With Steve Cishek going on the 10-day IL with hip inflammation on Saturday, the Cubs are without four of the relievers in the back end of their bullpen. Kyle Ryan has been on the bereavement list since Friday, and Craig Kimbrel (knee) and Brandon Kintzler (pectoral) are both on the IL. However both Kimbrel and Kintzler could be back by this weekend.
In the meantime, who’s left to get saves? Pedro Strop, who served in the role before the Kimbrel came on board, pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Reds with a 6-3 lead on Sunday, picking up his 10th save. David Phelps, who recorded the Cubs’ previous save on Aug. 5, got the win in this contest, as his 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth inning preceded Kris Bryant’s go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the seventh. Sandwiched in between Phelps and Strop was Rowan Wick, who got his second hold as a result of pitching two scoreless innings. It would seem that any of the three could collect saves this week, as well as Ryan, who will be eligible to return on Monday.
The Reds did not need a closer in this game or in Saturday’s 10-1 win. On Sunday, The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans reported that Raisel Iglesias is dealing with tightness in his biceps, so it remains to be seen if he will be available for the Reds’ next save chance.
With recently-minted closer Mark Melancon and Shane Greene unavailable due to recent heavy workloads, Brian Snitker went back to Luke Jackson for a save opportunity against the Marlins. Jackson, who has seven blown saves this season, had an eventful outing while trying to protect a 5-4 lead. He allowed a leadoff single to Isan Díaz, but Ronald Acuña Jr. threw the ball back to first base, and the Marlins’ rookie did not get back in time. Then Jackson gave up a pair of two-out singles, but he escaped the jam by getting Harold Ramirez to fly out. Jackson’s fill-in performance left him with his 18th save of the season, and with that scoreless frame, he has not given up a run in four August innings. Still, it’s fair to assume that Melancon will still get the Braves’ next save opportunity, despite his meltdown on Saturday and Jackson’s successful conversion on Sunday.
Roberto Osuna has been having a rough second half, and it got worse on Sunday. He did seem to be turning things around over the past couple of weeks, and when the Astros took a 7-5 lead over the Orioles in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday, Osuna had a chance to make it five straight appearances with a save. A Jace Peterson double and a one-out sacrifice fly by Chris Davis brought the Orioles back within a run, and Rio Ruiz’s walk-off homer gave Osuna his second loss and second blown save since the break. It was also the third home run he had allowed over that one-month stretch.
This season, hardly anyone is immune to the long ball, and this may just be Osuna’s turn to struggle with it. He is unlikely to be challenged for saves anytime soon, but his next few appearances will be worth tracking.
Brad Hand is notoriously flyball-friendly, but in blowing his third save of the season on Sunday against the Twins, it was neither flyballs nor home runs that did him in. Entering the bottom of the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead, Hand gave up two runs on two doubles and two singles, and while three of those hits were on line drives, he did not allow a single a flyball in the inning.
Despite the uncharacteristically shaky performance, Hand emerged with his fifth win of the season. That seemed unlikely to happen, given that Taylor Rogers entered in the top of the 10th inning having allowed runs in only two of his previous 15 outings while posting a 1.86 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and a 31.9 percent K-BB% over 19.1 innings. The Twins’ closer, however, couldn’t even make it out of the inning. He loaded the bases, and with no one out, Carlos Santana pushed the Indians ahead with a grand slam. Rogers got his first out by striking Yasiel Puig out, but then he was relieved by Cody Stashak.
As the graphic of Rogers’ pitch locations shows, he had good command in this outing, but the two balls he left closest to the center of the zone were put in play for base hits. Neither Santana’s slam (44 percent hit probability, per Baseball Savant) nor Kevin Plawecki’s leadoff single (15 percent hit probability) would have been base hits in most situations.
Quick hits: Aroldis Chapman (31), Sean Doolittle (26), Emilio Pagán (12), Liam Hendriks (12) and José Leclerc (8) all got saves on Sunday…Edwin Díaz has yet to record a save for the Mets in August, and on Sunday against the Nationals, he pitched the top of the ninth inning with one-run deficit. That deficit became three runs when he allowed Victor Robles‘ two-run homer. It was the 11th home run Díaz has allowed this season and the fourth he has given up since July 28…Andrew Miller filled in as the Cardinals’ closer on Sunday, as Carlos Martínez had pitched in each of the team’s previous three games. The lefty allowed a leadoff home run to Pablo Reyes, but he got the next three Pirates out to record his fourth save in an 11-9 win…Ken Giles played catch on Sunday, and his elbow responded well enough that the Blue Jays postponed a decision as to whether or not to put him on the IL…Greg Holland was released by the Diamondbacks 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.