More than the lineup, with its potential for record-breaking power numbers, and more than the starting rotation, with a Cy Young Award candidate at the top and a former Cy Young winner near the bottom, if there was one unit on the 2018 Yankees that was expected to be truly fearsome, it was the bullpen.
There is the fireball-throwing closer (Aroldis Chapman), the cool set-up man (David Robertson), the seventh-inning reliever with the knee-buckling curve (Dellin Betances), and the kid with the electric arm (Chad Green). And that is not to mention the hard-throwing Tommy Kahnle, the lefty specialist Chasen Shreve and the steady Adam Warren.
But through the first seven games of the season, after a 5-2 loss to the Orioles on Thursday, the bullpen has been more of an Achilles’ heel than a strength. While the Yankees’ starting pitchers have been excellent, allowing just nine earned runs and striking out 45 batters in 39⅓ innings, the relievers have been almost uniformly awful, with an unsightly 6.64 E.R.A. Of the 26 runs scored off the Yankees this season, 16 have been surrendered by the bullpen.
“I’m not concerned about it because I’m not seeing any downtick in their stuff,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “There’s no red flags that I can see. I just think they’ve gotten us a couple of times.”
Through the first six games, just about every reliever on the team had experienced a poor outing, with one exception: Green, who emerged as an effective weapon out of the bullpen in the second half of 2017 and allowed just one hit and no runs in his first three and one-third innings of 2018
By the time he left the mound, the Orioles’ lead had grown to 5-1 and the crowd was booing a pitcher whose arrival it had cheered. Although one of the runs Green allowed was charged to Tanaka, he allowed hits to three of the five batters he faced, including a run-scoring double to Anthony Santander and a two-run single to Trey Mancini.
“I just thought he missed some spots with his fastball,” Boone said. “He just had one of those little bumps along the way for him.”
The Orioles’ five-run seventh wiped out a 1-0 Yankees lead that was achieved in the previous half inning, when Aaron Judge belted a hanging slider from Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner into the right-field seats. It was Judge’s second home run of the season and the 58th of his career in just 189 games — the fewest for any player to have reached that mark.
But Tanaka, who narrowly avoided allowing a first-inning run when a perfect relay by Didi Gregorius cut down Mancini at the plate, pitched six strong innings before giving the lead back on a two-run homer to Adam Jones in the seventh.
“Obviously there’s a lot of frustration there,” Tanaka said. “I gave up a home run at the worst possible time.”
After Tanaka allowed a one-out single to Tim Beckham, Boone decided to go to what just a few days ago seemed to be his strongest unit: the bullpen.
But things only got worse from there. The Yankees got a run back in the bottom of the seventh on Neil Walker’s run-scoring single but they missed an opportunity an inning later, when Orioles reliever Darren O’Day loaded the bases on a walk and two hit batters. This time, however, Walker tapped back to the mound and the threat was over. The Yankees had one final chance in the ninth with two out, a runner at first, Brett Gardner at the plate, and Judge on deck.
“I’m thinking, if we can just get to Judgie, we got a chance,” Boone said.
Added Judge: “You always want that last at-bat, especially in that situation.”
But it was not to be. Gardner struck out to end the game.
News by The New York Times