Whatever it was — a demotion, a break, a period of time to refocus — it appears over. Aroldis Chapman was back in his customary role as the Yankees’ closer Tuesday night, and all seemed well in his world despite a minor blip.
He reached 102 mph on the radar gun multiple times. He didn’t walk anyone. And he notched the save in the Yankees’ 6-4 victory over the Phillies at the Stadium.
“He was very confident out there,” catcher Gary Sanchez said through an interpreter, following the Yankee’s third win four tries since the All-Star break.
Chapman allowed one run, on a long Andrew McCutchen home run. But that was it. The rocket-throwing Cuban southpaw struck out the other three Phillies he faced, which included coming back from 3-0 down to fan Bryce Harper to start the frame. Of his 15 pitches, 12 were strikes, a ratio that has to please the Yankees. His fastball crackled. He had control of his breaking ball. He didn’t walk anyone for the second straight game, after issuing 12 bases on balls in his previous seven outings.
“He’s Chapman. He’s not a different person. He’s Chapman. What I’m seeing from him today is what I’m seeing from him in the past,” Sanchez said. “I’m seeing the sharpness [his] past couple of outings. I see the quality of his pitches.”
Afterward, Aaron Boone made it clear Chapman is his closer. He’s seen enough from him of late to be willing to put the ball in his hands at the end of the game. Chapman now has four consecutive strong outings since his disastrous back-to-back performances against the Angels and Mets, when he allowed seven runs while recording just one out to see his ERA rise to 4.71.
Over his past four innings, however, Chapman has struck out eight and allowed just two hits, somewhat reminiscent of his dominant start to the season. Three of those recent performances came in mop-up duty without any pressure. Tuesday was different, even if he inherited a three-run lead.
“If we’re going to be the club we hope to be and get to where we want to go, ‘Chappie’ has got to be the guy back there,” Boone said. “We got to get him going. I think his last few outings he’s starting to build back to where he was.”