It turns out that closers, agents and fantasy owners aren’t the only ones who care about saves. In something of a surprise move, Dusty Baker summoned Sean Doolittle for the eighth inning of the Nationals’ series finale against the Astros on Thursday night. With switch-hitting Carlos Beltran and lefties Brian McCann and Derek Fisher due up, there was a certain logic to Doolittle being brought in, but that was apparently not Baker’s only consideration. Both MASN’s Mark Zuckerman and the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo tweeted that the Nationals’ manager wanted to give Brandon Kintzler a chance to reach 30 saves. He has been stuck on 28 since getting traded from the Twins to the Nationals on July 31.
So, yes, it was Kintzler who pitched the ninth with a 3-1 lead, but that was quickly erased by a Josh Reddick RBI single and a Yuli Gurriel RBI double. Kintzler is still two saves away from 30, so we should not be surprised to see him get at least a couple more chances to pitch in save situations. While Doolittle has not been as effective against right-handed hitters as he has been against lefties, his .225 wOBA allowed against righties entering Thursday’s game hardly seems like reason enough to hold him back from facing the top of the Astros’ batting order.
Baker’s quest to get Kintzler to a round number of saves may cost Doolittle some fantasy value, but probably not enough to be anything more than a minor nuisance.
On Thursday night, for just the second time since Trevor Rosenthal went on the DL, the Cardinals found themselves in a save situation, but unlike the first time, Mike Matheny did not call on Seung Hwan Oh to close out the game. It was also not Tyler Lyons, who remained in his eighth-inning setup role. Instead, it was Samuel Tuivailala, who has 46 career minor league saves, but entering Thursday had yet to record a major league save. The 24-year-old righty, however, did not get an out, much less a save against the Padres. He was but one of four relievers who worked the ninth inning for the Cardinals, and the one who got credited with the loss, as both batters he allowed to reach base wound up scoring.
Matheny had previously indicated that Oh and Lyons would be used in a loose platoon, but it now appears that the Cardinals’ closer situation may be more complicated than that and could require some time to take shape.
On Wednesday, Greg Holland blew his third save over a span of less than three weeks, but Bud Black went to him again in a save situation on Thursday. Holland had a much better outing against the Royals this time, using only seven pitches to retire Alcides Escobar, Cheslor Cuthbert and Mike Moustakas in order. During his slump, Holland tried to address some mechanical issues, but he told MLB.com he was thinking about his delivery during game situations. Given his results on Thursday, we can only assume that Holland was not in his head this time.
We will see in due time if Holland can regain the consistency he showed earlier in the season, but this was a good start. It was his first clean inning since Aug. 4.
For their part, the Royals did not need a closer against the Rockies, but had they found themselves in a save situation, Kelvin Herrera was ready to pitch. Herrera had been pulled from Tuesday’s game against the Rockies with tightness in his right forearm, but according to the Kansas City Star, he was actually available to pitch on Wednesday.
Zach Britton had an MRI on his left knee on Thursday, and it came back showing no structural damage. Though he has been dealing with a knee injury since 2014, he told the Baltimore Sun he had been feeling more discomfort in the knee than usual over the last two weeks. Because of that, a DL stint is still a possibility, despite the clean MRI. If you have been hanging on to Brad Brach as an insurance policy, you may be getting some more saves from him just yet.
As has been anticipated, the Mets will activate Jeurys Familia on Friday. While he will not immediately wrest the closer’s job from A.J. Ramos, Terry Collins said that Familia will “pitch a few games” before he is reinstalled in the role. He is available in slightly more than half of CBS and Yahoo leagues and in more than three-fourths of ESPN leagues, so if you need saves, Familia is a readily-available source for the home stretch.
It turns out that even Alex Claudio needs a breather every now and then. The Rangers’ closer has already pitched 69 innings this season, but after throwing a combined 62 pitches on Monday and Wednesday against the Angels, Jeff Banister brought in Ricardo Rodriguez for the save in the series finale. In what was just his fifth major league appearance, Rodriguez tossed a perfect inning for his first major league save. It’s not clear that he has already superseded Jose Leclerc as the Rangers’ primary closer-in-waiting, so for now, I am keeping him in the third spot in the Rangers’ portion of the closer grid.
In Wednesday’s Bullpen Report, I suggested a few replacements for Andrew Miller’s owners to consider, but one pitcher I overlooked was Brandon Morrow. He filled in for Kenley Jansen on Thursday and notched his first save since 2009, pitching a 1-2-3 inning against the Pirates. Jansen will be back this weekend, as Dave Roberts was giving him some rest, but even if Morrow doesn’t get another save, he has been useful in other categories. After Thursday’s performance, Morrow is 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 36 strikeouts in 32 innings.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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.