There he was these last two games at old Fenway, gassing the Boston Red Sox with strike after strike, fastballs and breaking balls knifing away from Red Sox hitters and then more fastballs up in their eyes, and looking for this one weekend as dominating as any Yankee relief pitcher has, and that includes the great Rivera. That is how much game Dellin Betances has shown you in Boston this weekend.
Oh, it was a big story that Alex Rodriguez hit No. 660 and tied Willie Mays on Friday night. But it is Betances and Andrew Miller who start to make you think that the back end of a bullpen can carry the Yankees to October the way the back end of the Royals bullpen did that for them last season, all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
Last season, when Matt Harvey was injured, it was Masahiro Tanaka who electrified baseball in New York with his own stuff, until Tanaka tore a ligament in his elbow. Now Harvey is back, and you saw what he did to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium last Saturday afternoon. You see how good and tough Miller has been in the ninth inning.
But it is different with Betances. He makes you watch him, usually in the eighth inning, sometimes all the way to the end the way it was Saturday when he struck out all four Red Sox batters he faced. He has been so brilliant this season, his stuff has been so filthy, that for the few minutes he gets every time he comes out of the bullpen, he makes you want to watch him the way you want to watch Harvey.
He comes out of Washington Heights and the lower East Side and Grand Street Campus School in Brooklyn. He is as big as a power forward and maybe it took him a bit longer to be this kind of young star. But now he is here. On Saturday he got the last out of the eighth inning and then laid the Red Sox out in the ninth, and all but two of the pitches were strikes.
Here are his stats for the season, apart from his 3-0 record: He has pitched in 12 games and thrown 13.1 innings and has given up one unearned run and struck out 21 batters. He has made the eighth inning for now, for as long as Joe Girardi has the late innings set up this way, into what it once was when Mo Rivera was the set-up guy for John Wetteland.
More than that, he and Miller have made you think about baseball games, at least for now, just 24 games into this, the way you thought about games in the old days, when it was Stanton and Nelson ahead of Mo, once Mo got the ninth inning: If the Yankees have the lead, you believe the thing is over.
So it was 3-2 on Friday night and 4-2 on Saturday afternoon. There were two outs in the eighth on Saturday when Betances came on for Justin Wilson. The score was 3-2, because this was before Chris Young — the guy who should be batting third for the Yankees — hit one over the Green Monster and made it 4-2 in the ninth. Then the kid punched out everybody he saw, because of all that high heat, and checked swings and finally threw a called third strike to Boston’s kid catcher, Blake Swihart. It was all thrilling to watch, whether it was against the bottom of the order or not.
He scared everybody the other day when he was limping around, but it turned out to be nothing more than a blister. Now he does to the Red Sox what he has been doing to everybody else this season, almost always ahead of Miller, who has been brilliant himself.
The two of them have given the Yankees exactly what Brian Cashman hoped they would. But Betances is the one you don’t want to miss, wherever he pitches, whenever he pitches. We don’t get to see him as much as a starter like Harvey. The jobs are completely different. Not the stuff. The tall kid whose trip to Yankee Stadium began in Washington Heights, he’s become their Harvey. Not the Dark Knight. Maybe the Avengers need a late-inning guy.
Alex’s milestone money & Gang and Blue are right to go big …
— If Alex Rodriguez actually had any grace, he might think about thumbing his nose at the Players Association — it’s not as if he hasn’t done that before when it suited his purposes — and telling the Yankees to keep their $ 6 million “milestone” bonus for home run No. 660.
Or, better yet, tell them if they don’t want to give it to him, then give it to charity.
But the idea that the Yankees are the ones trying to cheat somebody here, well, that’s pretty good, isn’t it?
— Was Roger Goodell announcing that the Titans had drafted Marcus Mariota the other night, or Mr. Moto?
They say the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports, but now you have to think it was Goodell trying to pronounce “Mariota.”
By the way?
If quarterbacks such as Jameis Winston and Mariota are available, you do what the Bucs and Titans did on Thursday night, and take them 1-2 in the NFL draft.
