Aroldis Chapman can't pinpoint the root of his season-long struggles with control

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Sunday was another slog for Aroldis Chapman, who faced five batters and allowed three walks and a hit, getting charged with two runs and taking the loss in the Yankees’ 3-1 loss to Baltimore.

If you ask manager Aaron Boone, though, it maybe wasn’t as bad as it looked?

“He got ahead of Mullins and got unlucky on a chopper on a check swing, then had a competitive at-bat with Rutschmann, who laid off some tough pitches 2-2 and 3-2,” Boone said of the first two plate appearances before adding this: “Then he just didn’t rein it in quite enough. He didn’t really loose the zone too much, didn’t completely get wild and was competitive with each hitter, but the inning got long and we had to get him out of there.
Those are the times you have to be able to rein it in, and he just wasn’t able to finish it off.”

The problem is that wildness has plagued Chapman all season, around two IL stints and a demotion from his closer role, and while he’s found it in spurts, it always seems to disappear again.

That’s concerning as it is, but as a depleted Yankees bullpen is trying to figure out who the best pitchers are to take to October, every outing of this nature seems to push Chapman further and further away from the inner circle.

“We’ll continue to look for spots to get guys in and make evaluations, but yeah, sure, it’s concerning,” Boone said. “At times, there are not enough strikes, and that gets him into trouble.”

Chapman’s ERA is up to 4.58 after Sunday, and the ineffective outing comes two days after, in the series opener against Baltimore, he threw eight of 15 pitches for strikes in a high-leverage situation (Yankees down 2-1 in the eighth) and got a fly out, a ground out, and a pickoff after a two-out single.

However, it’s also the second time in six outings since coming off the IL two weeks ago where he’s been lifted in the middle of an inning after getting into trouble – and he doesn’t know why.

“Nothing in particular, I just haven’t been executing consistent strikes,” Chapman said through team translator Marlon Abreu. “It’s frustrating, and sometimes it can be part of the game, but you just have to keep battling.”

He’s trying to do that, but in an ideal world, the Yankees will have Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loaisiga as their back-end combo, Lou Trivino and Wandy Peralta as their matchup firemen, and Scott Effross and Lucas Luetge in middle relief roles come the ALDS.

Add in one of their starters as a long man and, and that leaves two or three spots for the likes of Chapman, Clarke Schmidt, Ron Marinaccio, and maybe Miguel Castro or Albert Abreu or even Frankie Montas to fill in the gaps as lower-leverage relievers – something Schmidt might have a leg up on given his repertoire as a nominal starter and ability to provide length.

Of course, Holmes is shut down, Peralta, Montas, and Abreu are on the IL, Castro is just coming back Monday, and Marinaccio left Sunday’s game with a sore shin, so Chapman might get a spot, at least in the ALDS, by default – but for now, he’s going to use the final series in Texas to make sure he’s ready if and when called upon in the postseason.

“I don’t make those decisions,” he said, “so I’m just going to keep trying to get it going.”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN

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