Chicago Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman always brings the heat.
In Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday, he indelibly singed his mark.
With the Cubs trailing three games to one and staring at a crushing, curse-affirming elimination loss to the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field, Chapman gave the Cubbies the 2.2 shutout innings they desperately needed.
Postseason-tested starter Jon Lester lasted six frames, yielding two runs and exiting with the lead. After right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. entered, recorded an out and allowed a hit in the seventh, Cubs manager Joe Maddon summoned Chapman.
It was early. It was also time.
The flame-throwing Cuban went two innings or more just three times in the regular season with the New York Yankees and the Cubs, who acquired him as a rental at the trade deadline.
In fact, he's endured more than two innings only once in his career, on July 9, 2016, against—you guessed it—the Indians.
In an all-or-nothing scenario, Maddon rolled the dice, betting on the most dominant power arm in his arsenal.
Chapman beaned Brandon Guyer in the seventh to put two aboard but got Indians catcher Roberto Perez to ground out to end the threat.
In the eighth, Rajai Davis reached on an infield single and stole second and third, yet he failed to score.
After that, Chapman worked a perfect ninth.
In the end, he logged four of his eight outs via strikeout and flashed his trademark triple-digit heater and intermittently unhittable breaking pitches.
He stretched himself further than he's accustomed to going and pushed the Fall Classic back to Cleveland.
It didn't lessen his influence on the radar gun, as ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney noted:
Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN
Chapman's 42nd pitch: 101 mph.2016-10-31 03:44:47
"Chapman, that was a big ask," Indians manager Terry Francona said of the Cubs closer's Game 5 showing, per Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. "And he answered. That was impressive."
It's not as if Chapman has been terrible in the playoffs thus far. Still, the cheddar-slinging southpaw has given up some big hits, such as this one to the San Francisco Giants' Conor Gillaspie in Game 3 of the National League Division Series:
Where his former Yankees colleague, Andrew Miller, has been untouchable for the Indians, Chapman has vacillated between godlike and mortal. His seven hits, three earned runs, five walks and 18 strikeouts through 13 innings attest to that.
But as Mike Puma of the New York Post noted, "Chapman arrived at the trade deadline from the Yankees exactly for nights like this. The Cubs still have a chance to win their first World Series since 1908 largely because they grabbed an early lead and let two of their horses, Jon Lester and Chapman, handle the bulk of the preservation work."
He's right. Chapman will be a free agent this winter, and while the Cubs may attempt to re-sign him, they shouldn't be as concerned with his long-term durability as the Indians should be about Miller, who is inked through 2018.
Essentially, Chicago can ride Chapman into the ground and let the 2017 chips fall where they may, which is what the Cubbies did in Game 5.
"That's exactly the reason we got him," third baseman Kris Bryant said of Chapman, per Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times.
With the series heading back to Cleveland, the Cubs have Jake Arrieta, who turned in a resilient start in Game 2, slated to go Tuesday. If it goes to Game 7, Chicago can trot out MLB ERA king Kyle Hendricks.
The Indians, meanwhile, will lean on Josh Tomlin and Corey Kluber on short rest.
Cleveland is the favorite, clearly, as it needs to win only one of two at home. But thanks to some timely offense—shout out to Bryant and his momentum-shifting solo homer in Game 5—and Chapman's late-inning performance, these Cubs are alive and kicking.
The heat will only intensify in Game 6.
Now, we wait and see if Chapman and Chicago can ratchet it up.
All statistics current as of Sunday and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.