If all goes according to plan, Chase Whitley will make his sixth start of the season for the New York Yankees tonight about 8 p.m. local time as the Yankees meet the Seattle Mariners in Seattle. When he does, he’ll be looking for his second career major-league win.
Victory No. 1 came in Kansas City Friday as the Yankees defeated the Royals 4-2. Still in the process of making the change from reliever to starter, the Ranburne High product allowed five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three in seven innings on the mound.
In his first four starts for New York, Whitley pitched a total of 19 innings and allowed just five earned runs for a sparkling 2.37 earned run average. He had fanned 15 opposing batters and walked three but had just four no-decisions to show for his efforts.
“He’s really done it every start. He’s been really good for us,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said in a post-game interview Friday. “This is the deepest he’s went but, as we’ve talked about, he’s been a reliever most of his career. I give him a lot of credit. He did a heck of a job again tonight, throwing a lot of strikes, getting some quick innings, quick outs. He’s been impressive.”
Then Girardi added, “It’s neat to see a kid get his first win when he probably could have had a couple already but it’s a special day for him.”
Brian McCann, in his first year with the Yankees after playing in Atlanta for the first nine seasons of his major-league career, caught Whitley again Friday and heaped praise on him in a televised on-field interview immediately after the game ended.
“Since he’s been called up here he’s been nothing but exceptional,” McCann said. “He’s working the ball in and out, really understanding what he’s trying to do out there. It’s been great to catch him.”
Whitley took his first official win in the majors in stride.
“It feels good but I’ve been fortunate enough to pitch pretty well so far since I’ve been up here and we’ve won all the games except one,” Whitley said by telephone after leaving Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. “It kind of feels like I’ve got more wins under my belt but to finally get a win in the column is good, for sure.”
New York opened the scoring with a run in the top of the second. After Whitley struck out Billy Butler to start the Kansas City second, a double and a single tied the score then Whitley got a routine ground ball to third that became an inning-ending double play.
McCann’s three-run double in the top of the fourth made it 4-1 Yankees. Whitley said his ability to keep the Royals from scoring in the third and fourth innings maintained momentum for the New Yorkers. When Kansas City eventually scored in the fifth, Whitley said preventing a big inning was a key to the win.
“Round numbers and straight numbers are good. Crooked numbers are bad. That’s the goal, just stay away from those,” he said. “They’re trying to get more than one. They’re set up to get more than one. To not let them get more than one is so crucial.”
Whitley finished the fifth with a ground out to second and a routine fly to shallow right field. At that point he had thrown only 63 pitches. He retired all three batters he faced in the sixth and had another 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. He ended the seventh by striking out catcher Salvador Perez with his 87th pitch of the night.
“I felt strong. One of my best fast balls of the night was to Perez there at the end. I don’t know what the velocity on it was but I know that the way that the ball got on him was probably the best of any reaction I got all night. To me, that’s a good sign,” Whitley said.
Whitley’s seven complete innings Friday were a personal best. He credited “everything” to McCann.
“He told me a game plan before the game and we were able to execute it,” Whitley said.
Limiting his pitch count helped keep Whitley on the mound in the sixth and seventh. The Royals were aggressive at the plate.
“They kept swinging at some pitches that normally I see a lot of guys taking, a lot of 0-1 outs, 1-0 outs, 2-1 outs,” Whitley said. “That’s the whole goal – try to get these guys out quicker, especially with me. Right now, I don’t think they’re going to let me go 120 pitches so try to go as deep as I can with however many pitches they give me.”