NEW YORK (AP) — Andrew Miller smiled and laughed. He had just thrown the final pitch for his major league-leading 13th save, and nearly five weeks into the season Yankees manager Joe Girardi finally stated the obvious: Miller is New York’s new closer.
“It seems like it sorted itself that way. I don’t know that it’s a huge surprise,” Miller said after Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Not that he was particularly concerned.
“For what they’re paying me, I’ll do anything,” Miller said.
Brian McCann hit a two-run homer in the first following Alex Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly and Carlos Beltran, batting just .187 at the start of the night, had a two-run double in the third as New York built a 5-0 lead.
A night after hitting his 661st home run to move past Willie Mays into sole possession of fourth place, A-Rod hit a drive to the top of the wall in right-center in the fifth for his first triple since July 2012 and his first at home since 2004.
New York (19-11) survived yet another short start by Adam Warren to win for the 16th time in 21 games and move eight games over .500 for the first time since the final day of 2013 season.
After the Orioles closed within a run, Miller and Dellin Betances (4-0) combined to retire Baltimore’s final seven batters in order. The two relievers have not allowed an earned run in 33 1-3 innings, striking out 54 batters and walking 16 while giving up just 11 hits. Miller, signed to a $36 million, four-year contract, is perfect in save opportunities.
“We have the luxury of putting them back to back, and it’s a big reason we’re sitting here where we’re at.” McCann said.
Girardi seemed amused by his belated pronouncement, wondering: “Is that going to be the headlines tomorrow?” Yet, he knows how important bullpens are in contemporary baseball. He thought back to his first year as a Yankees catcher, when Mariano Rivera emerged as John Wetteland’s setup man and helped spark New York to four World Series titles in a five-year span.
“That’s been a formula that’s been around here for a long time,” Girardi said. “Ever since I can remember in 1996, if you gave us a lead after six innings, there was a really, really good chance we were going to close the door. And our club feeds off that.”
Warren took a shutout into the fifth but gave up two runs, seven hits and three walks and was pulled one out short of qualifying for a win. New York’s bullpen already has thrown 102 1-3 innings, among the most in the major leagues.
“Being down in the bullpen last year, you hate to be the guy that kills the bullpen,” Warren said.
Miguel Gonzalez (3-2) allowed five runs and five hits in four innings, his shortest start since April 2014. Baltimore lost its fourth straight game and at 12-15 matched its season worst of three games under .500. Two runs in the fifth against Warren and two in the sixth against Justin Wilson and Chris Martin weren’t enough, not with Betances and Miller lurking.
“That’s a two-headed monster right there,” Adam Jones said.
Warren became just the ninth pitcher since 1914 who failed to pitch at least six innings in any of his first nine major league starts, according to STATS. He joined Jose Santiago (1964-66), Scott Ruffcorn (1993-97), Brian Boehringer (1995-99), Sean Lowe (1997-00), Joe Beimel (2001), Johan Santana (2000-02), Travis Blackley (2004-12) and Chris Rusin (2012-13).
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who led the Buckeyes to this year’s national title, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, two days after an appendectomy. He was selected by Atlanta in the 1982 amateur draft and hit .182 during two seasons as an infielder in the Braves minor league system.
Orioles: RHP Kevin Gausman was put on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis, a move retroactive to Thursday.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (wrist tendinitis and forearm strain) made 25 throws from 60 feet and 25 from 90 feet, his second day of activity since going on the DL on April 29.
Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen (0-1) is 2-4 with a 5.18 ERA in 10 starts against the Yankees going into Saturday’s outing.
Yankees: Chase Whitley (1-0) starts Saturday after allowing one run over 12 innings in his first two starts of the season for New York.
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