Ryne Stanek did nothing to dispel the José Ureña-as-closer speculation on Thursday night, as he failed to protect the Marlins’ one-run lead over the Reds. He relieved Jarlin García in the top of the eighth inning with two outs and Joey Votto on first base, and began his outing by walking Eugenio Suárez, which put Votto into scoring position. Aristides Aquino’s single brought Votto home and left Stanek with his third blown save.
To his credit, Stanek came back for the ninth inning and kept the game knotted. The Marlins ultimately prevailed in the bottom of the 12th inning, thanks to Harold Ramirez’s walk-off homer off Raisel Iglesias, who had just entered the game. The loss dropped Iglesias to 2-10, and he now has two losses and a blown save over his last four appearances. Over that 2.2-inning span, he has given up four runs on nine hits, including two home runs. Though the sample is obviously small, there may be something to his 16.7 percent ground ball rate and 69.2 percent hard contact rate during this stretch as an explanation for his struggles. It’s time to lay off Iglesias in daily lineup leagues and to pick up Michael Lorenzen as insurance.
José Leclerc continues to have trouble with consistency, as he registered his ninth appearance of the season with multiple runs allowed on Thursday night. He allowed the Mariners to untie a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth inning by giving up two runs on two singles and two walks. While Leclerc’s results have been mixed of late, his control has been consistently subpar, as he has thrown less than one of three pitches (33.1 percent Zone%) in the strike zone over his last six innings. In sandwiching Leclerc’s appearance with a pair of scoreless half-innings, Matt Magill was credited with his fourth win of the season. The Mariners’ closer is on a nice run, having held opponents scoreless in nine of his last 10 outings, and he has 14 strikeouts and one walk over the 10 innings he has pitched during his hot streak.
Brad Hand pitched a perfect inning against the Tigers for his 33rd save, and he has now strung four consecutive scoreless outings in a row. However, he is still bearing the “Not Very Stable” tag in the closer grid, as he has compiled a 6.6 percent SwStr% over his last nine innings. Also concerning is Hand’s average fastball velocity, which has fallen below 91 mph for each of his last two appearances, as compared to his season-to-date average of 92.8 mph. He could be given a chance to work out his recent issues while in the closer’s role, and not only because his results have been fine. For the month of August, the Indians do not have a single reliever in the top 50 for SIERA. Out of 190 qualified relievers, Tyler Clippard (53rd) ranks the highest.
The Rays’ bullpen has been one of the best in the majors this season, but they have hit a higher gear in August, as no relief corps has a lower SIERA for the month than their 3.53 mark. Emilio Pagán has stepped up as the closer, and Nick Anderson has been even better as a Ray than as a Marlin. Though both pitchers allowed a solo home run in the Rays’ 9-8 win over the Astros, Pagán got his 15th save in what turned out to be his longest outing of the season (2.1 innings). José Altuve’s home run was the first run Anderson had allowed since getting traded to the Rays at the July 31 deadline.
Colin Poche has been a key contributor, too. Prior to Thursday’s game, he had allowed two runs over 11.1 innings in August, racking up 17 strikeouts while allowing only three hits. Poche was called on earlier than usual on Thursday, entering in the bottom of the fifth inning, and he did not make it out of the inning. He walked the bases loaded with two outs and proceeded to walk in two runs. That allowed the Astros to take a 5-4 lead and after Poche’s fifth and final walk, he was relieved by Anderson. Over his last two appearances, Poche has thrown 32 pitches outside of the strike zone, but he induced only four swings on those pitches for an abysmal 12.5 percent O-Swing%.
The Dodgers did not need a closer in their 11-5 loss to the Diamondbacks, but prior to the game Dave Roberts offered assurances that Kenley Jansen would remain as the team’s closer and would not have his workload reduced. On Wednesday night, Jansen blew his seventh save of the season against the Padres, and in August, he has blown three of five save chances. Over this eight-inning stretch, he has struck out 11 batters and walked just one, but he has allowed 10 hits.
Quick hits: Felipe Vázquez (24), Liam Hendriks (17) and Craig Kimbrel (13) recorded saves on Thursday…With Kirby Yates having pitched on four of the previous five days, Andres Munoz was entrusted with this first career save opportunity, with the Padres holding a 5-2 lead over the Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning. Munoz did allow a run on a Stephen Vogt RBI double, but he preserved the lead and got the save…Randy Dobnak got his first career save in his second-ever appearance in the majors on Thursday. He pitched the final three innings of the Twins’ 10-5 win over the White Sox. He has yet to allow an earned run in seven innings, though he did allow two unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Thursday’s game.
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.