Clint Frazier joked about it on Tuesday: The Yankees have a lot of pitchers who make his life boring.
“And that’s a good thing,” Frazier said. “It’s kind of like whenever you see [Jonathan] Loaisiga, [Chad Green] and [Aroldis Chapman] come in, you automatically in the outfield feel like they’re gonna get this job done because they’ve done it so many times consistently.
“They’re dominant and we are, as hitters, trying to be just like those guys right now.”
For the second time in as many nights, the Yankees’ league-best relief corps was put to the test, and again they passed, locking down a 4-3 win against the Rays on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. The night before, New York’s bullpen held Tampa Bay scoreless and hitless for six innings en route to an 11-inning win. Performances like these explain why the Yanks have a 2.73 bullpen ERA, the lowest in the American League.
“We have a number of established guys that are quality pitchers,” manager Aaron Boone said. “And we’ve had a number of guys that have taken that next step in their progression to become key members of the pitching staff.”
One of those pitchers taking the next step is the 26-year-old Loaisiga, whose ERA has dropped in each of his four seasons. After tossing 28 pitches in relief on Tuesday, he was called upon again in one of the game’s most tense moments: two runners in scoring position with one out in the seventh and the Yanks holding a 4-2 lead after starter Jordan Montgomery struck out six over 6 1/3 innings.
Loaisiga could’ve gotten away totally clean if not for a Ji-Man Choi chopper that snuck by his glove for an RBI single. But he struck out Randy Arozarena on three pitches and coaxed a groundout from the hot-hitting Austin Meadows to preserve the Yankees’ one-run lead.
Green, who threw 25 pitches on Tuesday, entered next, working a scoreless eighth with one walk and one strikeout. Finally, Chapman entered to close out his 12th save. He has allowed just one earned run in 22 innings this season, but Wednesday’s outing was far from easy.
Chapman issued a pair of walks to his first two batters (his first multiwalk outing of the year) before striking out Arozarena. That set up the at-bat of the night, with Chapman and Choi dueling for eight pitches before Choi whiffed on a diving 3-2 slider.
“It’s tense, and he had a really good at-bat,” Boone said of Choi. “I thought he got off a lot of good swings against [Chapman]. But at that point, I felt like Chappy had self-corrected, so the stuff kept [Choi] from putting it in play hard. Some of his best swings that he was able to get off turned into foul balls. … Yeah, it was exciting.”
It was exciting and messy, kind of like the Yankees’ game, as a whole. They made two errors, and they also ran into a pair of outs on the basepaths -- bringing their season total to an MLB-high 29.
In the seventh, the Yanks had runners on first and second with none out; Gio Urshela was thrown out at third trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt, and Gleyber Torres was later picked off at first.
“We’re still not playing anywhere near our best baseball, obviously,” Boone said. “Too many mistakes tonight that, fortunately, we were able to overcome. But I do like the way the guys are competing right now. And they’re doing enough to hold on and win tonight; back-to-back wins against a really good team.”
Yes, the Yankees -- and the bullpen, in particular -- did enough to hold on. When asked how the relievers have managed to succeed so frequently, Chapman pointed to their unity and attention to detail.
“We’re always talking about game situations, always talking about strategies,” he said. “If you take that and the amount of work, the concentration, the preparation -- things usually work out best for us as a team.”