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Chapman closes it out, but struggles continue

Yanks lefty allows at least one run for third straight outing, another homer
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Aroldis Chapman crouched at the front of the mound while Amed Rosario circled the bases around him, remaining motionless until catcher Gary Sanchez finally patted the struggling closer on the back with his glove.

That visual, along with the telling grimace as Chapman sprinted to cover first base for the final out of a 5-4 victory over the Mets, spoke volumes about the Yankees' ninth-inning situation. Chapman said that his tight hamstring -- he didn't specify which one -- is "nothing to worry about," but his performance has been.

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NEW YORK -- Aroldis Chapman crouched at the front of the mound while Amed Rosario circled the bases around him, remaining motionless until catcher Gary Sanchez finally patted the struggling closer on the back with his glove.

That visual, along with the telling grimace as Chapman sprinted to cover first base for the final out of a 5-4 victory over the Mets, spoke volumes about the Yankees' ninth-inning situation. Chapman said that his tight hamstring -- he didn't specify which one -- is "nothing to worry about," but his performance has been.

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"It has been a difficult year for me and for my expectations," Chapman said through an interpreter. "I'm going through a rough patch here, but you've got to keep fighting. You've got to keep trying to go out there and do the job."

Chapman has surrendered at least one earned run in each of his last three appearances, allowing homers in consecutive games for just the second time in his career, but manager Joe Girardi said that he is not considering a shakeup to shift Dellin Betances or David Robertson into the closer's role.

"I still really believe in him," Girardi said. "There's other guys in that bullpen that have had tough times this year and we didn't abandon them. If you start doing that every time a player goes through a tough time, it can be risky."

As he stood in full uniform at his clubhouse locker, still furiously dripping perspiration, Chapman was asked if he felt that he still deserved to be designated as the closer. It was a question that the Yankees surely weren't expecting in the first year of a five-year, $86 million contract.

"I'm here to pitch," Chapman replied. "My job is to be ready to pitch every day. As far as where I pitch, that's not up to me. At some point, if they need to remove me from the closing position, I'm always going to be ready and willing to pitch here."

Video: NYM@NYY: Chapman discusses his performance, health

Sanchez lifted an eighth-inning sacrifice fly that increased the Yanks' lead to 5-2, and that proved to be crucial as Chapman entered for the first time since blowing Sunday's crushing 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox -- his fourth blown save in 19 chances.

Chapman struck out Wilmer Flores to begin the inning, then permitted an infield hit to Jose Reyes before Rosario jumped on an 85-mph slider, slugging it over the wall in right-center field to trim the Yanks' lead to a run. Sanchez said that he tried to offer words of support.

"The game is on the line there," Sanchez said. "I went out there just having a positive moment, trying to calm him down and to focus on the next batter."

The chat worked, as Chapman retired the next two hitters on groundouts for his 16th save, but they came at a price. Television replays suggested that Chapman's hamstring may have tightened when he covered first base on Reyes' hit, and he certainly felt it while breaking for the final out.

"Leg problems are an issue, and I'm not even sure which leg it is yet," Girardi said. "If it's his landing leg, you worry. If it's his push-off leg, you worry. You worry about him overcompensating somewhere else and hurting his arm."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman