Bullpen brilliant again as Yankees edge Twins 2-1
NEW YORK >> For the third straight game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi rolled out all three rocket arms that make up the back end of his bullpen.
Hard to hold off when they're so automatic.
"You have to win today. Tomorrow doesn't mean anything," Girardi said.
Starlin Castro drove home the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning with a sharp one-hopper scored an error on shortstop Eduardo Escobar, and New York edged the Minnesota Twins 2-1 Saturday with another dose of dominant relief pitching.
Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller (5-0) and Aroldis Chapman combined to throw three scoreless innings for the third consecutive game in four-day span. The trio had teamed up to set down 26 consecutive batters during that stretch before Joe Mauer singled on a 99 mph fastball from Chapman with two outs in the ninth.
"We have so much confidence in all three of those guys out there and it's crazy that every time they come (in), we expect them to be perfect," Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "Hopefully as a team we can score more runs so that we can give those guys a break here and there."
Chapman struck out Brian Dozier on a 100 mph fastball for his 15th save in 16 tries, finishing a three-hitter. Dozier homered leading off the second against Michael Pineda, who yielded two hits in six effective innings.
Brett Gardner got three hits, Beltran delivered an RBI single and 40-year-old Alex Rodriguez sparked the decisive rally by hustling for an infield single.
Brian McCann also had a key hit, and the Yankees (37-36) surged back above .500 with their third consecutive victory and sixth in eight games.
"We all believe our best baseball is coming," McCann said.
New York is 12-0 when Betances, Miller and Chapman pitch in the same game. The "No Runs DMC" relief corps has racked up 15 strikeouts in the past three games.
In fact, the threesome had not allowed a ball out of the infield during that span until Gardner ran down Eduardo Nunez's long drive to left-center leading off the ninth.
"They're amazing talents," Chapman said through a translator. "And the fact that we're working together as a team and winning games, you know, I'm having a lot of fun."
Betances threw nine pitches in the seventh — all strikes.
"I think they have one of the best pitching staffs in the whole game," Escobar said through a translator. "When you get to the bullpen, you are basically done."
Rodriguez opened the eighth with a dribbler toward third. Playing deep, Nunez charged in but was unable to make a barehanded scoop and Rodriguez was safe at first without a throw.
Pinch-runner Aaron Hicks, going on a 1-2 pitch, easily reached third when McCann singled off Ryan Pressly (2-4) just inside the right-field line. Mark Teixeira, activated from the disabled list before the game, struck out on 10 pitches before Castro hit the ball sharply a short step to the left of Escobar, who was playing just behind the infield grass.
A clean pick could have given Escobar a chance at an inning-ending double play. But the in-between hop skipped off his glove and into the outfield, allowing Hicks to score the go-ahead run.
"There was not much you can do but throw your glove at it," said Escobar, charged with his second error of the game. "That's not an excuse, but it was hit pretty hard."
Minnesota, with the worst record in the majors at 23-51, has lost three straight following a three-game winning streak.
ON TOP OF HIS GAME
Pineda, inconsistent much of the season, walked one and struck out eight — including Mauer three times. "I think you can look at his last five or six starts, they've been pretty good. I do think that's a good sign," Girardi said.
THAT WAS QUICK
Twins starter Ervin Santana, who pitched 7 1/3 innings to beat the Yankees last Sunday, allowed six hits in five-plus innings. He had gone a career-best three consecutive starts without a walk before issuing a free pass to his first batter Sunday, Jacoby Ellsbury.
Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe missed his second consecutive game after straining his right groin Thursday. But he went through hitting, fielding and running drills and it appears he won't need to go on the disabled list, general manager Terry Ryan said.
Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia, who rolled his right ankle twice during Wednesday's outing against Colorado, was set to throw a bullpen and remains on track to make his next scheduled start.
Yankees RHP Nathan Eovaldi (6-4, 5.02 ERA) starts on six days' rest in the series finale Sunday against RHP Tyler Duffey (2-6, 6.18). Eovaldi has lost consecutive starts, including last Sunday at Minnesota. He is 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA in his past four outings.
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