But if they’re not, and they sure were not for the Jets, then you go and take Leonard Williams when he drops into your laps, because he might turn out to be the most talented football player to come out of the ’15 draft.
Maybe this means Mo Wilkerson isn’t here for the long haul, because you know Wilkerson is going to want to get paid, and big, first chance he gets.
And certainly the Jets had more pressing needs than their defensive line.
But when you have a sketchy offense, and the Jets still have one of those, having too much defense is about as much of a hardship as having too much pitching in baseball.
In taking Williams, the Jets took what was already a strength and made it even more of a strength.
Not so terrible.
One more thing:
Maybe Jameis will turn out to be a career chowderhead, and make the Bucs sorry they ever drafted the guy.
But I didn’t think the Instagram shot of him with the crab legs was the crime of the century.
Rangers vs. Islanders would have been fun, in a retro sort of way, right?
— I know why Jerry Reese went for another offensive lineman in the first round, I do, I think all Giants fans do.
I know why Reese and Coach Coughlin want to do everything possible to protect Eli.
But if protection was such an issue last season, how did Eli manage to throw for 63%, throw 30 touchdown passes against 14 picks — five of which came in one game — and do all that in a new offense?
The problem for the Giants in 2014, on their way to missing the playoffs again, wasn’t offense, especially once Odell Beckham Jr. became a streak of light.
The problem was keeping the other team off the field.
This is no knock against the kid, Flowers, they drafted.
But how does he stop Tony Romo from having all night to throw the way he did in a Sunday night game that should have been all about Beckham and that catch he made seen ‘round the world?
— I really do love it when Floyd Mayweather says that every bad thing he has been accused of doing with women and occasionally convicted of doing with women is just pesky “allegations.”
As if allegations can land you in a jail cell.
You know how hard it is for somebody with Money Mayweather’s money — and he is constantly telling the whole wide world how much there is of that — to actually do time, even involving an incident where one of his children snuck away from him to call 911?
It’s really hard.
That is why there was a lot more discussion going into Saturday night’s fight about Mayweather’s record outside a boxing ring than his one in the ring.
And why all this breathless access we got with him in the days leading up to the fight just made you realize he’s even more of a bum than you thought he was in the first place.
— Jeurys Familia got a battlefield commission as the Mets’ closer after Jenrry Mejia juiced himself into an 80-game suspension, and because Bobby Parnell was still rehabbing.
Now on Friday night, when it is still just 1-0 for the Mets, Terry Collins calls on the guy to get him a five-out save out of the past, and that is exactly what Familia gives him. If Familia stays healthy, the ninth inning is his at Citi Field, maybe for a long time.
Arte Moreno and the Angels basically giving Josh Hamilton back to the Rangers, for pennies on the dollar, is one of the great, angry reset buttons in all of baseball history.
— The Rangers manage to win four 2-1 games against the Penguins before they finally lose a 2-1 game to the Ovechkins on Thursday night, and so you would think scoring has been the real playoff issue for them, at least so far.
But instead there is this constant conversation about the officials, as if they’re the ones trying to steal this great Stanley Cup chance for our guys.
You know when the refs or the umps become a hot topic of conversation in sports?
Generally when a team isn’t playing as well as it’s supposed to.
Even in Game 2 on Saturday, after a goal less than a minute into the game and two 2-goal leads, the Rangers were hanging on at the end.
They have now played seven playoff games and won five of them, so it’s not like they’ve turned into plodders. They still need to pick it up.
And put a few more guys down.
One more thing about the Islanders:
You know how you punch your ticket to next season — and to Brooklyn — in a Game 7?
By getting 11 shots on goal, that’s how.
I miss the Zen Master already.
I’m just wondering: If A-Rod does get the $ 6 million from the Yankees, does Cousin Yuri get a cut?
Come on, fair is fair.
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‘Lupica’ is heard Monday through Friday from 1-3 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. on ESPN-98.7.
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