Closer distraught after letting lead slip away, then celebrates WS title
By Barry M. Bloom
CLEVELAND -- After Aroldis Chapman came off the field in the ninth inning Wednesday night, he sat down on the bench in the Cubs' dugout at Progressive Field and began to cry.
He pitched in five of the seven games of this epic World Series, which the Cubs ended in the 10th inning of Game 7 with an 8-7 win over the Indians, lifting 108 years of doubt, frustration and superstition from the franchise.
"When I pitch this much, especially this many days in a row, that's what happens to me," Chapman said through Cubs interpreter Matthew Moreno. "My velocity always goes down."
That explains why when Chapman came into the game to replace Jon Lester with two out and a runner on in the eighth, he allowed an RBI double to Brandon Guyer, a two-run homer to Rajai Davis and a Coco Crisp single before settling down and recording the next four outs into the ninth.
A 6-3 Cubs advantage when Chapman entered had turned into a 6-6 tie and suddenly the images of Steve Bartman, the Billy Goat and Leon Durham began to rear their ugly heads.
The 98.2-mph pitch (according to Statcast™) that Davis barely hit out above the 19-foot high wall in the left-field corner was the third lowest velocity the Cuban left-hander recorded throwing a four-seam fastball that was hit safely this season and the third-lowest on an extra-base hit.
While the above figure might seem superhuman for most pitchers, consider that Chapman regularly throws in the 100s. Playing for the Yankees and Cubs this season through the regular season and playoffs, Chapman tossed the 30 fastest pitches in baseball and 49 of the top 50.
This is how dominant Chapman is: The homer was the first he had allowed since the Yankees traded him to the Cubs on July 25. In New York, he allowed two home runs in 26 2/3 innings, both of them coming against the Twins at Minnesota on June 18.
"It was very emotional. I felt like I let my team down," said Chapman, who threw 7 2/3 innings in the series, including the critical 2 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday night in Game 5 at Wrigley Field when the Cubs were on the brink of elimination.
It was retiring veteran catcher David Ross who helped console Chapman when he sat in the dugout, rain beginning to fall from the clouds and tears streaking his cheeks.
"I was emotionally down because of what happened in the game," Chapman said. "It was a difficult situation I put my team in. Ross just consoled me. He helped me out. He told about the situation and not to worry about it. To keep my chin up and just have confidence in myself and the team that we'll come back and win this game."
Ross, playing in his final game, had his own problems. He came in to catch Lester with two out and a runner on in the fifth and promptly made a throwing error to first on a dribbler in front of the plate, and couldn't block a wild pitch that allowed two runs to score.
He promptly homered in the sixth for his last big league hit.
"I allowed two runs, so the least I could do was make up for it up by knocking in one," Ross said.
Still, in what was his final act as one of the club's top leaders, Ross tried to calm down Chapman.
"He was very upset. He felt like he let us down," Ross said. "I said, 'We wouldn't be here without you. We wouldn't be here without every guy on this team.' Whether there's a hero or goat -- excuse the pun -- I think everyone feels the weight of the world on their shoulders when they're trying to do something special. I can understand it. You want to win and you want to help your teammates out."
Like Ross, Game 7 might have been Chapman's last game as a Cub. He'll hit the open market and figure it all out.
"That's a topic for another day," Chapman said in the din of the celebration. "Not for now."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.