Ken Giles‘ nearly perfect season finally hit a snag on Thursday night. Through his first six appearances, the Blue Jays’ closer had not allowed a run through 5.2 innings, and the only baserunners he put on were by way of two singles, a double and a walk. In appearance number seven, Giles started off the bottom of the ninth inning against the Red Sox by getting Andrew Benintendi to ground out, but that would be the last out he would get. After walking Mookie Betts and giving up a Mitch Moreland RBI double, the Blue Jays’ 6-5 lead had vanished.
Then Giles intentionally walked J.D. Martinez, but it backfired, as he loaded the bases with an unintentional walk to Xander Bogaerts and coughed up Rafael Devers‘ walk-off single. Devers’ chopper had an xBA of .100, but he wouldn’t have been in a position to win the game if Giles hadn’t issued three walks, two of which were unintentional. Walks have generally not been an issue for Giles the last couple of seasons, and he has been good at inducing out-of-zone chases throughout his career. Despite the poor results on Thursday night, there is no reason for Giles’ owners to panic.
The Rangers didn’t play on Thursday, but we may have been provided with some perspective on the recent struggles of Jose Leclerc. He blew a save and took the loss against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and had to be bailed out by Kyle Bird on Wednesday. On Thursday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News provided some quotes from Chris Woodward and Leclerc himself that may provide some insight. The gist of Grant’s piece is that Leclerc is having command issues, especially with his fastball, and they may have a mechanical cause.
While Leclerc is getting neither whiffs (4.9 percent SwStr%) nor chases (21.3 percent O-Swing%), his average fastball velocity of 96.0 mph is actually slightly higher than it was for all of last season. It may be a good idea to sit Leclerc while he tries to work things out, but it is very premature to think about trading or dropping him.
Brad Boxberger‘s troubles not only continued on Thursday night, but he was victimized by the same batter who hung a loss on him on Wednesday night. It looked as if Boxberger was going to avenge allowing Mitch Haniger‘s game-winning homer from the night before, as he battled through eight pitches after falling behind with a 3-1 count. Haniger drove the ninth pitch just over Billy Hamilton’s outstretched glove, bringing in two runs to tie the game at 6-6 in the top of the ninth inning. (Hamilton had to be carted off the field, and he was later diagnosed with a mild knee sprain.) Boxberger recovered to retire Domingo Santana for the final out, but Glenn Sparkman gave up a solo home run to Daniel Vogelbach in the 10th inning that proved to be the game-winner.
The Royals have now lost 10 games in a row, so particularly with their bullpen situation being unclear, it’s not a good idea to be looking for saves from their relievers. Boxberger has been used recently as the primary closer, but in time, we will see if that continues.
Anthony Swarzak appears to have the strongest grip on save chances for the Mariners, but Scott Servais did not use him in Thursday night’s win. With Swarzak having pitched on three of the previous four days, Servais turned to recently-acquired Connor Sadzeck for the save in the 10th inning. The 27-year-old had little trouble, throwing a perfect inning that ended with a swinging strikeout of Whit Merrifield.
The names may look and sound similar, but it’s fair to expect Swarzak to receive the bulk of the Mariners’ save opportunities in the near future. However, Sadzeck may have just put himself in the mix for saves.
There is much greater certainty over whom Andy Green will turn to when the Padres have save opportunities. Kirby Yates already has seven saves this season, but Green has expressed concern that he is in danger of overusing his closer. So on Thursday night, he let Trey Wingenter pitch the ninth inning with a one-run lead over the Diamondbacks. Wingenter had to work around a couple of walks, but he finished with a strikeout of Nick Ahmed, notching his first career save.
Quick hits: The top two fantasy relievers from last season both recorded saves on Thursday. Blake Treinen came away with his fourth save versus the Orioles, while Edwin Diaz finished off the Braves for his fifth save…Pedro Strop finally got his first save of the season, tossing a perfect ninth inning in a 2-0 win for the Cubs over the Pirates. That leaves the Nationals and Rockies as the only teams that don’t have a reliever with a save…Will Smith put the final touches on the Giants’ 1-0 win over the Rockies, and he is now 4 for 4 in saves…Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder) was optimistic about his progress on Thursday, after having pitched for Triple-A San Antonio on both Tuesday and Wednesday. However, rather than returning to the Brewers now, he will pitch again for San Antonio on Saturday…Nick Anderson was a bright spot in the Marlins’ 5-0 loss to the Reds, striking out two batters in 1.1 scoreless innings. He now has 12 strikeouts in just 5.2 innings of work.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.