Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees announced that Chad Green will be undergoing Tommy John surgery, confirming what everyone had feared after the right-hander was removed from Thursday night’s game with right forearm tightness. Not only is this a major blow to the Yankees bullpen, as Green was starting to look pretty sharp, it’s also a sad moment for the franchise and the player. Green has been an integral part of this Yankees window, and between his impending free agency and the 12-18 month timetable for a return from Tommy John surgery, there’s a good chance his time in pinstripes is over.
With that in mind, let’s take a stroll through memory lane and look back at the times in No. 57’s Yankees career that stick out in my mind, those moments where it was indeed quite easy being Green.
Announcing His Arrival
Headed into the 2017 season, Green profiled as one of the Yankees’ long relief/swing starter types, a second-year player who had flashed potential in limited starts as a rookie, but was likely destined for the bullpen due to a lack of a quality third pitch. While everyone certainly hoped he would carve out a role for himself, he began the season in Triple-A as a member of the Scranton RailRiders rotation.
With the Yankees using seven pitchers in an 18-inning marathon against the Chicago Cubs on May 7th, the Yankees recalled Green from Scranton to give the team a fresh arm. He rapidly established himself as one of the league’s most dominant relievers, skyrocketing up the pecking order to become Joe Girardi’s fireman in short order. A big reason for this quick climb? A dominant 3.2 inning performance on May 14th, his second outing of the year.
The 2017 Astros were one of the best lineups in the American League, even when they were away from their trash cans. They chased Luis Severino, who was in the midst of a breakout season of his own, with one out in the third. Handed an absolute mess — three runs had already come home, the bases were loaded, and Alex Bregman was due up — Green slammed the door shut by inducing a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Still stretched out as a starter from his time in the minors, Green pitched the next three frames, allowing just two baserunners — a fourth-inning George Springer single and a sixth-inning Nori Aoki walk — while striking out three. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was an early indication of just how dominant Green would be as the fireman in 2017.
Seven Batters, Six Strikeouts
Green got off to a rough start in 2019, allowing 14 runs in just 7.2 innings across 10 appearances before being sent down to Scranton for two weeks at the end of April to work through his struggles. When he came back on May 12th, he returned to his elite self (2.64 ERA for the rest of the season), serving both as an elite back-of-the-bullpen reliever and, particularly in the middle of the summer when the rotation was bit by the injury bug, as an opener.
It was in this latter role that he quietly had one of the most dominant appearances of his life. On June 15th against the Chicago White Sox, he faced seven batters. Six of them struck out swinging.
There’s really not much to say. As you can see from the video, he was simply electric, shutting down the White Sox pretty much in order before handing the ball over to future Yankees ace Nestor Cortes, who was the “bulk guy” that evening.
Three Scoreless Sparks Second-Half Turnaround
On July 4th last year, the 2021 Yankees hit what I consider to be their low point. Headed into the top of the seventh inning against the Mets, the Yankees clung to a 5-4 lead. Aroldis Chapman, however, blew the game, the Yankees wound up losing 10-5, and they fell back to .500 with a record of 41-41.
Fortunately, the Yankees did not have time to stew on the defeat, as they had another game to play right afterwards. Nestor Cortes got the start, and he and reliever Darren O’Day gutted through four innings of two-run ball. With a 3-2 lead, Aaron Boone handed the ball to Chad Green and asked him to do something that he had not done since September 8, 2019: go three innings.
Green, however, was not merely content with “just” going three innings; he did it with style, too. Not only did he retire all nine batters he faced while striking out six of them, he closed the game off with an immaculate inning.
Chad was immaculate to shut it down. @chadgreen24 pic.twitter.com/1Ckm0Rqh0I— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 5, 2021
It was a gutsy performance, and certainly his best outing of the season. More importantly, it was arguably the turning point of the year for the Yankees. Headed into the game, the Yankees were in danger of falling below .500 more than halfway into the season. Instead, the team used this win as a springboard. The Yankees closed out the season with a 51-29 stretch, a 103-win pace. While that wasn’t enough to get them back in the division race, it did net them a Wild Card spot.
Outdueling a Former Cy Young
Baseball is a funny thing. Before he became the dominant reliever he is known as today, Chad Green was a starting pitcher who sandwiched flashes of brilliance between clunkers. August 15, 2016, just so happened to be one of those flashes.
By all measures, this game was supposed to be a shootout. Green’s stat line was unimpressive heading into the game, with an ERA approaching 5.00. The Toronto Blue Jays were sending out R.A. Dickey, who at this point was a shell of his Cy Young self and who was entering the game with a 4.61 ERA. So, naturally, we got a pitcher’s duel.
Green was absolutely electric that day. He retired the first 13 batters he faced, taking a perfect game into the fifth. After allowing a pair of singles to put runners on first and second with one out, he proceeded to strike out the next two hitters, Justin Smoak and Melvin Upton. Then, in the sixth, facing 9-1-2 in the Blue Jays lineup, he struck out the side.
It wound up as a historic night for Green, who became just the second rookie in Yankees history to notch 11 punchouts without allowing a walk or a run (the other was Stan Bahnsen in 1968). Additionally, according to Game Score, it was the most dominant outing a Yankees starter had all season, as his score of 79 just barely edged out a pair of stellar outings by staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.
2017 AL Wild Card Game
Where else would this list end? The 2017 New York Yankees made it to within one game of the World Series, but if it wasn’t for Chad Green, they might be subject to a quick exit in the Wild Card Game.
We all know the story. Making his first-ever postseason appearance as the Wild Card Game starter, Luis Severino had absolutely nothing. Brian Dozier led off the game with a home run. After Joe Mauer popped out, Jorge Polanco walked, then Eddie Rosario homered. Four batters into the game, the Twins had a 3-0 lead. That was just the beginning, though. Eduardo Escobar then singled, Max Kepler doubled, and suddenly the Twins had runners on second and third, one out, and a prime opportunity to put the game away before the Yankees even came to the plate.
Desperate to keep the game in reach, Joe Girardi took the ball from his ace, handed it to his young fireman, and asked him to be perfect. The stakes could literally not be any higher. And what did Green do? He channeled his inner Houdini, fanned Byron Buxton and Jason Castro, and gave the Yankees a chance to get back into the game.
The Yankees lineup did just that, tying the game at three just four batters into the bottom of the first thanks to a Didi Gregorius three-run homer, and Green would come back out in the second to a much different ballgame. He shut the Twins down in order, fanning Robbie Grossman and Dozier to make it four straight Ks. He would get into trouble in the fourth, eventually being pulled for the eventual star of the night, David Robertson, but make no mistake: if it wasn’t for Green’s first-inning heroics, the entire night would have played out very differently, and not likely in the Yankees’ favor.