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Imagine the possibilities if late-inning go-ahead rallies like the one Thursday now translate into certain victories for the Yankees.
The bullpen blueprint carried over from past years mostly has been in the shredder this season because setup man Zack Britton missed 77 games over two stints on the injured list and Aroldis Chapman morphed from unhittable closer to one of the worst pitchers in baseball around Father’s Day.
Suddenly it’s taped — not superglued just yet — back together, as Britton and Chapman both tossed a scoreless inning Friday to make Joey Gallo’s three-run home run in the seventh inning stand up in a 5-3 victory. Sure, there were tense moments — both left-handers allowed bad-luck infield hits that put the tying runs on base at the corners — but the homer-reliant Mariners didn’t get a big fly.
“Nice to have those two guys in that eighth and ninth close it out,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, those guys are really important to what we do.”
Britton had allowed runs in five of his first seven appearances after the All-Star break but the sinkerballer induced his trademark double play with runners on the corners and one out — a reminder he’s always “that one pitch away” from escaping a jam, as Boone put it.
Chapman improved to seven-for-seven in save opportunities with 14 strikeouts and one total run allowed in eight innings since regaining trust to get the final outs of close games instead of pitching in 12-1 wins and 4-0 losses.
“Chappy’s been going well now for a month,” Boone said.
At the depths of this roller-coaster season, the Twins, Angels and Mets all hung at least four runs on the Yankees in their final at-bat to steal wins when Chapman’s faith in his fastball disappeared. The fans’ trust in Chapman isn’t completely back: There was a smattering of boos when he fell behind in counts and collective breath-holding until the final out was caught on the warning track.
Jonathan Loaisiga was warming in the bullpen for a bases-loaded situation, but Boone stuck to the plan for one more batter — 25-home run slugger Mitch Haniger — and Chapman rewarded him by using his breaking balls to overcome spotty fastball command.
“Little nervous there,” Boone admitted. “It was a little bit of a grind for him as they worked some long at-bats. He made some big pitches when he had to.”
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