Bullpen Gets Yankees To Cleveland

By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor

Quite a difference two years make when you consider that the last Wild Card game played at Yankee Stadium it was Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros shutting out the Yankees 3-0.  This one Tuesday night in the Bronx was supposed to be Luis Severino and Ervin Santana taking their teams deep and then go to the respective bullpens.

The aces did not last long for the Yankees and Twins. Instead it was an early game home run derby, three from the Yankees overall and their dominating bullpen that led them to a 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.

A wild card win for the Yankees and a trip to the American League Division Series that begins Thursday night in Cleveland against the Indians after their first postseason win since 2012.

Severino did not make it out of the first inning after his shortest stint of the season. That didn’t matter because the Yankees came back after that three-run opening frame and had their three-run first. It’s how this Yankees team responded in this play in game.

They weren’t supposed to be a postseason team but the youngsters, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez made this happen sooner than expected. But it is this Yankees bullpen that made this win possible and in the postseason when your starter fails that can win ballgames.

There was talk about the Didi Gregorius home run off Santana that scored two in that first inning. The Brett Gardner second inning home run and of course, the first postseason line drive home run in the fourth inning that Aaron Judge deposited to left field that scored Gardner.

But it was that bullpen, and when Severino failed that got this win for the Yankees and gave them confidence going into the next round against an Indians team that is considered the best team in baseball.

“Our bullpen was remarkable,” said Girardi. “The innings they gave us. What David Robertson gave us.” It is this strength, the Yankees bullpen and the manager did not hesitate to use what he had, especially going with Robertson who pitched 3.1 innings of shutout ball and struck out four that bailed out the Yankees when it was needed.

Before Robertson, it was Chad Green with 2.0 innings. The righthander kept the Twins from expanding that 3-0 lead. From there this became one of those Yankees postseason wins that were reminiscent of those years when they won four consecutive world championships with manager Joe Torre.

“I think Green being able to keep it 3-0 was really big,” said Girardi. “I think it means a lot of them showed up in a big way. Bird driving in a run, Sanchez.”

Girardi does not know if Robertson. Green, or Tommy Kahnie will be available Thursday night in Cleveland.  Combined with Aroldis Chapman who closed it out, Severino had to be feeling better.  That bullpen tossed 8-⅔ innings of scoreless ball, gave up one run and four hits.

Those results of course will win postseason ballgames.

“We knew all year our bullpen was our biggest strength,” said Gardner. “We needed some work out of out bullpen and they came through.  Robertson  in a big game like this,we needed that.”

From the beginning if these two starters, Severino and Santana were not going to get those innings, it was coming down to the bullpens. The Yankees had that advantage with their 653 strikeouts the second most by a team this season, And it is proved that they can work and keep their team in a ballgame.

“This is what the bullpen is all about,” said Severino. “ I’m very proud of all these guys.”  Now the task is at hand for this Yankees team that has accomplished more than expected. The Indians may not be as easy to strike out, but the Yankees feel they have the production and of course that bullpen.

“This is a young team with a lot of talent and the mindset is to win those games,” said Chapman through an interpreter as the Yankees clubhouse celebrated but realized there is that difficult task that awaits them.

They hope to return to the Bronx Sunday night with a split or taking the first two games against Cleveland.

Bring on the Indians they said. But for now this was quite a difference from that last wild card game in the Bronx and the Yankees can thank their bullpen for that opportunity to move on in October.

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