Ever since the Cincinnati Reds signed Aroldis Chapman out of Cuba in 2010, I’ve been one of “those people” who have clamored to see the fireballer in the rotation. The argument goes that your best pitcher should be on the mound more than 50 or 60 innings per year, and that so-called closers are easier to come by than shutdown starters. I have to admit, though, that Chapman is doing his best to convince the doubters otherwise, and his strongest piece of evidence yet came on Friday night when he struck out the side in ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates to pick up his 20th save in 22 chances, helping the Reds nail down an improbable 6-5 comeback victory. In the process, Chapman recorded a strikeout in his 40th straight game, surpassing the record set by Bruce Sutter for the Chicago Cubs in 1977.
In this game, the Reds struck first when Billy Hamilton scored in the first, courtesy of a Zack Cozart double. Reds’ starter Mat Latos cruised along well until the fourth, when Pittsburgh touched him for four runs on two homers. In the fifth, Latos was pulled due to back spasms, joining a long list of wounded Reds. The Pirates added another run in the sixth, and things looked dark for Cincy until rallies in the seventh and eight brought them back.
Chapman came in to shut the door, and set down all three Bucs batters on a total of 14 pitches. On the season, he is striking out nearly two batters per inning and making a strong case, at least for me, that he might actually be in the role he’s best suited for.