Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 6/24/12
CINCINNATI There was nobody in the Cincinnati Reds' clubhouse Sunday afternoon with a scrub brush wiping off the big red 'S' on Aroldis Chapman's chest because there never was one there. It only seemed that way. Until recent times, Chapman was as unhittable as a missile being pursued by a guy with a sling shot. He was, indeed, Superman. He was, indeed, super human. He began the season without giving up a run in his first 24 appearances over 29 innings. Suddenly, he has fallen on hard times and he fell hard Sunday afternoon in Great American Ball Park against the Minnesota Twins, a 4-3 Reds' loss when Chapman gave up a two-run home run in the ninth inning to Josh Willingham. Cincinnati's Joey Votto crashed a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. Instead of sending starter Mike Leake back to the mound for the bottom of the ninth, manager Dusty Baker sent out Chapman, his closer. Leake had pitched eight innings and given up two runs, five hits, no walks and struck out five, using up only 86 pitches. Chapman gave up a double Joe Mauer and a 438-foot home run to Josh Willingahm on a 97 miles an hour fastball. It was the third time in his last six appearances that he not only blew a save, but lost the game. Why Chapman and not Leake this time? "No, none at all. That's his job, that's Chappie's job to close games," said Baker. "If I sent Leake out and he gives it up, people ask why I didn't send Chapman out there. You can't win either way unless you win the ball game." Maurer's at-bat lasted 10 pitches after Chapman had him 0-and-2, then it was 3-and-2 before he banged his double off the bottom of the left field wall. Then Chapman fell behind Willingham 3-and-1 before he crushed the game-winning home run. "Most of it (Chapman's problems) is getting behind on hitters," said Baker. "He got behind in Cleveland and he got behind here. When you get behind, guys know he has to come with his fastball. I mean, at 2-and-2, Mauer knew what was coming. Fast ball." There were some indications earlier in the week that Chapman may be bothered by back issues, but both he and Baker scuttled that. "You can see he is still throwing 100 miles an hour," said Baker. "If you get behind and have to come in there, well, this are big-league hitters. Bad things usually happen." As somebody pointed out, the outcome was one of baseball's easiest second-guess seen after the fact. Shouldn't have Baker left in his breezing right hander (Leake) and ignored his troubled left hander (Chapman)? "Leake had just come off 112 pitches last time, the most he had ever thrown," said Baker. "Everybody has a job to do. If I send Leake out and he gives it up, I have a real problem. "Do people realize who the hitters coming up there were against Leake?" Baker asked. "Mauer, Willingham, Morneau and that's the fourth time he would have faced them. That's enough. He did his job." And Baker was quick to defend Chapman and admit his closer's confidende has to be wobbly. "It (confidence) has to be down from being not hit at all to being hit," he said. "He's human, you know? A week ago we wouldn't even be talking about this. "It's easy now to say, Get somebody else to cloee,' but where is somebody else who is better? This guy was the darling of baseball. Until this week. And how soon everybody forgets. What would people say if I left Leake out there and I had a fresh Chapman who hadn't thrown for a couple of days? If we don't win a ballgame, everything is always left up for discussion." A tight-lipped Chapman dressed slowly, pulling on a pair of plaid walking shorts as he awaited translator Tomas Veras. And he said, through Veras, "Dusty is right. I'm down in the count and I believe the last few outings I've had I've had that issue, being down in the count. "At the beginning this year, everuthing was going the way I was supposed to do it, but right now I'm going through a bad time but I believe I will get out of it soon." Chapman, though, was not happy about being asked about possible back problems and said, "Up to today, I haven't thrown one pitch where I felt any problem. I haven't had any issue throwing the ball. I had one insignificant thing with my lower back and that was it. Up to now, no problems, and I don't where that back problem thing came from."
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