Michael King set a goal to pitch 100 innings this season, regardless of how they came.
The Yankees right-hander got off to a strong start in that pursuit Sunday afternoon.
King came on in relief of Domingo German and despite a shaky start, went on to save the Yankees bullpen with six scoreless innings in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. He retired the final 16 batters he faced, keeping the Yankees within striking distance for a strike that ultimately never came.
“To be as pitch-efficient as he was, to be able to complete that game, was huge for us,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He was really in command and gave us a chance. … He did a heck of a job.”
King’s day started auspiciously in the fourth inning as he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. He later loaded the bases with two outs, but flipped a switch from there and did not allow a base runner the rest of the way.
“I ended up just attacking the zone,” said King, who never got into another three-ball count after the walk. “The first four pitches were a little scary. … Then I was able to lock it in and get ahead of almost everybody, throwing both the sinker and cutter for strikes. Had some pretty good changeups. I was just able to get ahead of the count and get into the dugout as fast as I can.”
King, a former starter who offers Boone a hybrid role out of the bullpen, became the first Yankee to pitch at least six shutout innings of relief while allowing one hit or fewer since Bob Shirley in 1986.
Giancarlo Stanton became the first Yankees starter to get a day off this season. He is healthy, Boone said, but the manager wanted to monitor his buildup and picked Sunday to get the left-handed hitting Brett Gardner in the lineup against Blue Jays righty T.J. Zeuch.
“I’m not going to play ‘G’ five days in a row, is kind of what I told him,” Boone said. “That’s just early going and trying to build these guys up smartly and safely. Especially with wanting to get certain guys in the lineup too, just trying to be a little strategic about that.”
Stanton went 0-for-8 with three strikeouts and two walks in his first two games.
Gardner (1-for-3, RBI) drew the start in left field, with Clint Frazier moving to right field and Aaron Judge serving as the DH.
Monday marks three weeks since Zack Britton underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from his left elbow and the reliever already has full range of motion, Boone said. Britton is scheduled to start playing catch as early as this week, though with him on the 60-day injured list, the Yankees will take their time building him back up.
“The incision and the swelling and all that, which is the biggest hurdle to clear initially, is going really well for him,” Boone said.
Aroldis Chapman was available out of the bullpen for the first time this season, after serving a two-game suspension, but did not pitch.