BOSTON — The guy who parachutes in, with a quick exit strategy, doesn’t know if or when another opportunity will arrive. Then again, no guarantee exists he’ll land safely in the first place.
Chance Adams, the Yankees’ 2016 surging surprise turned 2018 lukewarm asset, landed safely Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. He probably will be back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in short order. Yet as the Yankees’ season continued its downward spiral — a second straight 4-1 loss to the Red Sox marking their season-worst fourth consecutive defeat overall and sending them 8 ¹/₂ games out of the American League East penthouse — they took away the consolation that they threw Adams into the baseball equivalent of an alligator pit and he lived to tell the tale.
Handling this history-threatening Red Sox team in your major-league debut scores you some points back at company headquarters.
“If you would have told me three runs through five innings for him his first time out against that lineup, we would’ve taken that,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We needed obviously to support him with more offense.”
Obviously, the Yankees’ lineup is feeling the injury absences of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. They made old pal Nathan Eovaldi, a Red Sox trade-deadline acquisition from the Rays, look like a hero, as the right-hander tossed eight shutout innings.
Nevertheless, the Yankees enter Sunday night’s series finale against favorite piñata David Price with a generally rested bullpen, thanks to Adams hanging in there.
Handed this opportunity because of a series of events including newcomer J.A. Happ’s hand, foot and mouth disease and Luis Cessa getting used in Thursday night’s blowout loss, Adams walked one and struck out two over his five innings. He outpitched the Yankees’ first two starters in this series, All-Star veterans CC Sabathia (two runs in three innings Thursday) and Luis Severino (four runs in 5 ²/₃ innings Friday).
“Pretty crazy, but a lot of fun, a lot of excitement,” said Adams, who has an underwhelming 4.50 ERA in 21 starts for the RailRiders this season. “I was just trying to control the nerves and stuff.”
He got the call Friday morning in Scranton and drove the five-ish hours here with reliever Tommy Kahnle, who also got promoted Friday only to be demoted again on Saturday. After early, threatening showers cleared in time to start the game as scheduled, Adams watched his teammates go down 1-2-3 against Eovaldi in the top of the first. The 23-year-old’s time had arrived.
“Leading up to it, there was anticipation, nervousness,” said Adams, who had pitched better lately as he healed from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. “And then when I stepped out there to do my warmups, I kind of felt a calmness, said a little prayer and felt comfortable.”
He retired leadoff batter Mookie Betts — “He’s got a good arm,” Betts said afterward. “He’ll be good once he gets his opportunity” — before giving up a line-drive single to Andrew Benintendi and a Mitch Moreland homer to right field.
Yet just as it appeared this would be as ugly as you could have possibly envisioned, Adams retired the next nine batters, his streak ending when the ridiculous J.D. Martinez launched a solo homer over the Green Monster.
“It’s baseball,” Adams, the Yankees’ fifth-round pick of the 2015 amateur draft, said with a shrug. “They’re a good lineup. They’re gonna hit homers. I just had to calm myself down and make my pitches.”
He did the rest of the way, until Chad Green relieved him in the sixth. Adams threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes, and common sense says he’ll throw more big-league pitches this season, even if he returns to Scranton as Happ reassumes his starting rotation role Thursday against the Rangers.
“He pitched his butt off,” Greg Bird said. “A couple of swings, but he pitched a good game, he really did. He kept them off balance, it seemed like, and we’ve just got to do a better job of getting runs on the board early. That’s it.”
That’s it for now. Somehow, the Yankees hope, this smooth landing amid a fierce storm pays dividends for the pitcher and the team.
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