The Red Sox’s bullpen has been among the most confusing ones for fantasy owners to figure out all season. In Tuesday night’s game against the Indians, we had more twists and turns to follow, but ultimately, much of what happened may not have a lasting impact.
The first surprise was seeing Nathan Eovaldi enter the game with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning with a 6-5 lead and a runner on second base. Eovaldi was supposed to begin his return to the Red Sox’s rotation on Wednesday as the scheduled starter for the series finale. Alex Cora has not abandoned that plan, but he put Eovaldi on a slight detour on his path back to a starting role because of what he called “probably the biggest inning of what we were trying to accomplish.” Eovaldi validated Cora’s decision, as he kept the slim margin intact by retiring Roberto Pérez and Jason Kipnis.
The Red Sox still had a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, so Cora called on Brandon Workman. He promptly found himself with a runner in scoring position, with Greg Allen hitting a leadoff single and then stealing second base. The Indians tied the game when Allen scored on Francisco Lindor’s one-out double. Workman would not allow another run, in part because Lindor got thrown out at third base on a stolen base attempt. The tying run resulted in Workman’s fifth blown save, but the run was the first he had allowed since July 23.
Jackie Bradley Jr. homered off Nick Wittgren in the top of the 10th, so the Red Sox had another save chance. This one went to Andrew Cashner, who was making his first appearance since getting demoted from the rotation. Aside from allowing a leadoff single to Carlos Santana, it went without a hitch, and Cashner finished strong, getting the final two outs by striking out José Ramírez and Pérez. It was Cashner’s first career save.
Cora has been fluid in assigning bullpen roles, but given Workman’s general consistency of late, we should not expect him to give way as the Red Sox’s primary closer. Given Cashner’s initial success in a high-leverage spot, his usage should be watched closely going forward. Eovaldi could make one more relief appearance, as he will be available out of the bullpen for Wednesday’s game.
Josh Hader would seem to be as immune to a demotion to a lower-leverage role as any closer, but he may be testing Craig Counsell’s patience. The Brewers’ manager brought Hader in for a potential four-out save against the Twins. He was handed a 5-4 lead but also was asked to strand runners on first and second base. That lead evaporated on his first pitch, which Marwin Gonzalez smashed for his 14th home run. In allowing the homer, Hader made it four consecutive outings with at least one run allowed. He has also given up homers in three of those four contests and has now allowed 13 home runs over 55.2 innings.
Matt Albers has filled in for Hader recently, picking up two saves in the last eight days when Hader was unavailable. Even if Hader doesn’t lose the role, Albers could have some value by getting the occasional save. If Hader continues to struggle, Albers’ save chances might increase in frequency.
Ken Giles is already listed as a co-closer with Derek Law on our closer grid, though in this case, the saves-sharing arrangement has been due to Giles’ elbow issues. On Tuesday night, Giles made his first appearance in six days, as he was called on to close out a win against the Rangers. He pitched a scoreless inning that was blemished only by a walk to Delino DeShields. For the first time since July 20, Giles averaged more 97 mph on his fastball. He appears to be back, though it may be premature for Law’s fantasy owners to move on.
Those who picked up Mark Melancon because Brian Snitker announced he would be the Braves’ closer had to be encouraged by the former Giant’s performance on Tuesday night. He bounced back from Saturday’s four-run implosion against the Marlins, tossing a perfect ninth inning to seal a 5-3 win over the Mets. His status as closer appears to be safe, but it didn’t hurt that Shane Greene retired only one of three batters he faced in the eighth inning.
After a difficult outing in Monday night’s series opener against the Reds, Sean Doolittle admitted to feeling fatigue as a result of his heavy recent workload. On Tuesday night, the Nationals’ closer got to take a break, as Daniel Hudson took care of closing duties in a 3-1 win. He took over from Wander Suero with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. Hudson allowed three hits across the two frames, but he did not allow a run and escaped with his third save.
Quick hits: Will Smith (29), Héctor Neris (21) and Carlos Martínez (13) recorded saves on Tuesday night…Felipe Vázquez got his first save since July 16 and his 22nd save of the season, closing out the Pirates’ 10-7 win over the Angels…The Rays activated José Alvarado on Tuesday, and he went straight into a setup role. The lefty set up for closer Emilio Pagán, starting off the eighth inning with a 7-4 lead against the Padres. He did allow an unearned run and yielded to Pagán with two outs. Pagán struck out all four batters he faced for his 13th save…Sergio Romo filled in for an unavailable Taylor Rogers against the Brewers and got his 19th save. Sam Dyson, who had just been activated by the Twins, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for his 18th hold of the season…The Cubs activated Kyle Ryan from the bereavement list, and he appeared in Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies. He retired one of two batters but was charged with the Phillies’ go-ahead run in the seventh inning…The Rangers placed Jesse Chavez on the 10-day IL on Tuesday with a right elbow impingement.
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.