With the Yankees on the verge of a playoff berth and the games starting to matter even more down the stretch, Joe Girardi must consider demoting Dellin Betances from the eighth-inning setup role.
Betances was dreadful in the Bombers’ 2-1 nail-biting victory over the Twins on Monday at The Stadium, retiring only one of the four batters he faced, and leaving the suddenly confident and overpowering Aroldis Chapman to clean up the bases-loaded mess he’d created.
Since throwing an immaculate inning on Sept. 2, Betances has allowed 12 base-runners (including 2 HR, 6 BB and 1 HBP) and surrendered a walk-off homer to Manny Machado over his last seven appearances while pitching to a 9.53 ERA over that span (5.2 IP).
“We have to get him straightened out because he’s really important to us moving forward,” Girardi said after the Yankees increased their AL wild card lead on the Twins to five games.
And Girardi didn’t sound hesitant to make a move if need be. After all, he demoted Chapman from the closer’s role back on Aug. 19, which produced positive results.
Now, it’s Chapman who has his control and command and Betances who makes you feel about as confident as Eli Manning feels in front of his offensive line.
“You like to have roles, but if you have to make some adjustments, you make them. That’s the bottom line,” the manager said.
Betances, who had a 9.64 ERA in the final month of the year last season, opened the eighth by hitting Eduardo Escobar.
After Jason Castro produced a successful sacrifice bunt, Betances walked Max Kepler and threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. He then walked Brian Dozier, forcing Girardi to turn to Chapman.
Betances was booed off the mound.
“I yanked too many pitches. My timing was off. I can’t keep giving free passes. They’ve been hurting me all year. I have to be better,” Betances said. “I know I can be better. I have to keep my concentration and make sure I repeat my delivery. It’s been inconsistent, and it’s costing me.”
Asked about the possibility of being demoted, Betances replied: “I’m going to pitch whenever my name is called upon. I have to be ready. I’ve felt better. I have to put this one behind me. Thank god we got the win.”
Chapman proceeded to strike out Joe Mauer with a 102.7-mph fastball and got Byron Buxton to fly weakly to right to end the threat. The 29-year-old flamethrower then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, punctuating a stellar five-out save by fanning Escobar with a 103.7-mph heater.
This month, the $86 million man has retired 21 of the 25 batters he’s faced, throwing seven scoreless innings in six appearances. He credited his coaches and teammates for helping him regain his dominance on the mound.
“Sometimes you try to do too many things at the same time, and sometimes that doesn’t help,” Chapman said through a translator. “I think at that time I was trying too many things mechanically or gripping the ball (a different way). I think that’s why it was a little tough for me to get back on track.”
The Red Sox kept their AL East lead at three over the Yankees with yet another extra-inning win at Camden Yards, making it look more and more likely that the Bombers will face these same Twins in the wild-card game come Oct. 3. Luis Severino, who has a 2.09 ERA in the second half, looks like he’s going to start that matchup, and said he’ll be ready if called upon.
The Bombers scratched a pair of runs off Ervin Santana, the likely candidate to oppose Severino in that do-or-die contest, courtesy of Aaron Judge’s 44th homer of the year — and seventh this month — and Todd Frazier’s sacrifice fly. Jaime Garcia delivered 5.2 dominant innings of nine-strikeout ball in which he yielded only one unearned run. No problems when Girardi took the ball this time around.
David Robertson got the next four outs to increase his consecutive scoreless inning streak to 12 before Betances struggled and Chapman saved the day.
Girardi is absolutely right that the Yankees need to get Betances fixed, and by no means should they give up on the four-time All-Star, who has been extremely valuable to the franchise — especially when Chapman was injured and then demoted.
But for now, the eighth should belong to D-Rob — at least until Betances gets back on track.