Yankees’ easy victory dampened by shaky Aroldis Chapman

The Yankees currently have four relievers in their bullpen with history as closers, but right now, the one guy they’re relying on to be the closer continues to look shaky.

Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the first time since his implosion at Fenway Park, walked the first two batters he faced with a four-run lead in the ninth inning in Thursday’s 7-3 win over the Rangers in The Bronx.

Pitching with reduced velocity, Chapman was so off that pitching coach Larry Rothschild went to the mound after the first two batters reached, while Zach Britton started warming in the bullpen.

Chapman recovered and didn’t allow a run, but it was the latest red flag in a second half increasingly full of them from the All-Star left-hander and was cause for concern following a fourth straight win.

“I think he’s OK,” Boone said of Chapman, who has been bothered by left knee tendinitis. “He’s just fighting his command a little bit there. [He did a] good job battling through it, figuring it out and finding it on the fly there. I think physically he’s fine. We want to make sure we get to the bottom of it.”

Chapman hit 99 mph twice, but mostly sat at 95-96 and wasn’t available for comment afterward.
He got pinch-hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa to ground out and then whiffed Shin-Soo Choo and Rougned Odor to get out of it, featuring a good slider.

If he had allowed another runner, Britton might have come in, since Chapman threw 39 pitches when he allowed three runs to the Red Sox on Sunday, but Boone said he intends to stick with Chapman as the closer.

Prior to Chapman taking the mound Thursday, the Yankees overwhelmed the last-place Rangers as they inched back to eight games behind the Red Sox, who saw their six-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

While Texas had been playing better, with wins in nine of its previous dozen games, the Yankees pounded rookie right-hander Ariel Jurado for four homers in just five innings and hit five long balls on the night.

It helped J.A. Happ win in his return to the rotation.

The left-hander, in his second outing since the Yankees acquired him from Toronto, didn’t allow a hit until Jurickson Profar crushed a mammoth homer to left-center with two outs in the fourth to cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1.

Happ gave up three runs in six innings and struck out nine.

Aaron Hicks gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead when he hammered a two-out, two-run homer into the second deck in right in the first. Hicks became the fourth Yankee to hit 20 homers this season. After 114 games, it’s the earliest in a season the Yankees have had four hitters reach that mark.

After Profar’s homer in the fourth, Miguel Andujar answered in the bottom of the inning with the Yankees’ second two-run shot of the night.

Neil Walker then smacked his fifth homer of the season, his first of two in the game — one from each side of the plate.

Choo, who was hit by Happ in each of his first two at-bats, delivered a two-run double to right-center to cut the Yankees’ lead to 5-3 in the fifth, but Happ recovered to get Odor to pop to second and then fanned Elvis Andrus.

Giancarlo Stanton’s rocket into the bleachers in left-center with one out in the fifth set a Statcast record by being clocked at 121.7 mph.

The DH said he knew pretty quickly how hard he hit it.

“On one like tonight yeah, [you notice],’’ Stanton said. “It’s cool you can bring a buzz to the clubhouse.”

It was the fifth time the Yankees have hit at least five homers in a game.
“It’s fun,’’ Stanton said. “You’ve got guys hitting from both sides [of the plate]. You’ve got top-to-bottom [in the lineup] hitting homers.”

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