By all accounts, Chase Whitley had a very solid major league debut tonight to help the Yankees salvage the Subway Series with a 1-0 win that gave them a split with the crosstown rival Mets.
But after the game, most of the buzz centered around Dellin Betances, whose electric stuff has become a go-to weapon for the Yanks.
“He was really impressive,” Joe Girardi said of Betances. “What did he strikeout six out of seven guys? He’s continued to grow in front of us, and today he did it without throwing a lot of pitches – just a ton of strikes. I think his confidence is just going higher and higher every time he takes the mound.”
Betances came on in relief of Whitley with runners on second and third and two outs in the fifth, getting Eric Young Jr. to ground out to third to end the inning and preserve a scoreless tie.
That would be the only ball that the Mets put in play against the flame-throwing right-hander, as he struck out the side in each of the next two innings and set a career-high.
He may not be labeled the Yankees’ closer or set-up man, but Betances is morphing into one of the team’s most valuable arms.
“At that time, I’m just trying to get ahead,” Betances said when asked about the six consecutive strikeouts. “I’m not thinking too much about it. It was definitely pretty cool. After you’re done with it, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow. That just happened.’ But at the time, I’m just trying to go out there and make pitches – especially because it was a tight ballgame.”
• Personally, I thought that Girardi’s hook for Whitley was rather quick, but it obviously worked out. He had pretty much cruised through his first four innings and had a relatively low pitch count of 74, but Girardi said that the two walks in the fifth were a sign of fatigue. “His performance was spectacular,” Girardi said. “First time out, not being a starter his whole career, not being stretched out a ton. We just felt that he started to tire. He walked a couple of guys that inning, and that was the reason that we took him out. We had Dellin where we knew that he was going to throw multiple innings at some point in this game.”
• Whitley allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out four over 4 2/3 innings. He didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment, and more than likely earned himself at least one more start. “To be able to control his emotions, to be able to come out and throw strikes in a series like this, it’s pretty impressive,” Girardi said. “We haven’t made any changes in the rotation. He didn’t do anything to not deserve to make the next start.”
• When asked about all of the strikeouts, Betances quickly changed the subject to the groundout that got the Yankees out of trouble in the fifth. The strikeouts were impressive, no doubt, but he knows the biggest out came with the go-ahead run sitting on third base. “First, I was trying to get Eric Young Jr. out,” Betances said. “That was a big, big part of the game, I think – bigger than anything else – just because it was a tie ballgame and we’re trying to take that game to split the series 2-2. For me, it was pretty cool. Subway Series, you grow up watching that, and to actually be a part of it and pitch in it, it was pretty special for me.”
• Betances has strictly been sticking to two pitches, but they’re two very good ones — a power fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a devastating breaking ball. The breaking pitch is often referred to as a curve ball, but it has some slider tendencies. When asked how he would describe it, Betances said, “Slurve, knuckle curve, whatever it is. I just try to execute that pitch.”
• Girardi was asked if he can see Betances moving into a more prominent role, such as set-up man or closer. He has struck out 39 of the 87 batters that he’s faced this season, which is good for a cool 44.8 percent. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of where we project that he’ll be, but I will say this: He’s got a gift,” he said. “He’s got a very good fastball and a very good curveball, and he’s not a comfortable at-bat. Where he ends up, none of us know, but he’s got good stuff.”
• What did Mets manager Terry Collins think of Betances? “I’m glad we don’t have to see him for awhile.”
• In total, the Yankees bullpen recorded 10 of its 13 outs via strikeout. David Robertson came on in relief of Adam Warren with runners on the corners and completed a four-out save. “I think it’s extremely important because there are times when you’re going to need those strikeouts to keep them from scoring,” Girardi said. “We have some power at the back end. We weren’t sure what we were going to have when we left spring training with some of these guys, but you think about the job that Warren has done, the job that Betances and Shawn Kelley. I mean, we have some power at the back end. When you have that, you’re going to get strikeouts.”
• Two days ago, the Yankees had lost four in a row and had a mounting list of injuries — particularly in the rotation — that seemed like it could result in a continuation of the downward spiral. Now, with back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2004 and only second time in the last 35 years, everything is right again in Yankee-land. “The game of baseball is extremely interesting to me because emotions can fluctuate a lot about how a team is playing from day-to-day and week-to-week,” Girardi said. “We weren’t pitching too well. I mean, you think about this series. We saw a ton of hitting in the first two games, and then you didn’t see too much the next two games. So, it can fluctuate a lot, and I think as a manager and our coaches in our clubhouse, we can’t get caught up in that, because there’s going to be weeks where maybe one phase of the game doesn’t perform as well as its capable, and you hope that the other phase can pick it up. But it’s a long year and we went through some lumps where we had some tough starts, but these guys bounced back.”
• In Collins’ eyes, there’s no coincidence that the run-scoring died down when the series switched from the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium to the more spacious Citi Field. “A lot of it has to do with that, for sure,” he said. “To be successful in this ballpark, you can’t be a one-dimensional hitter.”
• The two teams combined for just nine hits today, as Mets rookie Jacob deGrom was also impressive in his big league debut with seven strong innings. In an ironic twist, two of the hits came from the starting pitchers. “If you think about it, we didn’t get a lot of hits off their starter,” Girardi said. “(Whitley) got one of them, and they didn’t get a lot of hits, but their starter got one of them. It was a quite a day.”
• Girardi replaced Derek Jeter with Brendan Ryan at short in the eighth, but he said that was strictly because he wanted to make the double-switch so that he could allow Robertson to pitch the ninth without making him hit in the top half of the inning. Of course, most jumped to the conclusion that he was replacing Jeter for defensive purposes. (Which very well may have been the case, but he had a perfect built-in excuse.) “If I don’t, they probably walk Solarte and then I have to make a decision on, do I let Robertson hit or not? I knew he had to go multiple innings,” Girardi said. “I just told (Jeter), ‘I’m going to make a double-switch. It’s where we are in the lineup.’ He understands.”
• Final word goes to Betances. It really is pretty cool to think that he grew up in the Bronx rooting for the Yankees. You can just tell that he has a certain understanding and appreciation for what it means to be a Yankee. And after all of his command issues that kept him toiling in the minors and switching roles, he finally seems to have found himself. “It’s night and day,” he said when asked to compare himself to where he was two years ago. “For me, it’s just confidence. Being able to go out there and just trusting your stuff. Trusting the catcher, and just make pitches. In 2012 I was in the minors, and in 2014, I’m here in the big leagues for Derek Jeter’s last year. I mean, it can’t get any better than that. I’m just enjoying each and every moment, and I thank the Lord for allowing me to here each and every day.”
Associated Press photos