to a sore left shoulder, but he has played catch each of the last two days.
“I just heard that it went pretty well [Monday],” Boone said. “That'll be something that we will start talking about here.”
Boone has said that Sabathia’s injury opened the door for Tyler Lyons to make the ALDS roster as a situational left-hander.
Eyes on the prize
With the Rays having extended their season in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Astros on Monday, Boone was asked if he was rooting for Tampa Bay and Houston to have their series go a full five games.
“I'm reluctant to play that game,” Boone said. “Be careful what you wish for and just handle our business. That’s kind of how I look at it. I've been watching the playoffs with interest; I enjoy watching, When it comes to us, I don’t want to be worried about other things or thinking about other things. Let’s get after today.”
This date in Yankees history
Oct. 7, 1950: Rookie left-hander Whitey Ford struck out seven over 8 2/3 innings as the Yankees completed a World Series sweep of the "Whiz Kid" Phillies with a 5-2 victory at Yankee Stadium. Ford held the Phils scoreless until the ninth inning, when two unearned runs prompted manager Casey Stengel to summon Allie Reynolds for the final out.