Yankees' Aroldis Chapman not himself again; Time to use David Robertson at closer?

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NEW YORK — Something’s not right with Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

Seriously, something’s definitely not right.

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His fastball, the fastball in the history of baseball when he’s throwing his best heat, has been 2-to-3 ticks down all season.

He’s been wild.

He’s no longer an automatic save.

He’s not dominating or intimating the way that he did before the Yankees traded him away last July and then brought him back as a free agent last winter on the richest contract ever given to a closer, $86 million for five seasons.

Remember how most of Chapman’s outings last season were exciting sideshows within the game?

We haven’t that all year, and on Friday night Chapman turned into the July version of Dellin Betances, and he almost cost the Yankees’ their best win of the season, a 5-4 comeback and then survival over the first-place Boston Red Sox.

After the Yankees rose from the dead in the eighth inning to score five runs and turn a 3-0 deficit into a two-run lead, Chapman entered for the ninth and promptly walked three straight Red Sox to load the bases with nobody out.

Left fielder Aaron Hicks saved Chapman’s hide when the three walks were followed by a flyball to left by Andrew Benintendi.

After homering with a runner on to account for the first two runs in the Yankees eighth, Hicks threw out Edgardo Nunez at third base on Benintendi’s sacrifice fly for an improbable, incredible double play.

The Red Sox were back to within a run, but now down to their last out with a runner on second.

From there, Chapman induced Mitch Moreland to hit a game-ending can of corn to center in a second lefty-on-lefty confrontation in a row, and the Yankees survived to pull to within 3 1/2 games Boston on a night falling 5 1/2 back seemed likely.

As for Chapman, manager Joe Girardi blamed this shaky outing on being rusty, and he has a point because the Cuban lefty hadn’t pitched since last Saturday and this was only his second outing in 11 days of August.

“You can’t really use that as an excuse,” Chapman said. “To me, it’s just a bad day.”

He’s right.

But there’s been too many bad days from Chapman, who has saved 15 of his 18 save opportunities but rarely if ever in a way he put away teams as a first-time Yankee last season and before that during his years with Cincinnati.

His fastball, which used to hit 103 and 104 regularly, topped out at 102 on Friday night and he’s mostly been in the 99-101 range all season.

“If I’m off a couple miles an hour, I’m not going to be too worried about it,” Chapman said. “I feel good. The velocity’s here.”

Velocity that is faster than most everyone is here, but Chapman’s old velocity hasn’t been here.

All of this makes you wonder if this is a carryover from last fall when Chapman complained about being overused by Cubs manager Joe Madden during the postseason.

Chapman has a World Series ring from his short time on the North side of Chicago thanks in part to the Yankees opting for a rebuild last July, but his pre-postseason form has been missing in 2017.

His numbers this year are good, but not great. He’s 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 15 walks over 32 1/3 innings in 35 games.

“Personally, I have really high goals of myself,” Chapman said. “Personally, I haven’t been where I want to be.”

We appreciate the honestly, which makes you wonder if the Yankees are better off for the time being with newcomer David Robertson closing.

Robertson, who rejoined the Yankees for a second tour last month, was very good the last four seasons as a closer for the Yanks in 2013 and Chicago White Sox from 2014-17.

Chapman will be and should be the closer again when he gets right – assuming he gets right – but meantime the Yankees are in a battle to win their division and/or a Wild Card to qualify for postseason baseball.

In a season in which manager Joe Girardi has benched Jacoby Ellsbury for Clint Frazier, moved Chase Headley to first base and called out catcher Gary Sanchez for his receiving, it’s time for him to think about making Robertson his closer for the time being.

Randy Miller may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RandyJMiller. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

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