NEW YORK -- Aroldis Chapman is baseball’s premiere flamethrower, with a fastball that averages more than 100 miles per hour.
On Sunday, he threw nine pitches to Jacoby Ellsbury, which registered 100, 100, 100, 102, 102, 101, 100, 101 and 101 on the radar gun.
But the $153 million man wasn’t intimidated by Chapman’s heat.
Leading off the ninth inning of a tie game, Ellsbury stroked an opposite-field single off Chapman and set the stage for the New York Yankees to complete a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds at Yankee Stadium.
“You don’t have much time to think,” Ellsbury said. “You just gotta go up there and trust your hands. It’s fun.”
McCann’s pop fly, which barely reached the outfield grass, should have been caught. Three Reds converged on the ball. But there appeared to be some miscommunication, and a routine out turned into the game-winning hit. Ellsbury scored, and McCann raised his hands while sporting a sheepish grin.
“Nah, but I’ll take it for sure,” McCann replied when asked if he thought he was going to be the hero when he saw the ball in the air. “I just saw everybody looking at each other, so I knew there was a chance, and luckily for us, it fell.”
McCann leads the Yankees with 10 hits against pitches of 95 mph or faster this season. He entered Sunday night as one of five players in the majors with multiple hits against pitches of 99 mph or faster in 2014. His other was a single against a 99 mph fastball from Jake McGee of the Rays on June 30.
Ellsbury finished with a career-high-tying four hits to go along with a walk, a double and an RBI. He also swiped his 26th and 27th bases of the season and added a sliding catch in the third that probably saved at least a run -- if not two -- for good measure.
“He can do anything on a baseball field that you ever want to do, and all his tools were on display today,” McCann said. “He does this on a nightly basis, and it’s a pleasure to watch.”
The “rejuvenated” Yankees (50-47), in the words of David Robertson, have opened the second half by winning three in a row and find themselves just three and a half games back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles (53-43) in the AL East. They’ve gotten timely hitting and surprising length out of their patchwork starting rotation.
Hiroki Kuroda, the team’s de facto ace, threw 6 2/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball, while Derek Jeter and Ellsbury gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead with back-to-back RBI singles in the fifth. Dellin Betances surrendered just his second home run of the season to Jersey’s own Todd Frazier in the eighth, but the Yankees were still able to prevail.
Now they just have to keep it going. Ten of their next 13 games are against last-place teams -- including seven with the lowly Texas Rangers.
If the Yankees are going to make their move, this is the time to do it.
“It’s nice to get that sweep, and hopefully we can continue that momentum in our next series,” McCann said.