Perplexing bullpen situations did not get less perplexing on Sunday.
After the Phillies’ 3-1, 14-inning win over the Marlins, I am leaving their portion of the closer grid untouched, but that hardly means that the saves picture is getting clearer. Brian Anderson‘s home run in the bottom of the sixth inning knotted the game up at 1-1, and it would stay that way for seven-and-a-half innings. Because the Phillies were the visiting team, it’s hard to read too much into Gabe Kapler’s choice to use Pat Neshek in the seventh, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris in the eighth and David Robertson in the ninth and 10th.
Jose Alvarez, the seventh reliever used, pitched the bottom of the 14th inning after the Phillies finally surged ahead on Jean Segura’s two-run homer. The Phillies have had five save situations this season, and Alvarez became the fifth different pitcher to receive a save opportunity. In tossing a scoreless frame, he became the third Phillies pitcher to record a save.
As if this situation weren’t already wide open enough, Victor Arano gave Kapler something to think about. He struck out the side in both the 12th and 13th innings, inducing 14 swinging strikes (out of 25 total pitches). A dozen of those whiffs came on Arano’s slider — a pitch that was not effective in spring training but was revived during a stint at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he changed the way he was putting pressure on the ball.
The Marlins, as the home team, did offer a clue about their closer usage, going to Sergio Romo in the top of the ninth. As a team, they have had only two save situations since April 2, so it’s hard to conclude anything about who might see the next few save chances. For his part, Romo didn’t do much to instill confidence, loading the bases by allowing a pair of two-out singles and a walk. He did escape the jam by getting J.T. Realmuto to ground out.
At some point, you figure Nick Anderson has to start working his way into higher-leverage situations for the Marlins. He struck out two Phillies in the 13th inning, marking his seventh straight multi-strikeout performance. The 28-year-old rookie now has a 48.5 percent strikeout rate and a 17.7 percent swinging strike rate.
Ryan Brasier may have the last three saves for the Red Sox, but we shouldn’t get complacent, thinking we have a grip on their closer situation. Alex Cora summoned Brasier to pitch the eighth inning against the Orioles with a 1-0 lead. After Xander Bogaerts extended the lead beyond a save situation with his three-run homer, Matt Barnes came in to pitch the ninth inning.
The Twins’ situation would seem to be easier to read, with Blake Parker getting three straight save opportunities heading into Sunday’s finale with the Tigers. It looked like he was on his way to four in a row, as he started off the ninth inning on Sunday with a 6-4 lead. However, he loaded the bases, thanks to a leadoff single by JaCoby Jones and a pair of walks, so with one out, Trevor Hildenberger came in clean up Parker’s mess. In striking out John Hicks and Grayson Greiner, Hildenberger got his first save, and Parker recorded his second hold.
Even though Parker has been used consistently as a closer, I’m leaving the door open for Taylor Rogers to get some saves as a part of a committee. Parker has allowed only one run in 5.1 innings, but he has already issued five walks. He is not throwing strikes (35.5 percent Zone%) and not getting chases (21.8 percent O-Swing%), and that’s a potentially dangerous combination.
Have the Royals possibly found a closer? It’s too early to say, but Wily Peralta pitched the top of the ninth inning in an 8-8 tie with the Indians on Sunday after getting his first save of the year on Saturday. As was the case on Saturday, Peralta did not get any strikeouts, but he retired the side. In the bottom of the inning, Hunter Dozier laced an RBI single off Brad Hand that gave the Royals and Peralta the win. Though Hand has generally been effective this season, we should note that his average fastball velocity is down nearly 1 mph from where it was last March and April.
The Brewers’ bullpen situation is one that may not change much in the short term. Jeremy Jeffress will be back with the team on Monday, after having completed a rehab stint with Triple-A San Antonio, but he may not be activated until Tuesday. Once he is back on the roster, he may not be in a position to get saves right away. Craig Counsell had some concerns after Jeffress’ subpar performance at San Antonio, acknowledging to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “it’s going to be a process to get him where we want to get him.”
After struggling for much of his early appearances, Jose Leclerc returned to form on Sunday against the Athletics. He worked around a Robbie Grossman single with three strikeouts. After getting no more than a single swinging strike in any of his first six prior appearances, Leclerc induced four whiffs on 20 pitches in this latest outing.
Quick hits: With Arodys Vizcaino (shoulder) on the IL, A.J. Minter got the call to protect the Braves’ 7-3 lead against the Mets in the top of the ninth inning. He retired the side in order…Felipe Vazquez pitched both the eighth and ninth innings in the Pirates’ 4-3 victory over the Nationals. Though Vazquez got credited with the win, he allowed three hits and two walks, and he had to escape a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the ninth…Roberto Osuna (7), Alex Colome (3) and Jordan Hicks (3) each recorded a save on Sunday.
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.