What a finish! The Yankees snuck past the A’s this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, 2-1. It took some clutch hitting from Gary Sánchez (who else?) and an incredible triple play to bail out a shaky Aroldis Chapman in the ninth to win this one. That’s right, the Yankees turned a game-ending triple play, as you can see in the video above, to win this one.
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The Yankees have now won six straight games with this afternoon’s 5-4 victory over the White Sox. It came in pretty unconventional fashion, but a win’s a win. Aaron Judge’s ninth inning walk-off walk against Liam Hendriks was the difference in this one. It picked up a rough day for the bullpen, including Aroldis Chapman’s first blown save of the season. With that, let’s get to today’s takeaways:
A win’s a win. After standing absolutely no chance against Max Scherzer, Brad Hand blew the save. And he coughed up the lead again in the tenth, I might add. Same guy the Yankees beat in Game 2 of the Wild Card series last season. They’ve got his number.
The Yankees eventually won this one in 11 frames, 4-3. You read that right: the Yankees won a game in extra innings. Feels like they’ve lost a million frustrating ones already this season. To the takeaways:
The Yankee bullpen has been exceptional in the early going of the season, surrendering just 7 hits, 3 walks, and 1 earned run in its first 18.2 innings of work. While it has been a collective effort, the most encouraging development came last night’s during Aroldis Chapman’s disgusting debut. The Yankee closer threw 19 pitches and generated 10 swings. Of those, 7 (!) came up empty. He was filthy – and, reading between the lines, there are clear signs Chapman will be as effective as ever.
That should not be a surprise to anyone, two backbreaking postseason home runs aside. The lefty closer has been the most important and dominant piece of the Yankee pen since he joined the team. For context, there are 236 qualified relievers in baseball from 2016 through last night’s games. Here are Chapman’s rankings among them in a few key categories:
- FIP: 2.12 (1st)
- fWAR: 8.5 (2nd behind Kenley Jansen at 8.6)
- Average FB Velocity: 99.7 miles-per-hour (2nd behind Jordan Hicks)
- ERA: 2.36 (2nd behind teammate Zack Britton)
- ERA-: 54 (2nd behind teammate Zack Britton)
- Strikeout Rate: 38.9% (5th)
- Strikeout-to-Walk Rate: 28.4% (T-5th)
- BAA: .168 (5th)
- WPA: 8.25 (8th)
- WHIP: 1.02 (13th)
Veteran reliever Darren O’Day: “We have a great stable of arms here.”— Erik Boland (@eboland11) March 3, 2021
Newbie Darren O’Day sure knew how to endear himself to a fanbase, huh? There clearly was some intent in that comment early this month. As you may recall, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash touted his stable of guys who throw 98 last year in response to the beef the Yankees and Rays had. It sounded a bit threatening after Aroldis Chapman threw some chin music to Mike Brosseau. Granted, the Rays got the last laugh. It’s a new year though, and this bullpen is clearly pretty good, as O’Day said.
Although Aroldis Chapman‘s high octane fastball is no longer unique among his peers, he’s still one of the league’s best closers. He’ll continue to blow his upper-90s heat by hitters in 2021, but that might not be his only big threat anymore. Sure, his slider has been effective at times in the past, but this year, Chapman plans to incorporate the splitter he teased last season. It’s looked pretty nasty in camp.
Aroldis Chapman, Filthy Splitter. 😷 pic.twitter.com/GdWeP45txT— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 11, 2021
As tantalizing as that split looks, there’s one ultimate goal for Chapman this season: to record the clinching out of the World Series rather than end his year like the previous two postseasons. One last note: Chapman will serve a two-game suspension to start the season as a result of this aforementioned incident against the Rays last season.