NEW YORK -- Once a pitcher's velocity reaches triple digits, Brian McCann was saying, there no longer seems to be much difference between 104 mph and 105 mph. Each one is a blur, so a catcher's main concern is making sure the ball meets the glove's pocket and not his left thumb.
Aroldis Chapman put that to the test repeatedly on Monday, as the Yankees' flame-throwing left-hander threw the five fastest pitches recorded to date by Statcast™, including one that registered 105.1 mph. Chapman locked down his 19th save in 20 chances as the Yankees defeated the Orioles, 2-1.
Chapman throws major heat
"I look [at the scoreboard] every time he throws a pitch," McCann said. "I look every time to see how hard it was. It's incredible what he can do on the mound. You just hope you catch it right. If you catch it right, you're fine. If you don't, you're in trouble."
The 105.1-mph fastball came on Chapman's sixth pitch to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, an offering that darted well out of the strike zone but drew a loud reaction from the crowd. Chapman's previous pitch to Hardy, clocked at 104 mph, sailed past McCann to the screen for a ball.
"I noticed," Chapman said through an interpreter. "I took a peek at the board and I saw that it was 105, yeah. … Actually, I noticed their reaction when I threw the ball, so because of that cheering, that's when I looked back and I noticed. It was nice."
After those two heaters, Chapman snapped off a 91-mph slider that Hardy lifted in the air to left field. Chapman said he initially thought that the ball was headed to the seats for a game-tying homer, but Brett Gardner put it away without incident for the second out of the inning.
"I duck down one step in the dugout when he's pitching," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Some of our hard throwers, you get a little bit nervous over there. But you watch him, and his arm is so quick. I can't really say I've ever seen an arm that quick, and it's impressive."
Chapman started the next batter, Nolan Reimold, with a 104.4-mph fastball out of the strike zone and lost him to a five-pitch walk. Facing Ryan Flaherty, Chapman found his command, getting ahead 0-2 on a pair of triple-digit heaters before hitting 104.3 mph on a pitch that was fouled off.
"I think it's incredible to watch," Yankees reliever Andrew Miller said. "I don't think anybody else comes even close. He's just such an outlier. I'm glad he's on our team."
That sixth pitch to Hardy owns the third-highest perceived velocity in the Statcast™ era, at 105.5 mph, only trailing two pitches by Carter Capps -- 105.9 mph and 105.6 mph, respectively.
By coincidence, the Braves' Mauricio Cabrera hit 103.8 mph on Monday, marking the fastest non-Chapman pitch recorded by Statcast™. Chapman recorded 103.9 mph twice last season and was clocked at 105.1 mph by Pitch f/x on Sept. 24, 2010, all while with the Reds.
Chapman said that Monday's appearance was not anything out of the ordinary, though perhaps the muggy conditions of an 81-degree evening helped.
"I felt fine," Chapman said. "I felt normal; just a little more loose, I guess. But not unlike any other day."
The game's final pitch was clocked at 104.9 mph, shattering Flaherty's bat and producing a ground ball to second baseman Starlin Castro.
"We're all very lucky to be witnessing the guy that throws the fastest pitch in the world," Alex Rodriguez said. "That's pretty cool."
And while he's wowing fans and teammates with his velocity, Chapman could also be on the move if the Yankees decide to sell by the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The National League Central-leading Cubs could use relief help, and the Yankees are reportedly interested in their young slugger Kyle Schwarber, who is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee in April. The 23-year-old, a left-handed hitter, hit 16 home runs in 69 games last year as a rookie.