Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman didn’t agree with manager Aaron Boone’s decision to intentionally walk Carlos Santana to load the bases in the ninth inning Wednesday night, and he let everyone watching know about it.
After blowing the save in the Yankees’ come-from-behind, 6-5 win over the Royals at the Stadium, Chapman had a temper tantrum in the dugout, throwing his glove and screaming to himself.
“When we met on the mound, Chapman wanted to pitch to Santana, and that’s what we talked about,” catcher Gary Sanchez said through an interpreter. “But later on, Boone made the decision to walk him. And he’s the manager — that’s [something] he has to do as manager of the team, making the tough decision. … Probably not what Chapman wanted to do there in that situation.”
After Chapman allowed singles to Michael A. Taylor and Whit Merrifield in the ninth inning, putting runners on the corners with two outs, there was a meeting at the mound.
After a lengthy talk, they came to the decision to intentionally walk Santana, the Royals’ best hitter, who had homered in his previous at-bat. Behind him was light-hitting rookie backup catcher Sebastian Rivero, who had replaced injured starter Salvador Perez earlier in the game.
Chapman threw four straight balls to Rivero, however, to force in Taylor to tie the score 4-4. Each pitch was wilder than the next as Chapman earned his third blown save of the year.
The next batter, Ryan O’Hearn, reached on a check-swing infield single, plating Merrifield to give the Royals a 5-4 lead.
After the walk to Rivero, Chapman had yelled to himself on the mound, just as he did in the dugout a few moments later.
“You definitely saw the emotions,” Sanchez said. “He was a bit frustrated there with that inning.”
Boone said Chapman did want to face Santana, but he overruled him, playing it safe with a light-hitting catcher on deck, a move that backfired.
“I just decided I didn’t want to have [Santana] beat us in that spot,” Boone said.
There was one positive for Chapman: He got the win. It was the only upside to his evening. He was bailed out, just as in his previous outing, when the Yankees turned a triple play on Sunday against the Athletics.
Until recently, Chapman had been brilliant. He carried a microscopic 0.39 ERA into a save opportunity against the Twins on June 10. That night, however, he was torched for a pair of two-run homers. Two days later, Chapman took the loss in extra innings against the Phillies. He gave up a run in a save against the A’s on Saturday, and nearly blew the save the next day, putting runners on first and second with no outs, before the Yankees turned an around-the-horn triple play.
Chapman has now allowed five earned runs over his past 5 ¹/₃ innings, struck out six and given up 11 hits. His ERA has risen to 2.54 over that stretch. Compare that to his first 23 innings, when he gave up just one earned run, allowed seven hits and struck out 43.
The typically dominant closer is clearly struggling, even though both Boone and Sanchez propped him up after his latest shaky outing.