The first time out, he sure did.
Chapman got a standing ovation from the crowd of 19,218 when he jogged out of the bullpen to pitch the top of the eighth with the Reds leading 8-3. Fans let out a collective “ooh” after each warmup throw. There was a buzz in the small crowd _ contrary to one fans’ sign, there’s no Chapmania yet.
“Of course I was nervous,” he said, through a translator.
His first pitch to Jonathan Lucroy registered 98 mph. The third one hit 102 mph, drawing a loud cheer. He fanned Lucroy on a nasty 86 mph slider.
The next two batters _ Craig Counsell and pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez _ went down on weak grounders. Chapman threw only eight pitches, half of them registering 100 mph or better. Two were clocked at 102.
He walked off the field to another standing ovation.
Those who saw him do it at Louisville weren’t at all surprised.
“There’s not a whole lot of guys like him, if any,” said Sam LeCure (2-4), who got the victory with two innings in relief before Chapman took the mound.
After a moment’s pause, LeCure said, “There’s none.”
When he was at Louisville, his teammates marveled at his fastball. They’d sneak a look at the board in right-center field that showed the pitch’s speed.
“Every time he lets one go, everybody turns around or peeks,” second baseman Chris Valaika said. “You don’t want to get caught looking, but you see 104 _ that’s something you’ve never seen before.”
Now, big-league hitters know what they’re up against.
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” Lucroy said. “He is very deceptive. He kind of hides the ball. It’s tough.”
The Reds brought him up before Sept. 1 to make sure he would be eligible for postseason play. Cincinnati has pulled away in the NL Central, opening a seven-game lead over St. Louis by going 19-8 in August, the best record in the majors during the month.
Chapman will get the chance to do what left-hander David Price did for Tampa Bay two years ago, when the highly valued starter got a chance to relieve during a pennant race.