Yankees News: Justin Wilson searching for consistency following Friday's outing vs. Tigers

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Justin Wilson pitches with Yankees in home pinstripes
Justin Wilson pitches with Yankees in home pinstripes

Clinging to a 2-1 lead after plating a run in the top of the 10th on Friday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone turned to Justin Wilson to try and earn the save against the Tigers. Aroldis Chapman had pitched a scoreless ninth, so it was Wilson’s turn to look the shut the door.

But a borderline 2-2 pitch to Robbie Grossman kept that door cracked after it was called a ball, and the next pitch busted it wide open, with Grossman delivering a two-run walk-off homer to give Detroit the 3-2 win.

For Wilson, his second stint with the Yankees has been a far cry from his first. The left-hander was excellent in pinstripes in 2015, striking out 66 hitters over 61 innings and limiting them to a slash line of .223/.293/.309. This year, opposing hitters have a slightly-better batting average against Wilson at .245, but their OPS has ballooned from .602 in 2015 all the way to .899 in 2021.

A shoulder injury put Wilson on the injured list to start the season, but after debuting on April 10, Boone feels he’s still trying to put it all together.

“I think he's just struggling to get on track,” Boone said. “He's been struggling with the power on his fastball. There have been a couple outings where he's had that life, and when I think of Justin Wilson, I think of that life. His 93, 94, 92, whatever it is, he has that life and he's able to pitch up in the zone and work the cutter off of that. So I think he's been a little inconsistent with that.”

“I haven't pitched well,” Wilson said. “I know that and no one's harder on myself than me. I just need to pitch better.”

Wilson had three scoreless outings to start his season, and allowed two runs over six innings in the month of April. But since the calendar has flipped to May, he’s seen his ERA go from 3.00 to 6.08. He has allowed runs in six of his eight appearances in May and gave up three home runs in 7 1/3 innings this month.

“For a while there, I think my delivery was bad,” Wilson said. “Now I'm back on track, but I made a couple of bad pitches and they made me pay for it. I just have to grind it out.”

As far as the life on the fastball that Boone mentioned, Wilson says when he’s going well, he can generate the swings and misses he needs, he’s just not getting them right now.

“It's not the same, that's for sure,” Wilson said of his fastball. “There are days where it's been better and days where it's not. Sometimes when I have some life on it, pitches are fouled off or swung through, but right now they're not so I've got to make an adjustment.”

Despite the recent struggles, Boone says he isn’t planning on shying away from using the reliever in a high-leverage situation moving forward.

“Oh yeah,” Boone said without hesitation when asked if he still had confidence in Wilson. “Obviously he was in a big spot tonight and he'll get another opportunity.”