HOUSTON — Aroldis Chapman may have made two mistakes in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday night.
The most obvious was the 2-and-1 slider that Jose Altuve hit over the leftfield wall for a two-run homer to give the Astros a 6-4 win and a series win in Game 6 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.
The other mistake may have been one of bravado. Chapman didn’t have to challenge Altuve at all there, especially after falling behind 2-and-0 to the 2017 AL MVP.
Sure, there was a man on first base after Chapman walked George Springer with two outs. But hitting behind Altuve was Jake Marisnick, who came into the game in the eighth as pinch runner and stayed in the game in centerfield.
Marisnick is known for his glove. He is not known at all for his bat. He is a .227 career hitter who was 1-for-3 in the ALCS.
Even if it meant moving the potential series-ending run to second base, did Chapman think about pitching more carefully to Altuve, especially after he fell behind 2-and-0?
“Not at all,” Chapman said through his interpreter. “Every time I go out there it’s going to be a battle and it doesn’t matter who I’m facing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best or worst hitter in the league, I’m always going to go out and challenge that hitter. Throughout my career, I’ve faced everybody the same way with the mindset of attacking them and getting them out.”
Manager Aaron Boone was asked about whether Marisnick being on deck should have been a factor in how the Yankees approached Altuve.
“Certainly not a walk, an intentional walk situation,” Boone said. “But kind of pitching him aggressively like you're ahead the whole time. And I think Chappy did. He just hung a breaking ball. That's obviously a pitch he's trying to not give in and probably get down and out of the zone, see if you get a chase or something and he hung it . . . It's going to happen. I thought Chappy hung a pitch and a great player got him.”
That’s the whole point — the great player didn’t have to get him.
After the homer, Chapman stood on the mound with a smile of disbelief and held his pose — something he usually does after a save.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe he hit that ball. Tough time in the game. He hit the ball well and for that split-second I just couldn’t believe it.”