Yankees salvage split after wild Mets comeback off Aroldis Chapman in opener

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Aroldis Chapman is having the worst stretch of his career. It couldn’t come at a worse time for his Yankees, who briefly dropped to .500 with a 10-5 loss to the Mets in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Chapman remained chained to the bench for the second game, in which the Yankees prevailed 4-2.

It was Chapman’s fourth blown save in his last nine chances; he had not pitched since the nuclear meltdown on June 30 when he allowed a game-tying grand slam in the ninth inning. Coming in for the final frame of the seven-inning affair, Chapman twisted a questionable slider to Pete Alonso. Chapman had gotten ahead of Alonso 1-2 on high fastballs, but opted for the slider as a putaway pitch.

Alonso put it into the bullpen to tie the ballgame at five.

“I don’t think that was the right spot for that,” Boone said of the failed slider. “I don’t think it was the right pitch to go with the slider.” His catcher took the blame for calling it.

“That’s on me,” said Kyle Higashioka. “We shouldn’t have thrown that. I thought if we could get it in the dirt we could get a swing and miss. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

A hit by pitch and a walk later, and Chapman was pulled, walking solemnly to the dugout as boos, middle fingers and the familiar feeling of impending defeat came from every section of Yankee Stadium. Lucas Luetge took over and issued a single to Kevin Pillar, loading the bases. No one will remember the strikeout to James McCann that came next, because each of the next three hitters drove in the killer runs.

Down to his final strike, pinch hitter Jose Peraza strung a rope into deep left field. An overzealous fan reached over the wall to catch it, briefly giving Peraza a grand slam, but the umpires quickly gathered and decided it was a two-run double instead.

Peraza and Kevin Pillar scored on Brandon Nimmo’s single, and Nimmo buzzed home when Francisco Lindor singled as well. All told, the Mets put up a six spot in the ninth inning, thwacking five hits while sending 10 hitters to the plate.

The Mets took it to both of the Yankees’ high-profile pitchers. In addition to the beating they put on Chapman, they also gave Gerrit Cole the hook after 80 pitches.

“I don’t truthfully have one thing as of yet,” Cole said when asked if he could pinpoint the reason for his struggles. “I felt like I had pretty good stuff today and the ball was moving the way we wanted. Hits just fell in. We need to continue to fight. Anything is possible.”

In between the Yankees’ two All-Stars — yes, Cole and Chapman were named to the All-Star team Sunday — Jonathan Loaisiga and Chad Green locked down some very important outs. The two relievers built a sturdy bridge to Chapman before the closer collapsed.

“I’ll consider a number of things,” Boone said when asked about his closer situation after the second game. “Green, Loaisiga, Chapman, those are conversations that we’ll have. We’ll try and do what’s best for the team and those individuals.”

For the Mets (43-37), Dom Smith’s hot streak got another dash of gasoline at the start of the game. Smith launched his third home run in the last four days, giving him six RBI already in the month of July. Marcus Stroman was solid despite not striking any Yankees out, which made him the first Mets starter to log five innings without a punchout since Robert Gsellman in 2017.

The loss to a crosstown rival marked just another disastrous day for the Yankees. Their embattled ace went just 3.1 innings; their embattled closer blew another save. At one point the men in pinstripes had won 22 of 30 games. They now sit at 42-41.

“Another awful loss,” Boone succinctly said for seemingly the thousandth time this year. “No other way to put it.”

The second game offered a brief balm for the Yankees’ endless pain. Gio Urshela served a fastball that was up and out of the zone up and over the right field wall for a three-run tater. Spot starter Nestor Cortes Jr. and his array of windups gave the Yankees 3.1 much-needed innings, striking out four and handing out just one run on two hits.

Things looked to be unraveling when Darren O’Day replaced Cortes and let Alonso homer on his second pitch of the night. O’Day eventually got out of the inning with his team still leading 3-2. That swelled to 4-2 when Brett Gardner shimmied home on a fifth-inning wild pitch, and the activity stalled out after that thanks to Green, who got the final nine outs.

Playing underneath the boom of fireworks in the distance, the Yankees won the most must-win game of all their must-win games. Boone stuck with Green to lasso the final three outs, which he did with ease. The Yankees dodged what would have been an embarrassing sweep, instead settling for a slightly less embarrassing series loss where they were outscored 20-12.

In Sunday’s second game, the Mets’ 3-4-5 hitters brought the visitors’ only fireworks. Those three — Alonso, Dom Smith and James McCann — went 3-for-8 with a walk. Michael Conforto’s walk supplied their only other base runner.

Thanks to Cortes and Green, the Yankees ended their Independence Day one game over .500, headed to Seattle now in search of any kind of consistency.

“We understand the hole we’ve dug for ourselves,” Boone stated. “We’re going out west with a lot on the line.”

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