NEW YORK — Because professional sports is filled with perfectionists, an extended purple patch from an individual or a team still gets scrutinized in the never-ending pursuit of a championship. The New York Yankees have had a start to their season bordering on the best any of its historic teams have ever had, but, on Sunday, a soft underbelly lying somewhat dormant amidst the great run exposed itself once more, allowing perfectionist types to find flaws that need addressing.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in the ninth inning, a no-doubter to left fielder AJ Pollock, part of a two-run ninth inning for the White Sox in their 3-1 victory over the Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Pollock’s blast erased a game-tying solo shot from Aaron Judge in the bottom half of the previous inning.
Belying today’s result, New York came into today with the best record in the Major Leagues in games decided by three runs or fewer, in large part due to its sterling bullpen work…but those efforts currently are taking a backseat to Chapman’s struggles, as he’s allowed a run in each of his last five outings after not allowing a run in his first 12 appearances of the season.
After missing with his first pitch in the ninth, Chapman elevated a fastball that, in his heyday, few if any would have caught up to. Pollock, however, pulled his hands in and launched a towering drive down the left field line and into the bleachers to break a 1-1 tie.
The inning got messier for Chapman, who allowed a one-out walk to Andrew Vaughn, who advanced to second on a Chapman wild pitch and eventually scored when Adam Engel doubled to left. Aaron Boone came to get Chapman, and the boo birds serenaded the latter on his way to the dugout, his status as closer very much in jeopardy afterward.
It may not have been too much of a surprise Pollock got the game-winner late, as his shot marked the sixth time in his career that he hit a home run to give his team the lead in the ninth inning or later. His two hits extended his hitting streak to six games, and Pollock has put up slash lines of .326/.362./581 since May 9, with seven of his 14 hits in that span going for extra bases (five doubles, two homers).