Making his first appearance since getting hit on the head with a line drive in Spring Training, Aroldis Chapman played in a Major League Baseball game. Play? He dominated with pitches that topped 100 miles per hour and striking out three in his closing assignment in the final inning, helping the Cincinnati Reds claim a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.
Anyone who can quiet the Rockies, the best hitting team in baseball, deserves a special mention. Anyone coming back from a potentially career-ending injury in a matter of months deserves attention. When that someone also puts on a nearly perfect performance from a closer, it generates even more buzz than you’d normally have.
It wasn’t just Chapman who made life difficult for the usually scorching bats from Colorado. In the closing game of a three-game series that was split in the first two, a brilliant start from Homer Bailey (7.1 innings, one run, six strikeouts, only four hits) and the relief appearances of Manny Parra and Chapman helped the Reds claim a win a day after getting battered by 11 runs from the Rockies.
Instead, Colorado were just 4-of-30 at the plate. Troy Tulowitzki was 0-for-3, and so was Nolan Arenado. The Rockies got one run in the 4th inning as Charlie Blackmon hit a solo homer, his ninth of the season, but that was about it. The Reds were already up by two runs at that point: First with Skip Schumaker grounding out to second helping Billy Hamilton score and then again with Schumaker hitting a single that scored Ramon Santiago.
The Reds kept on harassing Juan Nicasio as Todd Frazier hit his 7th home run of the season, followed by Ramon Santiago scoring due to an error by Arenado. The Rockies kept missing the rest of the way while the Reds also struggled getting contact on the final two innings of the game, but it obviously didn’t matter, as Chapman came on to finish the job.
He had 21 pitches thrown, striking out three batters and walking one. Out of the 21, 15 of them were 100 mph or faster, making it 297 +100 pitches for Chapman since the beginning of last year, more than anyone else in baseball. After being out for two months and getting hit hard during his rehab appearances in Louisville, seeing him throw like the closer they know and expect was a reason to smile and a huge sigh of relief.