On Saturday, Matt Magill became eighth Mariner to record a save this season, and on Tuesday night, he joined a more selective group, becoming the fifth Mariner to record a second save. Given that the Mariners are just 53-73, have a staff with a collective 5.07 ERA that doesn’t hand off many leads in the late innings and have recorded only 26 saves on the season, we can be excused for not having much of an appetite for chasing saves in Seattle. That apathy could be compounded by Magill’s status as a 29-year-old journeyman with a history of pedestrian strikeout rates, questionable control and a propensity for allowing homers.
However, this version of Magill is not the same as the earlier one we may be more familiar with. He is throwing fewer four-seam fastballs, but he has roughly doubled his SwStr% on the pitch from 6.4 percent to 12.9 percent. Magill has also increased his curveball usage, and it’s a pitch that has been less prone to hard contact over the last two season (90.9 mph EV FB/LD) than his four-seamer has been (95.1 mph EV FB/LD). As a result, Magill has a more impressive strikeout rate (28.1 percent) and SwStr% (14.5 percent), and he also has an HR/9 ratio (1.13) that is well below the major league average.
In pitching a perfect inning to record a save against the Rays on Tuesday night, Magill extended his modest streak of consecutive scoreless appearances to six. During this streak, he has allowed only a single and a double with no walks and nine strikeouts over six innings. It is too soon to tell if Scott Servais intends to use him as his sole or primary closer, but if he wants to play the hot hand in the ninth inning, there is not a hotter hand in the Mariners’ bullpen than Magill. Should Servais stick with him, there could be an uptick in the frequency of save opportunities from here on out. The Mariners do have some tough series ahead, but they will also play the Rangers, Pirates, White Sox and Orioles over the final five-and-a-half weeks of the schedule. The first three of these teams actually rank below the Mariners in wOBA since the trade deadline passed.
While the Mariners’ closer situation may be getting clearer, the Nationals’ reliever hierarchy remained in flux on Tuesday. Hunter Strickland, who was named by Dave Martinez as part of a closer committee, along with Daniel Hudson and Fernando Rodney, broke his nose when a weight bar fell on it during a workout. Though Martinez said Strickland would be available for Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates, he did not make an appearance in the eighth inning, after Stephen Strasburg handed the bullpen a 1-0 lead. Instead, Wander Suero got the ball, and he loaded the bases by allowing two singles and a walk. He gave way to Hudson, whose first pitch to Bryan Reynolds resulted in a game-tying sacrifice fly, and then Starling Marte broke the game open with a three-run homer.
Marte’s home run was the first run credited to Hudson since Aug. 7, so there is little reason to think he won’t be in the saves mix going forward while Sean Doolittle (knee) is on the IL. The same goes for Strickland, even though he didn’t pitch on Tuesday night.
José Leclerc’s on-again, off-again control issues have nagged him consistently throughout the second half, as he has located only 35.2 percent of his pitches in the strike zone and compiled a 47.4 percent first-pitch strike rate. Among 180 qualified relievers, Leclerc’s F-Strike% ranks as the fifth-lowest since the break. On Tuesday night, in the second game of the Rangers’ doubleheader against the Angels, he gave up his first run since Aug. 2, though poor control was not his downfall. Of his 21 pitches, 14 missed the strike zone, but five of those drew chases. However, Brian Goodwin connected with one of Leclerc’s in-zone pitches for a solo home run that erased the Rangers’ 2-1 lead.
That was the only baserunner allowed by Leclerc, and the Rangers held on to win, 3-2, in the 11th inning. Leclerc should continue to get save chances for the the foreseeable future, but his fantasy owners should use him with caution, given his recent difficulties with throwing strikes.
A pair of prospects, Kevin Ginkel and Hunter Harvey, have made their debuts this month, and both have found their way into high-leverage situations in short order. Ginkel got his second hold in two nights, the most recent coming on Tuesday against the Rockies. The 25-year-old already has 12 strikeouts in nine innings with a 16.9 percent SwStr% and a 37.2 percent O-Swing%. Harvey got a hold in just his second major league appearance on Tuesday night, tossing a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts against the Royals, while averaging 98.7 mph on his fastball. Both should be targeted in saves-plus-holds formats. As Mike Podhorzer noted in his Wednesday Deep League Wire column, Harvey could even be worth a stash in saves-only leagues.
Quick hits: Roberto Osuna (29), Raisel Iglesias (25), Héctor Neris (22), Mychal Givens (10) Craig Kimbrel (10) and Archie Bradley (6) each recorded a save on Tuesday night…The Cubs activated Steve Cishek (hip) on Tuesday, which was the first day he was eligible to rejoin the team…A pair of moves were made in regard to suspensions from the July 30 brawl between the Reds and Pirates. Amir Garrett completed his eight-game suspension and appeared for the Reds in their 3-2 win over the Padres.. The lefty walked two batters to begin the eighth inning before getting lifted for Michael Lorenzen. The Pirates’ Kyle Crick began serving his three-game suspension on Tuesday…The Athletics recalled A.J. Puk on Tuesday, and he will pitch in a relief role. The former first-rounder is making his comeback from Tommy John surgery, and his first appearance will be his major league debut.
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.