It's almost a year since Hanley Ramirez altered the Yankees 2016 campaign after hitting a walk-off three-run home run off Dellin Betances in the 9th inning that completely changed the landscape of the Yankees season.
The impact of the Hanley Home run
After the loss on September 15, 2016, Betances was never the same pitcher and put the Yankees playoff hopes in the rearview mirror. They went on to lose seven of their next nine games not showing much of an effort in their battle for the wild card race. They were outscored 44 to 32 while getting shutout three games in a row.
The Red Sox and Ramirez clearly had an affect on Betances, who was seeing his first action as the full-time closer after the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller earlier in the season. Betances saw his ERA rise to 3.08 which was the highest he has had since becoming a full-time pitcher in the major leagues. Betances went on to blow five saves that season which was the exact amount of games the Yankees finished behind the Blue Jays for the second wild card spot.
Betances finds himself once again in the closer role this season after Aroldis Chapman lost his closing job due to a lack of effectiveness. With multiple closing options, manager Joe Girardi decided to go to Betances who filled in for Chapman when he was on the DL instead of the experienced David Robertson who they acquired in late July.
Betances has only blown three saves this season (one on September 5th) in 13 save opportunities, and has only blown one save since becoming the full-time closer. Despite the success, Betances has been consistently wild with his fastball which has led him to having to use his breaking ball more often then he would like. As a result of that, Manny Machado came up to the plate as the winning run after Tim Beckham worked a walk and was looking for a first pitch curve. Machado got it and put it in the seats pushing, the Yankees to 3.5 games back of the Red Sox for first in the AL East.
Will this season be a repeat of last season?
The answer here is simple, no it won't.
The circumstances this season are different then they were a year ago. The Yankees bullpen is ten times better then it was last year and Girardi has more options then he did last season. If he still doesn't trust Chapman he can turn to David Robertson who has been closing for the last three seasons and has been very successful at doing so. Girardi can also go back to Chapman who has had two solid relief appearances in a row and has looked like the Chapman that the Yankees saw in the beginning of the season. If Girardi wants to go a different route he also has Chad Green who has been lights out this year or the veteran Adam Warren who has kind of been lost in the bullpen with all of the weapons the Yankees have.
Having options is a plus for the Yankees, and they can bank on Betances having the experience so this doesn't happen again. It also helps that they have a 2.5 game lead for the first wild card.
Betances will be fine and if not Girardi will be forced to make a move, but this is something he has to be on top of because Betances can not and better not cost the Yankees a trip to the playoffs.