Will Aroldis Chapman’s recent performances, and especially Thursday night’s shaky effort, be a minor blip in a long season, or the start of something worrisome for typically nervous Yankees fans?
That’s what the next few games, weeks and final couple of months could tell the Yankees about their talented closer.
Chapman walked the first two batters he faced in the ninth, void of his usual three-digit fastball with ones that hit — only — the mid-90s. There were mound visits after both walks (one that included the training staff) and a third, solo trip by catcher Austin Romine before pinch hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa stepped into the box.
After a force at second base for the first out, Chapman recorded the final two outs on strikeouts. He threw three sliders at 85 mph before striking Shin-Soo Choo swinging with his usual 99.9-mph fastball.
Chapman started Rougned Odor with another of his vaunted fastballs (this one at 99.5 mph for a ball), before throwing three straight strikes on 86-mph sliders, and got Odor to swing and miss to end the game. The 6-4 lefthander did not come out to the locker room to talk to reporters afterward.
“I thought he did a good job of mixing in his slider there those last couple of hitters,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He kind of reined it in a little bit, and grinded through a tough one.”
Chapman has gone through a couple of tough ones of late. He walked three and allowed three runs (two earned) in Sunday’s loss to Boston. His numbers in two August outings: two innings, three runs (two earned), one hit, five walks, five strikeouts with no record or saves.
Is Chapman suffering from an ailment?
“I think he’s OK,” Boone said. “I think he did a good job of battling through it, and figuring it out and finding it on the fly there. But I think physically, he’s fine.
“We want to make sure we get to the bottom of it, and get him in line and throwing the ball like he can. But physically, I do believe he is fine.”
Boone, who had Zach Britton warming up after Chapman got into trouble, thinks Chapman is off with his delivery.
“I do think it’s a little bit more mechanical, and him trying to get his sights and find it, though. Maybe just a tick out of whack right now,” Boone said. “So we’ll dive into things between [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] and Hark [bullpen coach Mike Harkey] and ‘Chap’ and hopefully, get to the bottom of this and get this corrected.”
Boone envisions Britton and David Robertson getting chances for saves when Chapman needs rest, not because of bigger problems.
“We’ll try . . . and see what’s going on with Aroldis. I don’t necessarily see that,” Boone said. “I see save opportunities for Robby and Zach while we’re trying to protect-rest. There’ll be days like that.”
Hopefully, better days, and ninth innings, for Chapman and the Yankees come soon.