Michael King’s first career MLB save picked Aroldis Chapman up in a huge way Thursday night.
After Chapman walked the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth inning — bringing the go-ahead run to the plate — King relieved him and needed just five pitches, all strikes, to secure the Yankees’ 3-0 win over the Blue Jays.
“A ton of adrenaline and then just knowing you have to execute,” King said. “It was fun to do.”
King struck out George Springer on three pitches, then got Bo Bichette to hit a soft liner. DJ LeMahieu caught the ball and threw to first for a double play.
“[King] was tremendous,” manager Aaron Boone said.
King warmed up in a hurry after Chapman struggled to find the plate. The Yankees closer threw 16 pitches, only four of which were strikes, as he walked the bottom three hitters in the Blue Jays’ lineup.
Chapman, who hit a rough midseason slump last year, had not walked a batter in three innings before Thursday.
“The fastball command was not as sharp tonight,” Chapman said through an interpreter.
Five days after taking a 102 mph ground ball off his left knee, Jordan Montgomery will get back on the mound Friday at Baltimore.
After the left-hander had multiple imaging tests and got his knee drained to alleviate the swelling, got through a bullpen session Wednesday without any issues and on Thursday deemed himself ready to go.
“[When I’m] pitching, I feel nothing, so it’s a blessing,” Montgomery said. “It’s just a bruise. Even if I felt something, it’s still a bruise, so there’s kind of nothing you can do but push through it.”
Still, the Yankees took Montgomery’s week cautiously. He went for an MRI exam and CT scan make sure he hadn’t suffered the same fate as Braves veteran Charlie Morton, who broke his leg (missed by an initial X-ray) from a comebacker in the World Series last year.
Boone called Montgomery’s recovery this week a “huge” relief. Though Montgomery was also happy that the ball off Xander Bogaerts’ bat hit him in the leg and not “above the hips,” he called such comebackers “a pitcher’s nightmare.”
“I feel like a piñata out there sometimes,” said Montgomery, who remembers getting hit by comebackers twice before Sunday.
After beginning their season with an immediate gut check against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the Yankees left The Bronx on Thursday night for Baltimore. The Yankees will begin a three-game series against the Orioles on Friday.
The Yankees went just 11-8 against the Orioles last season, while other members of the division took better advantage of them: the Rays went 18-1, the Blue Jays 14-5 and the Red Sox 13-6.
“I think it was a little bit of an off year for us offensively where we didn’t put teams away, regardless of who they were, on as many nights as we should have or could have,” Boone said. “We learned last year that if we don’t play well, they’re going to beat us. So we got to put our best foot forward no matter who we’re playing against, not get caught up in the, ‘We got to win this many out of 19.’ We got to show up and play well each day.”