Chapman's mere presence rouses Reds fans
Young phenom's stuff undeniable in first taste of postseason
CINCINNATI -- When Aroldis Chapman took the mound in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Great American Ball Park on Sunday -- with the Reds trailing the Phillies, 2-0, and ultimately falling by the same margin -- the radar gun was not the only thing to light up.
Reds fans, who had done their best throughout the game to get the club going, rose in unison and remained standing throughout his performance. Flashbulbs exploded around the entire stadium with every windup and pitch as the fans, sensing that this might be their best memory from the Reds' first home playoff game in 15 years, captured the moment.
He did not disappoint. Chapman quickly fell behind Raul Ibanez, 3-0, but he did not panic. After a called strike and a foul, he got Ibanez to line out to right.
On his next batter, Carlos Ruiz, Chapman delivered an astounding fastball that registered 105 mph on the stadium radar gun, but Ruiz shortened his swing out of necessity and slapped it to the right-field corner for a double.
Unaffected, Chapman promptly coaxed flyouts to center from Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino to keep his ERA perfect, even if his record wasn't.
"We had a lot of great performances from our young pitchers like Chapman," Jay Bruce said. "This experience should be good for him. He's going to be a big part of this team down the road."
Chapman was good -- very good at times -- but never the force the Reds were hoping, even with a 0.00 ERA in two innings pitched in the series. The unfortunate thing for Chapman is that most of that was entirely out of his control.
The Reds had the Phillies in mind when they promoted Chapman to the Majors in August. With visions of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Ibanez and a possible NLDS dancing in their heads, the Reds were hoping he could develop into a late-inning hammer for the postseason.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty looked to be prophetic when the Reds drew the two-time defending National League champs in the opening round. And it turned out just the way they hoped -- at least against those lefties.
But in his first postseason appearance during Game 2, a close call changed everything -- when Utley was ruled to have been hit by Chapman's fastball leading off the seventh. Howard struck out on 100-mph heat, but Jayson Werth reached on another close call as Utley was ruled safe at second.
Then up came Jimmy Rollins and the fly ball lost by Bruce that turned a 4-3 Reds lead into a 5-4 Phillies advantage. One more unearned run would score before Chapman was relieved.
What started out as a night that even impressed Phillies fans turned quickly into a nightmare for the 22-year-old. He was charged with three unearned runs and the loss as the Reds dropped a gut-wrenching 7-4 decision.
In the end, Chapman may not have been the force the Reds hoped he would be, but that was largely due to events beyond his control. The question now is what kind of force he'll be next year and beyond.
The debate will rage on as to whether Chapman should start or remain in his role as one of the most feared setup men in baseball. But one thing Chapman did prove is just how great he could be for the Reds and why everyone in Cincinnati won't let a three-game sweep dim their optimism for what they have to look forward to in 2011.
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.