A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees

Ben Ross
NBC Sports BayArea

OAKLAND -- A.J. Puk's heart was practically pounding out of his jersey.

For two straight days, the A's 24-year-old rookie had been sitting anxiously in the bullpen, just waiting for his name to be called. That call finally came Wednesday night.

Puk made his highly-anticipated major league debut against the AL-leading New York Yankees, allowing a walk and a single in 1/3 of an inning, but keeping the Bronx Bombers off the scoreboard in a 6-4 A's victory.

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"It was great to finally get the first one out of the way," Puk said after the game. "My heart was racing. I was trying my best to calm it down. ... It's the first one. I got it out of the way. Now, hopefully, it's smooth sailing."

A's manager Bob Melvin had warned us that he wasn't afraid to use Puk in a big spot, and he lived up to his word. The 6-foot-7 left-hander entered the game in the eighth inning, protecting a slim two-run lead.

"That's a tough spot, coming in against the Yankees for his first appearance in the eighth inning of a two-run game," Melvin said. "Maybe a little bit of nerves on the first walk. ... We got the first out of the way and look forward to seeing him out there again."

Puk received a boisterous reception from the Coliseum crowd, both as he entered the game and then again when he left.

"I definitely heard it, he said. "It's a special moment. My family was in town. They were able to see me throw in the major leagues for the first time. It was good all around."

Added Melvin: "Usually I don't really take too much notice of the applause for someone coming into the game, but it was pretty significant. You couldn't help but notice that."

Puk exited with runners on the corners and just one out. That's when Melvin turned to his All-Star closer Liam Hendriks for a tenuous five-out save. The right-hander responded by striking out DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge to get out of the eighth and then retiring the Yankees' third, fourth and fifth hitters in the ninth.

"That might've been his best outing of the year," Melvin said. "I didn't do him any favors -- LeMahieu and Judge in the eighth and then he has to go through the ninth. What he's meant to this team this year and the acceleration from his role where he was last year all the way until this year has just been amazing."

Judge's at-bat probably brought back memories of last year's Wild Card Game, in which the Yankees slugger blasted a two-run home run off of Hendriks. But on Wednesday, the Australian closer got his revenge, striking Judge out on a nasty slider low and away.

"When you're in the bullpen, you've got a short memory," Hendriks said. "I'm assuming they showed it (on television) while I was pitching, so that's always fun. It is what it is. Actually, I asked him earlier today, 'Hey, which one was hit harder, the one you hit off me or the one you hit off Soria yesterday?' He played the modest card and was like, 'Man, the wind was blowing out.' I'm like, 'It doesn't matter if the wind was blowing in, that ball was gone.'"

Hendriks let out a thunderous yell after the strikeout but quickly calmed himself down, remembering he still had to pitch the ninth inning.

"My biggest thing is I was trying to make sure that I wasn't too amped because once you scream and then have to go back out again, it's not always the best scenario," he said. "Luckily, I've been pretty good this year at being able to go out there, have my little bit of an emotional attack, then kind of relax and get into the dugout and joke around and take it off a little bit." 

A.J. Puk makes MLB debut, Liam Hendriks preserves A's win over Yankees originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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