The Yankees had a two-run lead in the ninth, but closer Aroldis Chapman gave up a pair of two-run homers in the Bombers' crushing 7-5 loss to the Twins Thursday night in Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS — On the verge of yet another win over the Twins, the Yankees turned to perhaps their most reliable arm to finish a sweep at Target Field.
But instead of a third straight victory, Aroldis Chapman turned into an ugly defeat.
The closer allowed four straight hits without retiring a batter, giving up a game-tying, two-run homer to Josh Donaldson and a game-winning, two-run shot to Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the ninth of a 7-5 loss on Thursday.
“They were looking fastball and they got some right down the middle, and he wasn’t hitting his normal velocity,’’ Aaron Boone said of Chapman, who had allowed just one earned run in 23 innings before Thursday night. “He’s been as good as there’s been in the sport.”
But Boone said the lefty’s “fastball lacked life tonight. They have some really good fastball hitters.”
Asked if he thought Chapman’s ineffectiveness was possibly due to the added scrutiny Major League Baseball is putting on pitchers using foreign substances, Boone said, “I don’t think so” and pointed instead to the fact Chapman’s fastball was sitting at 95-96 mph and he wasn’t able to adjust.
“It wasn’t coming out as hot,’’ Boone said.
Chapman, asked if he had to change anything about his pitches because of the crackdown on substances said through an interpreter, “I understand the question, but … I’ve never used any stuff throughout my career. My routine was the same. It doesn’t pertain to me.”
Chapman called it “just a bad night” when he had no feel for his pitches. He added he wasn’t able to get in good counts, which forced him to stay away from the splitter that has become a weapon for him this season.
It all added up to the Yankees’ first loss this season when leading after eight innings.
“Nobody’s perfect,’’ Gleyber Torres said.
The meltdown spoiled a night in which Giancarlo Stanton hit a long three-run homer off ex-Yankee J.A, Happ in the first to give the Bombers a lead out of the gate as they scored at least five runs in four straight games for the first time since September.
“It stings,’’ Boone said. “There’s no two ways about it, especially on a night when we did a lot of things really well. We couldn’t build on that lead when we had chances to kind of break the game open.”
Gio Urshela hit a long homer in the fourth, as the Yankees scored four runs off Happ, who lasted five innings.
Michael King allowed two runs and lasted just 3 ²/₃ innings.
Lucas Luetge replaced King with two outs in the fourth, with the Minnesota lineup about to come up for a third time through, and hit Jorge Polanco with a pitch. But he struck out Donaldson to end the inning.
A two-out single by DJ LeMahieu in the sixth drove Miguel Andujar in from second to make it 5-2.
After Wandy Peralta allowed an RBI double to Cruz in the seventh to cut the Yankees’ lead to two, Chad Green got Miguel Sano on a check-swing strikeout.
Gilberto Celestino robbed the Yankees of a run in the eighth, when he made an excellent running catch on LeMahieu’s liner to right that likely would have scored Brett Gardner from first.
Andujar’s strong throw from left ended the eighth, as he got Celestino trying to stretch a single into a double.
And then Chapman entered and allowed a sharp single to Polanco, the homer to Donaldson, another single to pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo before Cruz ended it.
He has now allowed three homers in his past six games over five-plus innings after not giving up a homer in his first 18 appearances.
“Throughout a long year, you’re gonna see a lot worse than tonight,’’ Stanton said. “But we’ve got another one [in Philadelphia Saturday] night. … It happens.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Dan Martin