Nine pitches were enough for the usually reliable Aroldis Chapman allowed four runs and two homers to blow the save for the New York Yankees last night in Minnesota. The Twins ended up prevailing 7-3 with Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz both hitting long balls off the All-Star closer, and avoided a sweep.
Chapman’s fastball lacked its usual life. Frequently cracking 100 and 101 mph heaters, last night, it averaged 96.5 mph. His spin rate was also down significantly: his fastball has averaged 2452 rpm on the year, yet it averaged 2323 yesterday. His slider was down, as well, from 2379 to 2185 rpm.
The Yankees’ closer needs his spin rate to be up for his pitches to have their usual efficiency. The fastball will have more carry and ride up in the zone with a higher spin thus missing more bats because the drop effect associated with gravity will be delayed.
The controversy surrounding the Yankees and ‘sticky stuff’
All of this comes in the midst of a league-wide discussion about the use of foreign substances on the ball by pitchers to increase spin rate, in which Chapman’s teammate on the Yankees Gerrit Cole has been signaled by the man who tied the game yesterday, Josh Donaldson.
“If you have to point out something different, my velocity wasn’t there as it has been before,” Chapman said to MLB.com through an interpreter. “And the hitters were ready to jump on the fastball tonight.”
It’s just the third game in Chapman’s career in which he conceded more than one homer, and the first in which he fails to retire a single hitter.
“It just wasn’t coming out real good,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “They were ready. They were obviously hunting the fastball and got some right down the middle where he wasn’t really clipping at that high velocity we normally see. It clearly wasn’t Chappy’s night.”
The Yankees, therefore, were left lamenting the multiple chances to score they had on the game. “It stinks, no two ways about it,” Boone said. “Especially on a night when we did a lot of things really well. We scored five runs but … we just couldn’t build that lead. It seemed like we had chances to break that game open all night.”