Héctor Neris has been reliable for much of this season, and especially in the second half. Prior to the Phillies’ current series with the Pirates, Neris had reeled off a string of 13 consecutive appearances — each lasting one full inning — in which he had not allowed a run. That does not fully illustrate how dominant Neris had been, as he allowed only two singles, a double, an unintentional walk and an intentional walk over that span.
In Monday night’s series opener, Neris blew a chance at a save when he gave up a Josh Bell solo homer, which was the first home run he had allowed since July 18. On Tuesday night, Neris entered in the top of the ninth inning with a 4-4 tie, and uncharacteristically, he issued back-to-back walks with one out. He would wind up paying for those free passes when the next batter, Kevin Newman, hit what appeared to be a double play ball to César Hernández. Melky Cabrera was out at second, but Rhys Hoskins dropped the throw from Jean Segura, which allowed Newman to be safe at first base and Adam Frazier to score the go-ahead run.
It’s easy enough to shrug off these two performances. Neris had not allowed a homer in some time, and Bell has now hit six of them since Aug. 11. Had Hoskins caught Segura’s throw, the game would likely have moved into the bottom of the ninth with a tie score. There is certainly no reason to stop relying on Neris for saves, but we should make a mental note that he has induced only two swings on 17 out-of-zone pitches in this series so far. This is an extremely small sample, and therefore, not a reason to get alarmed. It is merely a trend that Neris’ fantasy owners should track over his next couple of appearances.
Though he has picked up his pace somewhat, saves are still just tricking in for Mychal Givens. We should not count on the Orioles to provide him with copious save opportunities over the season’s final month, but as was the case in 2018, Givens is pitching much better in the latter half of the season. He has not allowed a run in nine of his 10 August appearances, including Tuesday night’s outing against the Nationals. He tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth inning for his 11th save. Since the beginning of July, Givens has a 2.75 ERA and an 0.86 WHIP with 24 strikeouts and five walks over 19.2 innings. He has also amassed an 18.4 percent SwStr%, as compared to the 15.3 percent mark he established through the end of June.
Tuesday night marked the third time in eight days that Givens pitched the ninth inning after Hunter Harvey had pitched the eighth inning with a tie or the lead. For the first time in his four major league appearances, Harvey got himself into a jam. After allowing a one-out triple to Trea Turner, he issued two-out walks to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. Harvey threw only one strike in nine pitches to Rendon and Soto, but he recovered to strike Asdrúbal Cabrera out and end the threat. Brandon Hyde has thrown Harvey straight into a high-leverage role, so he is a worthy target in leagues that reward holds, but walks could continue to be an issue. He has had an O-Swing% of 25 percent or lower in three of his four outings.
The Nationals had no need for a closer in this series opener, but they may not be far off from getting Sean Doolittle (knee) back from the IL. He is scheduled to toss a simulated inning on Wednesday, and is targeting a return for this weekend’s series against the Marlins.
Despite an utter dearth of swinging strikes lately (6.1 percent SwStr% over seven innings since Aug. 8), Brad Hand appears to be crawling out of a recent slump, notching saves in his last two appearances. It looked as if he might get a chance to build on that success on Tuesday night, as the Indians carried a 4-1 lead against the Tigers into the top of the seventh inning. A six-run frame negated the need for a closer, but Tyler Clippard — who has been used more frequently in high-leverage situations in recent weeks — still came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning with a nine-run lead. Clippard struck out all three Tigers he faced, helping to make the case to get more holds going forward. Since July 16, he has allowed two runs over 23.1 innings for an 0.77 ERA. He also has an 0.60 WHIP to go with a 28.1 percent K% and a 2.4 percent BB%.
Quick hits: Raisel Iglesias (27), Taylor Rogers (21), Hansel Robles (19), Ken Giles (17), Carlos Martínez (16), Liam Hendriks (16) and Archie Bradley (9) all recorded saves on Tuesday night…Edwin Díaz (neck) threw before Tuesday night’s game to determine if he would be available, but he was not needed in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Cubs…The Nationals placed Hunter Strickland on the paternity list on Tuesday…The Marlins placed Austin Brice on the 10-day IL with a right forearm strain…Tyler Rogers, the twin brother of the Twins’ Taylor Rogers, made his major league debut for the Giants. He pitched a perfect eighth inning in the 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, getting each out by way of a groundout…Keynan Middleton begins his comeback from Tommy John surgery, as the Angels activated him from the 60-day IL on Tuesday. He did not appear in the team’s 5-2 win over the Rangers.
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.