Postseason games are typically long, grinding nail-biters where the bullpen's performance can make the difference for a club. After his Game 3 performance, Yankees reliever Dellin Betances has officially become an alarming negative factor, which is causing a detrimental trickle-down effect for the remaining bullpen arms.
"He's out of whack," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said referring to Betances after Game 3. "He's [gone] through it a couple of times this year and we've seemingly been able to get him on track a number of different times and we're still trying to do that because I still think he is really important to us."
"We need him, so we'll continue to try to fix it," Girardi said.
The issue is that if Betances cannot be trusted to work through an appearance with an eight-run lead, how will he be able to pitch in a game in which they Yankees are clinging to a small lead? That's not to say that Girardi should have allowed Betances to try to work through the mechanical issues last night after walking the only two batters he faced, but if the reliever has only two batters to prove he is "on" then his purpose on this roster is now in question.
Betances' ineffectiveness has become more about how it is affecting the rest of the bullpen at this point. He is being carried on the roster to nail down important outs. The Yankees already have two long men who can eat garbage innings in Jaime Garcia and Jordan Montgomery, so Betances has to be able to generate outs even if it is just to keep a deficit a small one as the series wears on.
The rest of the Yankees relievers are now down at least one inning in Tuesday's Game 4, with Tommy Kahnle throwing 15 pitches after Betances was removed. This might not matter in Game 4 specifically since Chad Green, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman have been fully rested to this point, but it can have an affect for Game 5.
Consider this: If Betances is productive, the Yankees' skipper would have little internal debate on how long to pitch Green or Robertson, or when to bring them into the game. Girardi would have some bit of comfort that he has Betances at the ready to lock down a clean inning later in the game or the next day. This is not the cause, so Betances' struggles have to weigh into Girardi's decision-making process going forward.
This will most assuredly come into play in Game 4 with Sonny Gray getting the start. Gray has not pitched in 12 days, which in and of itself is a tough situation for a starting pitcher. Further, Gray did not pitch well in his first Yankees' playoff game (three runs in four innings in ALDS Game 1), and was in a slump over his last few outings that finished off the regular season.
Gray's situation points to a potentially long day for Yankee relievers. It's almost imperative that the Yankees pull out a victory in Game 4 with Astros' ace Dallas Keuchel looming in Game 5. There is a chance that if Gray can get through the Astro's lineup twice Tuesday evening, he will be removed regardless of how well he is pitching.
But again, will Girardi hesitate to go an extra batter with Kahnle, Green, Robertson or Chapman knowing he cannot rely on Betances in what will presumably be a tightly contested Game 5?
This is a huge issue because Betances is on the roster to make Girardi's life managing the bullpen easier. Instead, Betances' performance is making it more difficult, and there is no end to the disappointing results in sight. To make matters worse, the Yankees are not assured of another instance in which they can bring in Betances without causing more strife in order to right the ship.
At the moment, Betances' substantial inadequacy is putting undue pressure on the manager and the rest of the Yankees' bullpen. The question becomes, can the other relievers withstand Betances' struggles long enough while he sits in the bullpen waiting for the next eight-run lead to get some work?