If the Yankees are fortunate enough to have a save opportunity on Tuesday night in Seattle, whom will manager Aaron Boone call in from the bullpen?
You’ll have to wait until the ninth inning to find out.
In the wake of the continuing struggles of All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, Boone used Chad Green for the final three innings of Sunday night’s 4-2 victory over the Mets in the second game of a split doubleheader. He struck out six in three perfect innings, picking up three strikeouts on nine pitches in the seventh.
Chapman didn’t even warm up, which makes sense, given that he had blown his second last-inning lead in a row in Game 1 when he allowed Pete Alonso’s tying home run. After hitting Michael Conforto and walking Jeff McNeil and being removed, Chapman wound up the losing pitcher as the Mets scored six runs in the inning for a 10-5 win.
A pretty similar thing happened in Chapman’s previous outing, when he gave up three walks and a tying grand slam in a non-save situation to kick-start a seven-run ninth inning for the Angels. That outing took place Wednesday, and whatever the Yankees tried in the interim to fix Chapman did not work.
Before Sunday’s opening game, he was asked about the fixes he had been working on.
"I believe we have taken the right steps," he said through an interpreter. "We had a couple of days practicing and putting into action what we’ve discussed. I even have gotten on the mound to test the stages and it’s feeling good. I feel that I’m on the right track. So I’ll put that in play and see how it goes."
It did not go well. So if that save chance comes up Tuesday, to whom will Boone turn? He mentioned (in order) Green, Jonathan Loaisiga and Chapman. But he also pointed out that Green and Loaisiga threw a lot of pitches Sunday (37 for Green combined in the two games and 41 for Loaisiga in Game 1), so it’s not a given that either will be available.
Zack Britton, who is eligible to come off the injured list Tuesday, will not be ready, Boone said Sunday.
Unless they make another move, the Yankees will have 14 pitchers on the roster when they face the Mariners. Tyler Wade was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the team left for Seattle so the Yankees could keep lefthander Wandy Peralta, who was the 27th man for the doubleheader.
"I’ll consider a number of things," Boone said when asked who his closer will be. "Green, Lo, Chapman. Those are the conversations that we have. But we may not have that option Tuesday. Green and Lo could be down. So we’ll have those conversations and try and do what’s best for the team and for those individuals."
Chapman’s fall has been stunning. He didn’t give up an earned run in his first 18 innings this season, and now his ERA is 4.71. In his last two outings, he recorded one out and was charged with seven runs.
"We’ve been diving in each and every day," Boone said. "Working on delivery things, changing up some routine things, changing up some pregame things. We’ve been having a lot of conversations. Pitch selection. Those kinds of things."
Boone and catcher Kyle Higashioka both said throwing a slider to Alonso on the home run pitch after the slugger had just swung through a 97-mph fastball was a mistake.
Chapman’s thoughts on the outing were not recorded as he was not made available between games or after Game 2.
Chapman did meet with the media before Game 1 and discussed his recent struggles and his selection via the players’ ballot to the American League All-Star team. It’s Chapman’s seventh time as an All-Star and his third in a row as a Yankee (there was no game in 2020).
"The way I started the season and the performance those months gave me an idea that it could have been a possibility," Chapman said. "But at the same time, it’s surprising and nice given that the past couple weeks have been tough for me. But it’s great to hear . . .
"It’s definitely one of those achievements that goes under your resume for your playing career. It’s one of those opportunities that I think every player wants the chance to be part of at least once. So to be selected means a lot."