Several closer situations have flipped in recent days, and on Saturday, we got an early look at how four of them could play out in the coming weeks. The Twins’ trade of Fernando Rodney created a void, as well as one of the harder ninth-inning situations to read. Despite his recent difficulties in the setup role, Trevor Hildenberger got the first crack at a save in the post-Rodney era. Unfortunately, he stayed true to recent form, allowing multiple runs for the fourth straight appearance. Fortunately, the two-run homer he allowed to Niko Goodrum was not enough to wipe out a three-run lead against the Tigers. Hildenberger did not allow any further damage, so he was credited with his first save of the season.
Over his last four outings covering 3.2 innings, Hildenberger has allowed nine runs. He has also allowed a home run in every one of those appearances. It has been almost exactly a year between Hildenberger’s two career saves, and given his recent track record, it may be awhile before he gets his next one.
Hildy’s only career save up here came at Comerica last 8/13. Got the final 4 outs in 6-4 win (3 Ks)
— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) August 12, 2018
(Thanks to Bulllpen Report teammate Greg Jewett for alerting me to this tweet.)
As odd as it seems, given that he has pitched all of 4.2 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery (excluding a brief non-rehab stint in Triple-A), Trevor May could be in line for saves in the near future. He has collected three holds in the last nine days and set Hildenberger up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning on Saturday.
Hildenberger was not alone as a four-syllable, 12-letter reliever getting a chance to pitch in a situation typically reserved for closers. Drew Steckenrider did not get a save on Saturday against the Mets, but he did get the call to pitch the top of the ninth inning in a tie game. Though he needed 17 pitches to do it, Steckenrider struck out the side. The Marlins have not had a save opportunity in the four games they have played since Kyle Barraclough was demoted to a lower-leverage role, but Steckenrider’s appearance in this situation — and his success in it — bodes well for a prominent role in the team’s current closer committee.
The Brewers are back to having a committee since Craig Counsell took Corey Knebel out of the closer role on Thursday. The team had its first save situation since Knebel’s demotion on Saturday against the Braves, and a familiar pattern emerged. After the Brewers seized a 4-2 lead in the top of eighth inning, Counsell turned to Josh Hader, who cruised through a perfect inning. Having been on a roll, Hader came back for the save in the ninth inning and tossed another perfect frame.
Counsell’s choice did not seem to be influenced by matchup considerations. While Hader started off the ninth by facing lefty Nick Markakis, the second batter was switch-hitting Johan Camargo, who has a .367 wOBA against left-handed pitchers. Jeremy Jeffress should get some save opportunities as well, but it looks like Hader could get some additional chances at multiple-inning saves.
Scott Alexander appeared primed to get his second save in three days and his first since the Dodgers put Kenley Jansen (heart) on the DL. He started the ninth inning against the Rockies with a 2-0 lead, but he was removed after yielding a one-out double to Trevor Story. Rather than have him face a second right-handed slugger in pinch-hitter Nolan Arenado, Dave Roberts opted to bring in J.T. Chargois, whose .266 wOBA against righties was 53 points lower than Alexander’s. Chargois hit Arenado, and while he was able to retire Ian Desmond, he then coughed up a walk-off homer to left-handed Ryan McMahon.
Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times had already speculated that Alexander could split closing duties with Kenta Maeda. With the latter having made a start on Friday, Chargois could have been merely filling in as a temporary platoon closer. Fantasy owners should not shy away from Alexander just because he gave up a double to Story, but Roberts’ usage patterns suggest that Alexander may not receive save chances on a steady basis.
None of the Indians’ three late-inning relievers appear to have a strong hold on getting saves either. Entering Saturday’s game against the White Sox, Brad Hand had recorded each of the Indians’ last two saves, but in the interim, Cody Allen had blown a save on Wednesday and Andrew Miller pitched the top of the ninth inning in a tie game on Thursday. Then on Saturday, Allen pitched a scoreless ninth inning in closing out a 3-1 win. While all three relievers would have a great deal of appeal as a sole or primary closer, none is currently an optimal fantasy option right now.
Quick hits: Jordan Hicks got the final out of the eighth inning against the Royals, keeping the Cardinals lead at 6-3. After the offense tacked on two more runs in the top of the ninth, Hicks remained in the game to collect his third save of the season…For the second appearance in a row, Craig Kimbrel struck out three batters but also allowed a solo home run. He has given up at least one run in five of his last six appearances. Over that stretch Kimbrel has located in the strike zone at just a 37.6 percent rate and induced swings on pitches out of the zone at a mere 24.1 percent rate…Edwin Diaz notched his 45th save of the season on Saturday against the Astros. It was his third save in three days…Archie Bradley took the loss against the Reds on Saturday, allowing three runs in 1.1 innings. His second-half ERA shot up to 10.24, and his second-half hard contact rate stands at 50.0 percent.
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.