Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman '100 percent' ready for Game 7
CLEVELAND (AP) Aroldis Chapman can't remember the last time his left arm handled such a heavy workload.
He's totally fine with it, too.
Besides, who has time to complain? Certainly not Chapman. Not after throwing 62 pitches in three days - including 20 during a 9-3 victory Tuesday night - while helping the Cubs rally from a 3-1 World Series deficit to force Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Yes, it's more exertion in a short stretch than the four-time All-Star closer is accustomed to. Then again, this is the World Series. Isn't doing something you've never done before kind of the point?
''I don't worry about a few extra pitches,'' Chapman said in Spanish. ''I have all the strength and mentality to pitch in this scenario. I'm ready for (Game 7) 100 percent. It's the last game of the season. You cannot save anything. Time to leave it all on the field.''
Even if it's easy to wonder how much the fireballer has left in his tank.
Chapman got four outs in Game 6 before exiting in the ninth inning with Chicago comfortably ahead. He worked the final 2 2/3 innings of Game 5, a career high, to save a 3-2 win Sunday night at Wrigley Field that sent the Series back to Cleveland. That was the first time he had entered in the seventh inning since 2012.
Chicago manager Joe Maddon didn't hesitate to go back to Chapman again in the seventh with two on and two outs in Game 6 even though the Cubs were up by five runs.
''The game could have been lost right there and he's by far our most dynamic pitcher,'' Maddon said. ''I talked to him before the game once again; he was aware of the scenario. So he went out there and he was outstanding again.''
Even if Chapman lacked the usual pop to the most explosive fastball in the majors. Only three of his pitches Tuesday reached 100 mph on the radar gun, a down night by his standards. He also grimaced and came up limping a bit after racing Francisco Lindor to first base on a bang-bang play in the seventh.
If his right knee or foot was hurting, it didn't dampen the closer's spirits. A smiling Chapman playfully flipped the ball to Lindor when the original call of safe was overturned following a replay review, ending the inning.
''Nothing bad,'' Chapman said. ''No issues at all.''
Certainly nothing that would take Chapman out of the mix should the moment require him in Game 7. A pitcher who has worked the ninth inning almost exclusively for the majority of his seven years in the majors has shown a flexibility that's given Maddon options much the way elastic-armed Andrew Miller has done for Cleveland.
Maybe by now Chapman's a little gassed. So what? That's what adrenaline is for.
''I feel blessed that I'm just healthy to pitch in this situation,'' he said. ''This is (why) the Cubs brought me over.''
Chapman has performed as promised since Chicago acquired him from the New York Yankees in a late July trade, solidifying the back end of an occasionally shaky bullpen. Now, he's a big reason the Cubs are one win from their first championship since 1908.
He'll hit free agency not long after the final out Wednesday night and likely land a contract that makes him the highest-paid reliever in baseball.
The 28-year-old Cuban would love to wear a World Series ring to the signing. Another brilliant - if slightly unexpected - night at the office pushed the dream tantalizingly close to reality.
''Aroldis will be ready to go,'' Chicago catcher Willson Contreras said. ''I'm already thinking about (Game 7), and he'll be ready.''
AP Sports Writer Eric Nunez contributed to this report.