New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone got the kind of help he needed from his bullpen Tuesday night in a 4-3, series-opening win over the Tampa Bay Rays, and he will have another good arm at his disposal soon.
The Yankees meet their American League East rival for the 15th time Wednesday in the middle of the three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.
After Tuesday at least, the Bronx Bombers have to be somewhat encouraged by a relief corps that blew two games in Boston over the weekend.
While Chad Green served up a two-run homer Tuesday following five scoreless innings from starter Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga and Aroldis Chapman tossed shutout frames around Zack Britton's one-run inning to preserve the win.
Britton got a key double play to close the eighth with a one-run lead. Chapman posted his 19th save in 23 opportunities by striking out Tampa Bay newcomer Nelson Cruz -- representing the potential game-winning run -- on a 3-2 breaking ball after being down 3-0 in the count.
Rays manager Kevin Cash agreed that the Yankees' bullpen was strong in locking down the win.
"Their pitchers made big pitches," Cash said. "Britton got the double-play ground ball. He's so tough to get a ball up in the air on. Felt like we were close multiple time, but they just executed their pitches."
Now Boone can also turn to a new bullpen arm, Clay Holmes. New York acquired him Monday from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league infielders Diego Castillo and Hoy Park.
Holmes, a 28-year-old right-hander, has racked up 44 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched but also issued 25 walks. Opposition batters are hitting .220 against Holmes, with righties posting just a .173 average. He is 3-2 with a 4.93 ERA in 44 outings this year.
"We feel like he's a guy who's already very tough on righties," said Boone, whose club is 6-8 against the Rays. "But we feel he has the stuff and repertoire to even go to another place. He's having a really strong season -- a lot better than his ERA would suggest."
The Yankees also subtracted two bullpen options late Tuesday night, dealing right-hander Luis Cessa and left-hander Justin Wilson to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a player to be named.
Boone will hand the ball to one of his more reliable hurlers Wednesday -- Nestor Cortes (0-0, 1.95 ERA), who is in the middle of a dynamite 2021 campaign.
In 10 games -- two of them starts -- totaling 27 2/3 innings, the 26-year-old Cuban hurler has allowed just 18 hits and one homer, fanned 34 and posted a strong WHIP of 1.012. Opposition hitters are batting only .182 against the left-hander.
Cortes has appeared against Tampa Bay five times in his career, all in relief, and has produced no record with a 5.56 ERA in 11 1/3 innings.
Cash will send out Michael Wacha (2-2, 5.16 ERA). The 30-year-old right-hander has beaten New York once this season in three appearances -- a six-inning, scoreless gem of one-hit ball on April 16 in Yankee Stadium.
In his three 2021 outings against the pinstriped rivals, Wacha is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA. His career against them features a 1-1 mark and a 4.55 ERA in six appearances, four of them starts.
Tampa Bay right fielder Manuel Margot returned from the injured list on Tuesday after a 15-game absence caused by a hamstring injury. Batting in the leadoff spot, he went 1-for-4 with a walk.
--Field Level Media