Having recorded his second save of the season, Ryan Brasier has surged into lead for saves in the Red Sox’s bullpen. However, there will be no such surging into the lead spot in the Red Sox’s portion of the closer grid.
It appears that Alex Cora may trust Matt Barnes to handle the highest leverage situations, and over the long haul, that could translate into more saves for him than for Brasier. On Sunday, as soon as the Red Sox took a 1-0 lead against the Diamondbacks on Mitch Moreland’s homer in the top of the seventh inning, Cora installed Barnes to pitch in the bottom of the inning to face the 4-5-6 portion of the Arizona order. He stayed on to pitch the eighth inning as well and retired all six batters he faced. With the top of the order due, Brasier came in to finish off the Diamondbacks and did so, allowing only a David Peralta double.
To be clear, I don’t see that Cora has chosen a primary closer at this stage. Brasier could very well emerge in that role, or Cora may go with a closer tandem all season long. It’s just too early to tell, even with Brasier earning each of the team’s last two saves.
It does seem clear that Jordan Hicks is the Cardinals’ closer. Andrew Miller has yet to pitch in the ninth inning this season, and it was Miller — along with John Brebbia — setting up for Hicks, with the Cardinals up 3-1 over the Padres to begin the eighth inning. Brebbia took care of Wil Myers before yielding an Ian Kinsler single, and then Miller was called upon to retire left-handed Eric Hosmer. With Miller getting the second out of the inning, Hicks came in to face Manny Machado, and it was his game from there on out. He struck Machado out and worked around a leadoff walk to Hunter Renfroe in the ninth to secure the victory for the Cardinals.
Though it was Hicks’ first save of the season, he has been used in a way that a manager would use a closer. He has pitched in the ninth inning with a four-run lead (at Milwaukee on March 29), and he had a ninth-inning save opportunity that he blew (at Milwaukee, two days later). Since then, the Cardinals had not had a ninth-inning lead to protect or a tie game at home in the ninth inning…that is, until Sunday.
I have removed the committee tag from the Rays’ portion of the grid. Jose Alvarado has pitched in four of the team’s five save situations this season, and the one he missed occurred after he had pitched on the previous two days. He tossed a scoreless inning in helping to fend off the Giants, 3-0, on Sunday. Diego Castillo, who is credited with the Rays’ other save, pitched 1.1 perfect innings setting up for Alvarado. He is a must-own reliever for holds leagues (he now has three holds), but Castillo is also worth owning in deeper formats that don’t reward holds, just for his potential to help with strikeouts and ratios.
The Twins are very close to losing their committee tag as well. Both Trevor May and Taylor Rogers were used on Sunday, with the Twins down by a run to the Phillies. It’s not as if either reliever needed to get work in, as Rogers pitched on Saturday and May was used on Friday. Meanwhile, Blake Parker has each of the Twins’ last two saves, and he pitched the bottom of the ninth with a four-run lead on Saturday.
In the other bullpen at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, David Robertson and Adam Morgan shared the eighth inning, and it was Hector Neris who got the call for the save in the ninth. We shouldn’t necessarily look at this as Neris’ return to the closer picture, as both Seranthony Dominguez and Pat Neshek were given the day off. The Phillies’ situation still looks wide open.
Perhaps the most shocking development on Sunday was the fallibility of Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen. Entering the series finale at Houston, neither pitcher had allowed a run this season, and both had been flat-out dominant. Trivino managed to record his fifth hold, but he allowed a Tony Kemp solo homer and a George Springer double in the eighth inning. Treinen couldn’t bail him out, blowing the save by giving up a Jose Altuve single and an Alex Bregman sacrifice fly. With the game tied in the ninth inning, Treinen loaded the bases on two walks and a single, and then he allowed the Astros to literally walk off, as he issued a free pass to Altuve on four pitches. It may be worth noting that Treinen had not pitched in five days.
As noted by Ben Pasinkoff in Sunday’s Bullpen Report, Josh Hader delivered a perfect eight-out save against the Cubs. He has emerged as the Brewers’ primary closer, but that status may not last long, despite his superb performance. Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder) is aiming to return from the IL next week, and at some point, he could figure into the saves mix.
It’s really only news when Shane Greene doesn’t get a save, but it’s still worth mentioning that he did pick up his seventh save of the season on Sunday, blanking the Royals in the ninth inning. Greene became the first pitcher ever to record seven saves over a team’s first 10 games since the save became an official stat.
Quick hits: In getting the final five outs against the Blue Jays, Brad Hand improved to 4 for 4 in save situations this season…Ken Giles has yet to allow a run or a walk in 4.2 innings of work this year, and he has eight strikeouts. He has allowed only a double in three innings pitched in non-save situations. You may recall that Giles had a 9.12 ERA in non-save situations in 2018…After getting a day of rest on Saturday, Arodys Vizcaino came in to preserve a 3-2 lead for the Braves against the Marlins on Sunday. He failed to convert it, thanks to Curtis Granderson‘s solo home run. However, Dansby Swanson’s walk-off RBI single off Adam Conley in the bottom of the ninth allowed him to leave with a win…Richard Rodriguez got his first save of the season, pitching a scoreless ninth inning against the Reds in the Pirates’ 7-5 win. Both Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela were unavailable due to their ejections for their roles in the benches-clearing brawl in the fourth inning…J.B. Wendelken pitched 3.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Astros on Sunday. His 10.1 relief innings are tops in the majors, and he has allowed only two earned runs with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
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.