Aroldis Chapman cannot pitch this weekend if the New York Yankees want to up their chances of beating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
That’s quite a harsh thing to say about the man who has thrown the fastest recorded pitch in baseball history, but it’s just the reality of the matter. Chapman, who the Yankees gave an $86 million contract to return to the Bronx during the offseason, has not been himself this year and has not fared well against the Red Sox.
It’s clear that between the underperformance, the shoulder injury that kept him out for a month, and now a balky hamstring, Chapman is suffering from a World Series hangover. He tossed 15.2 postseason innings for the Chicago Cubs last year and was so tired by Game 7 that he blew the save, though Chicago won in extra innings.
He has just 16 saves this year and has blown four. His 3.89 ERA is a career-worst, and he has given up 30 hits in 34.2 innings, issuing 16 walks. In August alone, Chapman has a 10.38 ERA in four appearances, far from the numbers an elite closer should be posting.
And in spite of Chapman’s overall struggles and recent hamstring issue, it’s looking like he might be good to go against Boston this weekend. Per MLB Insider Joel Sherman, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Chapman had a bullpen session “fine” yesterday, though he didn’t commit to saying he would be available against the Red Sox.
That aside, if the Yankees want to make the most of this series, Chapman will not pitch under any circumstances.
So who steps up?
The main reason to keep Chapman away from the mound in Boston, except maybe en route to a blowout victory, is that he just hasn't pitched well against the hated Red Sox this season. The man is 0-2 with a bloated 8.44 ERA and two blown saves. He has allowed six runs (five earned) in 5.1 innings and has an awful 2.74 WHIP, much in part to his nine walks issued against Boston.
Yeah, I wouldn't want him closing games against Boston either.
The good news for the Yankees is that the bullpen features a boatload of arms who could step up and take over ninth inning duties, namely Dellin Betances and David Robertson. Betances is one who could probably step into the closer's role immediately, as he has finally come out of the funk that plagued him in June and early July and has not given up a run this month. He also has eight saves on the season and owns a 2.48 career ERA against Boston, and his natural ability to strike out opposing hitters can help cool the red-hot bats of the Red Sox.
But then there's Robertson, a seasoned closer and former Yankees favorite who came back to New York as part of the Todd Frazier trade with the Chicago White Sox. Keep in mind, Robertson has 132 career saves, 39 of which came as New York's closer in 2014. He owns a 2.25 ERA against Boston for his career, though his pitching repertoire allows for more contact despite his impressive strikeout numbers.
Either way, between Betances and Robertson, and even guys like Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green, New York has plenty of people who can take the mound in the ninth inning over the struggling Champan.
If manager Joe Girardi is serious about his team leaving Boston on a high note, then he'll make sure that the Cuban fireballer sits this one out and breaks out of his slump against a lesser opponent.
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