In what is one of his worst career years, New York Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman has returned to dominant form just in the nick of time.Entering the final month of the 2017 season, very few had confidence New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.
In seven appearances from Aug. 11-25, New York’s $86 million investment went 0-2 with a blown save thanks to an ERA of 10.29 (8 ER in 7 IP) and an opponent’s slash line of .269/.412/.615. Chapman was then removed from his closer role and demoted into a low-leverage situation role.
Then, as the calendar shifted from August to September, Chapman began to earn the trust back from manager Joe Girardi. It had to take more than a few shutout innings, however, and the Cuban missile’s biggest test — to see if he could return to his dominant form — was picking up teammate Dellin Betances on Monday night against the Minnesota Twins in an AL Wild Card preview.
Betances loaded the bases in the eighth inning in a 2-1 game on a hit-by-pitch and two walks. Girardi then called upon Aroldis Chapman, who then had a golden opportunity to regain the trust of a Yankee Stadium crowd of 30,425, for the five-out save.
Chapman fanned Joe Mauer with a 102.7 MPH fastball then got Byron Buxton to fly-out on a fastball clocked at 100.8. In the ninth, he retired the Twins in order — finishing off the final hitter of the contest with a 103.6 MPH heater. Once again, Chapman is a factor of intimidation for the back-end of the Yankees’ bullpen.
.@AChapman_105 is heating up for the stretch run.
— #Statcast (@statcast) September 19, 2017
Including the five batters he retired in order in Monday’s win, Chapman has retired 21-of-25 batters this month, tossing seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts over six appearances. Last month there was very little confidence that the Yankees would compete in October without Chapman being in top form. Now that he’s back, there’s little doubt that the bullpen can lead the postseason charge.
David Robertson is currently riding a 12-inning scoreless streak and owns a 1.24 ERA in 24 games since being acquired by the Yankees in July. Chad Green owns a 1.62 ERA over his last 26 relief appearances (44.1 IP) with 75 strikeouts. If Betances gets back to his All-Star form, this is quite the back-end tandem to coincide with the starting rotation that owns baseball’s sixth-lowest ERA in September.
But the golden ticket is Aroldis Chapman. His performance was making many doubt the money Brian Cashman threw his way last winter, but a return to elite form could give everyone a short memory — particularly if it leads to October success.