Aroldis Chapman came to the Cubs with the reputation of being a lockdown closer.
So when manager Joe Maddon found himself in precisely the pressure situation Chapman was acquired for, the decision to use him for a four-out save Saturday against the Mariners appeared to be a no-brainer.
“I’m looking at [Leonys] Martin, [Robinson] Cano, [Nelson] Cruz, [Kyle] Seager,” Maddon said. “It’s hard not to put Chapman’s name after those guys.”
Tasked with protecting a one-run lead with two on and two outs in the eighth inning, Chapman couldn’t get it done. Martin drove in both runners, hitting a 100 mph fastball into the left-center-field gap for a two-run double. He scored on a wild pitch by Chapman, and the Mariners went on to win 4-1 at Wrigley Field.
It marked Chapman’s second blown save of the season and first with the Cubs.
“Every hitter just comes and tries to do their job,” Chapman said through translator/reliever Pedro Strop. “And it was [my] time to lose this time.”
Jake Arrieta (12-5) began the eighth inning with back-to-back walks. Hector Rondon took over, and after pinch hitter Luis Sardinas advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, Rondon induced Norichika Aoki into a fielder’s choice. Aoki hit a grounder to third baseman Kris Bryant, who threw out Mike Zunino at the plate.
But Martin came through with the sharp double that scored Shawn O’Malley, who had walked, and Aoki. The Mariners added a run in the ninth when shortstop Addison Russell’s throw pulled Anthony Rizzo off first base, allowing Franklin Gutierrez to score.
“The two walks in the eighth put us in a bind,” said Arrieta, who had allowed only three baserunners (two hits, one walk) entering the eighth. “Hector did a nice job. Then Martin had a great at-bat off Chapman. Everyone knows it’s not an easy task to get a knock off a guy like Chapman.”
Mariners starter Wade Miley held the Cubs hitless for six innings. After Dexter Fowler walked to lead off the seventh, Bryant broke up the no-hitter with a single to center. The Cubs took the lead when Fowler avoided catcher Zunino’s tag with a headfirst slide after Javy Baez grounded to short.
Fowler initially was called out, but the call was reversed by replay. Later, Bryant tried to score on a pickoff attempt at first base and was called safe. But Mariners manager Scott Servais challenged the call, and the replay showed first baseman Adam Lind’s throw beat the sliding Bryant to the plate.
“That could have changed the whole outcome just because we would have been up two and it would have been a more comfortable lead,” Bryant said.
The Mariners made sure it didn’t matter, getting to Chapman to silence the crowd of 41,404.
Chapman said that although a four-out save isn’t his favorite situation, he understands it’s now part of his role.
“That’s my job,” he said.
Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.