Aroldis Chapman’s fastball was in the mid-to-upper 90s Friday while he was trying to close out the Cubs in his return to Wrigley Field.
The 103 mph fastball Cubs fans grew accustomed to during their run to the World Series was missing in action, keeping hope alive for the frozen remnants of the sellout crowd of 40,395.
But with the tying run on second, two outs and Javier Baez at the plate, Chapman got ahead 0-2 with two sliders before finally hitting triple-digits on his last pitch.
Baez barely touched Chapman’s 100 mph fastball, foul tipping it back into the glove of catcher Gary Sanchez to end a wild, 3-2 comeback victory for the Yankees.
On the day he got his Series ring, hugs from his former teammates and a warm reception from Cubs fans, Chapman capped off a perfect afternoon as he snuffed out a ninth inning rally for his seventh save.
"Very exciting," Chapman said. "First game I come back to Wrigley and the way the game turned out."
Said Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "I’m sure it was a great day for him. The ceremony was really nice. The (video) tribute to (Starlin) Castro was really nice. I thought the Cubs did a really good job. Both of them are probably extremely happy."
It may have been just an early May interleague game, but it also was a big lift for the Yankees, who trailed 2-0 with two outs in the ninth before Brett Gardner’s three-run homer on a two-strike slider from Hector Rondon.
Chapman’s replacement, Wade Davis, had been untouchable, but was unavailable because of his recent workload.
This was not exactly a day meant for baseball, especially for a game with as much marquee value as a Cubs-Yankees matchup.
With wind gusts up to 35 mph and a 37-degree wind chill at game-time, it was probably just as well that Baez kept his Super-Soaker under wraps. If the Cubs had rallied off Chapman in the ninth, Baez may have turned one of his teammates into a block of ice, like Mr. Freeze did in the old "Batman" TV show.
It was so cold and windy that Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge thought he had Willson Contreras’ fly ball in sight in the fifth inning, only to wind up sprinting to the foul line when the wind carried it toward Old Town.
Judge was charged with an error after dropping the ball, a welcome to Wrigley moment for the game’s bright, young rookie.
"I misplayed a couple of balls to be honest," Judge said. "Even Kris Bryant’s home run, I was going to right-center and the ball landed about 20 feet behind me. I really forgot why it’s called the Windy City. … I should’ve learned from the Kris Bryant ball. I took my normal read but when I looked up again I saw it was going to be about 30-feet in front of me."
Friday’s pre-game was full of pomp and circumstance, heavy on the pomp. Chapman received his World Series ring on the field from the Cubs, Adam Warren received his ring from President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer in the bleacher bullpen and Castro got his old walk-up song back from Anthony Rizzo, making him feel right at home.
"That was pretty awesome," said Castro, who had two hits to raise his average to .367. "I appreciated it. It was a really emotional day for me, to come back to play against the team that gave me my first opportunity."
Castro also put an elbow into Contreras’ head during a collision near the plate in the sixth, and was unapologetic for his old-school maneuver.
"I hit him good, I hit him hard," Castro said. "I tried to take him away (from the plate) and he was going the same way I went, so that’s why we (collided)."
The day began as a veritable love fest, with Cubs manager Joe Maddon saying they couldn’t have won it without Chapman, and Chapman pronouncing Maddon’s comment "humbled" him.
Chapman admitted he had a "rocky start" in Chicago, but added he always "felt comfortable" with how Maddon used him, despite saying last winter Maddon "abused" his arm in the World Series.
"During the World Series in the playoffs, that’s a strategy they had," Chapman said of his Series workload. "When you’re fighting like that and you’re trying to win a championship, you have to give everything you have. I gave everything I had, and I’m very happy we came out champions."
A few hours later, Chapman came out to the mound without the Rage Against the Machine song he used as a Cub.
Turns out he didn’t really need it after all.