By George A. Kimg III
Two appearances consisting of two innings is all it took for Aroldis Chapman to become “The Most Exciting Two Minutes’’ in New York.
“I would pay to watch that, it’s great,’’ catcher Brian McCann said of Chapman’s high-octane fastball that sealed a 10-7 win over the slumping World Series champion Royals Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Asked to protect a three-run lead in the ninth after Masahiro Tanaka flushed two leads and Andrew Miller one, Chapman dazzled the crowd of 39,128 with a 102-mph fastball to Cheslor Cuthbert leading off the inning. Cuthbert got wood on the aspirin-like pitch, but it shattered his bat on a grounder to the right side.
When Chapman, who made his Yankees debut Monday night after serving a 30-day suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, popped up Lorenzo Cain for the final out, the gas-throwing lefty had his first save as a Yankee.
A free agent following the season and a candidate to be dealt if the Yankees fall out of postseason contention, Chapman isn’t going to be in The Bronx long enough to establish a legacy. However, judging from the first two nights, when the crowd bathed in the heat coming from Chapman’s left wing, his outings have already turned into happenings.
“Because of his velocity, it’s been well-advertised how hard he throws,’’ manager Joe Girardi said about the Stadium crowd connecting instantly with Chapman. “I think people are excited about it.’’
Mariano Rivera, the best closer ever, worked here. Goose Gossage is a Hall of Famer and former Yankee John Wetteland was the closer for the 1996 World Series winners. David Robertson succeeded Rivera and did very well. Miller was voted the top AL closer a year ago.
None created a buzz as quickly as Chapman.
“There is a great history here with closers,’’ Chapman said. “I am happy and proud to be here.’’
Monday night Girardi summoned Chapman with a four-run lead in the ninth and no save in the wind. Tuesday it was much different. Tanaka, the staff ace, surrendered two leads and Miller, the closer who went 6-for-6 in save situations while Chapman was suspended, flushed a one-run lead in the eighth by giving up Cain’s third homer of the evening.
Chapman walking Alcides Escobar with two outs in the ninth provided some anxiety because Cain was next. And while a fourth homer wouldn’t have erased a lead, it would have removed some of the bulletproof aura that surrounds Chapman.
“I was concentrating on making pitches and getting an out,’’ said Chapman, who popped up Cain to seal the Yankees’ fourth win in five games.
When the Yankees acquired Chapman from the Reds in late December, it was viewed by some as excess, since Dellin Betances and Miller were considered among the top late-inning relievers in baseball.
Now, it’s clear the move was a good one simply because Wednesday night, Chapman won’t be available after working two straight games. That means Girardi has Betances and Miller to summon if the Yankees are leading in the late frames as Chapman recovers.
With no Chapman, the ninth-inning buzz that engulfed the Stadium on Monday and Tuesday will be missing. But the 100-mph-plus fastball could return Thursday.
“I am glad I am catching it and not facing it,’’ McCann said of Chapman’s heat, which was well publicized as a Red but now part of New York’s baseball landscape after just two servings.
“A lot of fans like to see triple digits,’’ said Chapman, who has been pushing speed guns into that neighborhood for years. “I understand why they get excited when they see me do that.’’
Two games and two innings is all it took for “The Most Exciting Two Minutes’’ in New York