The three walks Aroldis Chapman issued to begin the ninth inning Friday night against the Red Sox conjured up images of the night of July 14, when in Boston the flamethrower blew the game in the ninth and walked in the winning run.
Chapman nearly combusted again in what would’ve been the most devastating loss of the Yankees’ season after they scored five runs in the eighth inning to take the lead, but a massive double play thanks to Aaron Hicks nabbing Eduardo Nunez at third base on a sac fly helped Chapman avert disaster and earn his 15th save in the Yanks’ critical 5-4 win.
The $ 86 million closer hadn’t pitched since last Saturday and was making just his second appearance of the month. Joe Girardi chalked Chapman’s poor location up to rustiness — 12 of his first 15 pitches were balls.
“It’s the things that you go through as a pitching coach and a manager when you don’t use your closer for a while,” Girardi said. “OK, it’s a big weekend, you want to save him for the weekend. You don’t want to just use him in a game in case you need him three days in a row.”
Chapman didn’t feel going five days between appearances should have mattered.
“You can’t really use that as an excuse,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “To me, it’s just a bad day where you’re not as sharp as you want to (be.)”
The Yankees were riding high and their fans were abuzz after taking the lead following just two hits by the offense through seven innings. Chapman then walked Jackie Bradley Jr. on four pitches, Nunez on five pitches and Mookie Betts on six pitches. His slider was nowhere close to the strike zone.
Girardi waited a while to get Dellin Betances up in the bullpen because after the three walks, Boston had two lefties coming up in Andrew Benintendi, who hit a sac fly which led to the double play, and Mitch Moreland, who replaced Hanley Ramirez in the seventh and flew out to center to end the game.
“They had a couple of lefties coming in, and I felt good about his strikeout potential,” Girardi said of Chapman. “He’s really good at what he does.”
Chapman’s ERA is up to 3.06 in 32.1 innings this season. He has not been as dominant as he was last year, allowing significantly more baserunners.
“Personally I have really high goals of myself,” Chapman said. “Personally I haven’t been where I want to be, but that’s just me. I demand a lot of myself. But the season’s not over yet.”
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