Last night’s weird rally and eventual Yankees victory was some of the craziest baseball I’ve ever seen, but I learned something important about this team – Andrew Miller is the closer.
No, there has been no formal announcement (at least not that I’m aware of) but if last night’s performances by Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were any kind of an audition for the role, Miller won. Easily.
In the 8th inning, Betances faced 6 batters and needed 32 pitches to escape the inning, allowing Toronto to score just one run. He walked two in the inning with only about half (15) of his pitches resulting in strikes. When Miller took the mound in the 9th, he efficiently retired all 3 Blue Jays batters he faced. He threw 10 pitches with only 2 missing the strike zone, struck out one, and was credited with the save while Betances picked up the win.
Anyone who was watching the game could see an obvious difference between Betances and Miller without even knowing the results of their outing. Betances just didn’t look like the dominating setup man we saw last year: he looked shaky, much like we saw in spring training. Miller looked completely locked in and focused. There was no uncertainty, and he quickly worked the count to 0-2 on two of the batters he faced.
Hopefully, Joe Girardi was watching the same two innings Yankee fans saw last night. There should be no more debate, or “it’s something we’ll discuss” from now on. From what I understand, bullpens function better when they have a chosen leader (the closer) and relievers know what their roles are ahead of that closer. Andrew Miller acted like a closer, and he pitched like one. This isn’t a decision that’s locked in for a lifetime – teams often change closers during the season – and if Betances returns to his 2014 self and outpitches Miller, he absolutely should take over the role. For now the answer was obvious last night: Andrew Miller is the new Yankees closer.