Chase Whitley has now started two games on the mound for the New York Yankees and three trends are developing. The first is that opponents aren’t going to score much against Whit ley. The second is that the Yankees ar en’t going to score at all with Whitley in the game. Final ly, in the end the Yankees are going to win when Whit ley starts.
The Ranburne right-hander was in Chicago Wednes day afternoon for an inter-league game against the National League’s Chicago Cubs and made his second start for the Yan kees. He allowed the first run of his major league career in the fourth inning. With one out, the Cubs put together three con secutive singles – the third an infield hit – to load the bases and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Whitley has now pitched exactly nine innings in the majors and allowed just one run, earned, for a gaudy 1.00 earned run average. He seems to be having the time of his life, playing a game most of us think we understand at a level that almost none of us can comprehend.
“I told Brooklyn this a couple of years ago whenever I got to Triple-A, how challenging the game is and how much fun it is to compete, and that’s how it is right now. It’s so much fun to compete against these guys. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get out there,” Whitley said Tuesday evening prior to his start at storied Wrigley Field.
In the home half of the fifth, Chicago got a lead-off triple then Whitley got an out on a foul ball to first base. With Whit ley at 71 pitches, Yankees manager Joe Girardi summoned Del lin Betances, Whitley’s friend and throwing partner at Scranton last year, into the game in relief and Betances got the final two outs to strand the runner at third.
Whitley finished with three strikeouts and one walk in four and one-third innings of work. He fanned Cubs’ home run threats Welington Castillo and Nate Schierholtz in the second inning and struck out No. 3 hitter Anthony Rizzo to end the home half of the third.
The Cubs added a run in the seventh for a 2-0 advan tage but New York knotted the score at 2-2 with two runs in the ninth. The Yankees scored two more in the thirteenth and won 4-2.
His initial major league start came on May 15 in the final game of the famed ‘Subway Series’ between Whitley’s Yankees and the New York Mets, the Yankees’ cross-town and inter-league rivals. In the days leading up to his call-up by the Yankees, he hadn’t slept well but that changed the night before his big-league debut.
“I had a peace of mind and slept well Wednesday then Thursday, after the outing, I was still full of adrenaline and didn’t sleep hardly at all,” he recalled.
In the Mets game, he left after 74 pitches without al lowing a run after four and two-thirds innings. Betances got the final out of the fifth and kept the game scoreless. The Yankees eventually pre vailed 1-0. When the fifth in ning closed, teammates came to Whitley from all over the dugout to offer high-fives and congratulations.
“Obviously, it was a huge game for me because of the fact that it was my debut game but apparently it was a big game for them because it was Subway Series,” Whitley said.
Former Atlanta Brave Bri an McCann, whom Whitley began watching when Mc Cann first arrived in Atlanta, was his catcher in the Mets game.
“He was giving me infor mation on the mound and in the dugout that I can use from now on and I look forward to more opportunities to work with him,” Whitley said.
While the Yankees bat ted in the top of the sixth, McCann and Whitley had a conversation to go over the outing, with McCann talking about why he called for cer tain pitches in certain situa tions.
“It was a lot of listening for me and a lot of talking for him which is all I’m here to do right now,” Whitley said, adding that he wasn’t at all surprised that McCann had come to him in that manner.
Something else McCann had done did surprise him and made a lasting impression.
“I was shocked with how welcoming he was as soon as I walked in the locker room in Thursday. We chatted. He made it comfortable for me,” Whitley recalled.
There were a number of career firsts against the Mets. His first pitch of the game, to Eric Young, was a called strike. The third batter he faced was David Wright and the Mets’ powerful third base man became Whitley’s first major-league strikeout when he swung and missed on a 2-2 pitch to end the first inning.
In the top of the third, Whitley lined a 1-1 pitch into right field for his first ma jor-league hit and the former college third baseman grinned from ear to ear.
“It was great. It was great - just having fun,” he said later of his batting prowess. “Same game, just having fun.”
In addition to Brooklyn, his parents and her parents, lots of homefolks were at Citi Field to cheer him on. He es timated the group to number about 30.
“God’s blessed me with so many people in mine and Brooklyn’s life to share this with. It’s unbelievable. Then to have the number of text messages, phone calls and facebooks from back home, … it’s unbelievable support,” Whitley said.
The first strikeout ball, the first hit ball and the bat he used to get that hit are all waiting for him in cases at Yankee Stadium.
“I told the reporters I was going to give them to my parents but I may hold on to those. Those are pretty cool for me.”