The Yankees were riding high coming into the bottom of the ninth inning of Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.
The offense was clicking, as Giancarlo Stanton slammed his third homer in two games, and Aaron Boone was able to hand the ball to his dominant closer with a needed three-game sweep well in reach.
But things changed in the blink of an eye, or in this case, nine pitches.
Aroldis Chapman faced four batters in the inning, allowing a pair of singles sandwiched by a pair of two-run home runs from Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz, and just like that, the Twins pulled off a stunning 7-5 victory.
“It clearly wasn’t Chappy’s night,” Boone said afterwards. “Obviously, he’s been as good as there’s been in the sport, and I just think his fastball lacked a little bit of life tonight against, obviously, at the top of their order, some really good fastball hitters.
“It stings. No two ways about it.”
Chapman started the inning with a couple of sliders to Jorge Polanco, but after that he relied solely on his fastball, which had a noticeable downtick in velocity. Chapman, who typically sits around 99-100 mph, was throwing in the 95-97 mph range Thursday, and the Twins didn’t miss it.
“I felt normal tonight, actually. Just like a normal night, nothing different. Just a bad night tonight,” Chapman said, via a translator.
“If you have to point out something different tonight, my velocity wasn’t there as it has been before, and the hitters were ready to jump on the fastball tonight.”
But Boone didn’t seem overly concerned about Chapman’s velocity, saying that it’s fairly common for him to start slower before revving up to full speed.
“I just think it wasn’t coming out as hot like normally does. We see that every now and again, even in a game where he’s really got it going,” Boone explained.
“A lot of times when he has those outings, he’ll usually find the velocity in the course of the outing or he’s able to still locate and command and make pitches while he’s kind of ramping that velo up.
“Tonight I think he was searching for it a little bit.”
Chapman and the Yankees will get a day to recover on Friday before starting a two-game series against the Phillies on Saturday.