I know it’s early, but I think we can spot a pattern with Mychal Givens.
It’s fair to call Givens the Orioles’ primary closer, but a better (if not catchier) title would be “guy who comes in to clean up a mess in the eighth inning.” On Thursday night, and for the fifth time this season, Givens was called upon with runners on base in the eighth inning. Paul Fry and Evan Phillips had already allowed the Rays to whittle a 5-2 lead down to 5-4, but Givens restored order by getting the final two outs. In coming back out for the ninth inning, Givens had a chance to collect his first save of the season, but a one-out solo shot by Avisail Garcia ruined that.
Givens has now allowed five runs in nine innings this year, but four of those have come in the ninth inning after Givens had already pitched at least part of the eighth inning. It seems like Givens deserves a better fate, as he is doing a good job of getting whiffs (15.5 percent SwStr%) and grounders (60.0 percent GB%), so saves and a lower ERA should be in his future. I just have to wonder if putting him out there for multiple innings is a bad idea.
The Orioles did ultimately prevail in 11 innings. Jose Alvarado struck out the side in the 10th (as did John Means for the Orioles), but Diego Castillo coughed up Joey Rickard’s RBI double in the 11th. Means hung around to pitch a scoreless bottom of the 11th to earn his second win.
Anthony Swarzak was also called upon for eighth inning duty, ostensibly because Mike Trout was the third batter due up for the Angels, but he relinquished the Mariners’ one-run lead before the two-time American League MVP even reached the plate. The Angels’ No. 9 hitter, David Fletcher, led off the bottom of the eighth with his first home run of the season. Though Swarzak issued a pair of walks and uncorked a wild pitch, he avoided further damage.
In the top of the ninth, Cody Allen gave the Mariners the lead back on a Jay Bruce RBI single. Roenis Elias came in for the bottom of the inning, working around a Jonathan Lucroy single for his third save, and Swarzak improved to 2-0. After holding opponents scoreless in each of his first five appearances, Allen has now allowed a run in back-to-back outings.
In deeper formats, Elias is worth a flier. For the second time in 10 days, Elias pitched in a save situation after Swarzak was called on to handle a high-leverage situation in the eighth inning. Over time, he may pick up a few saves, and he has been throwing strikes, getting whiffs at a decent 11.3 percent rate and inducing soft flyball contact.
Shane Greene posted his ninth save in the Tigers’ 9-7 win over the White Sox. It was no accident that Joe Jimenez took no part in Thursday’s game, even with the Tigers holding a 7-5 advantage heading into the eighth inning. Ron Gardenhire will be using Jimenez in lower-leverage situations for the time being, as he has already allowed four runs on seven hits and six walks in 6.2 innings.
Digging a little deeper, there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for concern. Jimenez’s average fastball velocity is right about where it was last April, and he owns a healthy 15.1 percent SwStr%. He has allowed just one barrel so far, and those six walks are a high total for someone who is throwing strikes (45.9 percent Zone%) and doesn’t have an abysmal chase rate (29.1 percent O-Swing%). If you own Jimenez in a holds league or in any deeper format, it would be a mistake to drop him now.
Jeremy Jeffress is still getting eased back in with low-leverage work. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning with the Dodgers holding a 3-0 lead over the Brewers.
Meanwhile, Robert Stephenson is settling in nicely into a setup role for the Reds. He recorded his first career hold, blanking the Padres for 1.1 innings with three strikeouts. Stephenson now has 15 strikeouts in 10.2 innings with a 20.8 percent SwStr%.
Quick hits: Kenley Jansen (6), Ken Giles (6), and Raisel Iglesias (3) all recorded saves on Thursday… Carlos Estevez and Scott Oberg got the call to set up for Wade Davis in what ultimately turned out not to be a save situation for the Rockies against the Phillies. Seunghwan Oh did not appear, even though he had tossed a total of eight pitches over the previous four days…The Blue Jays activated Ryan Tepera from the IL and designated Javy Guerra for assignment. Tepera got his first hold of the season on Thursday, tossing a perfect sixth inning against the Twins…Yoshihisa Hirano got his first save of the season in the Diamondbacks’ 4-1 win over the Braves on Thursday. Greg Holland had pitched in each of the previous two games…Alex Wilson is expected to return from the paternity list for the Brewers’ Friday night game at the Dodgers.
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.