Exactly what the Yankees envisioned.
From the time they acquired Aroldis Chapman last December, the Yankees pictured a devastating back end of the bullpen, with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller preceding the fire-throwing lefthander to the mound.
On Saturday, Joe Girardi was able to deploy the heat-seeking trio in the same game for the first time since Chapman returned from his suspension last Monday, and the results were predictable as strikeout begat strikeout.
Dellin Betances came on with two outs in the sixth and struck out the next four hitters, giving way to Miller, who allowed a hit but struck out two in a scoreless eighth.
Chapman, called on for the first time to protect a one-run lead as a Yankee, struck out two in the ninth to preserve a 2-1 victory over the White Sox in front of 39,691 the Stadium.
Chapman, again getting the crowd buzzing with his 100-mph-plus fastball, earned his second save.
The threesome combined to strike out eight over 3 1⁄3 innings.
“What did Max Scherzer say the other day? Strikeouts are sexy,” said Miller, invoking the Nationals pitcher who struck out 20 batters Wednesday. “Strikeouts are fun. The fans like them. They’re like home runs. They’re exciting plays. They’re not to the level of that but it’s something I think fans can appreciate and get excited for.”
Excitement that started building Saturday in the sixth inning.
Ivan Nova (2-1), making his second start in place of the injured CC Sabathia, was terrific, allowing one run and four hits over 5 2⁄3 innings.
After he walked Todd Frazier, who homered in the fourth inning, Girardi brought on Betances, who started warming when the inning began.
The righthander struck out Melky Cabrera on a curveball, then struck out Brett Lawrie (fastball), Avisail Garcia (curveball) and Dioner Navarro (curveball) in a 13-pitch seventh.
“Special,” Miller said of Betances’ work. “It’s special.”
Betances has 32 strikeouts in 16 1⁄3 innings.
“It’s fun,” he said of being part of the bullpen’s backend, called a “three-headed monster” by shortstop Didi Gregorius. “Going out there and doing what I did was obviously good, and then I get to watch Drew do what he’s been doing all year and last year. And then Chapman’s like a video game. He’s a show every time he’s out there.”
The Yankees (15-20), in improving to 6-3 on a 10-game homestand and winning for the first time this season when scoring two or fewer runs (they had been 0-16), beat White Sox stud Jose Quintana.
The lefthander, formerly of both the Mets and Yankees organizations who came in 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA, allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings.
The Yankees scored their runs with two outs in the second. Quintana walked Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks jumped on a 0-and-1 fastball and drove it over Adam Eaton’s head in right for an RBI double. The hit improved Hicks to 10-for-27 on the homestand. Gregorius followed and, swinging first pitch, slapped an RBI single to right to make it 2-0.
The lone run for the AL-Central leading White Sox (24-13) came on Frazier’s 12th homer of the season that made it 2-1 in the fourth.
Nova, who had an exceptional sinker Saturday, would have liked a chance to finish the sixth, of course.
But . . .
“I feel comfortable with all the guys that we have in the bullpen, but those three guys especially,” Nova said. “They’re strikeout machines.”
Girardi said, perhaps only half-joking, he started counting down when he might start using the trio around “the fourth inning.”
“We knew that these would be the type of games that we would use all three of them,” Girardi said, adding later they would be available Sunday as well. “And that if we could line them up, it would be pretty good.”