–Edward Mujica blew his first save opportunity of the twenty-thirteen campaign on Independence Day, yielding two earned runs on four hits — one of which left the park — in a 6-5 loss to the Angels. The longball turned out to be the third of its kind Mujica allowed in his previous six trips to the bump — leading to five earned runs — spiking his ERA from 1.57 to 2.62. The fifth of July, however, seemed to be a bit friendlier to the veteran right-hander. Mujica faced the minimum in a clean ninth-inning of work on Friday, fanning two Marlins and inducing one worm burner en route to a 4-1 Cardinals’ victory and Mujica’s 22nd save of the season.
Despite the struggles Mujica may have been facing over the course of the last month, the velocity on the righty’s primary offerings appear to be steady. The slider may have lost a tick since last season, but he’s not showing it off as much this year. The trouble appears to be opposing batters’ ability to square up the fourseamer from Mujica. Since the start of 2013, opponents are batting .310, slugging .690 and have hit three homers off the fourseamer while they’re hitting just .167, slugging .250 and have hit two homers against his preferred pitch — the splitter. And since June 1st, opponents are hitting .556, slugging 1.333 and have blasted two homers when Mujica serves up the fourseamer. I’m no pitching coach or Yadier Molina — and my sincerest apologies for getting off track for a minute — but it seems like someone could improve calling or throwing the fourseam fastball going forward. All-in-all, Edward Mujica will continue to get save opportunities on one of the best teams in baseball and he should be considered a top-fifteen closing option from here-on-out.
–Oliver Perez struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth-inning to earn his second save of the season for the Mariners in a 4-2 victory of the Reds tonight. And although Perez impressed in this evening’s outing — and surprisingly, most of this season, to be honest — Tom Wilhelmsen could be found warming in the M’s pen had Perez failed to retire Jay Bruce. Mariners’ skipper noted that “with the left-handers and the way it lined up late, he felt good going to Oliver Perez.” Since matchups were likely at the root of tonight’s decision to go with Perez to start the ninth frame, Wilhelmsen still appears to be the closer to own in Seattle. Since Tom Wilhelmsen’s last blown save, the lanky right-hander is 1-for-1 in save opportunities in five trips to the hill with a 4:1 K:BB while allowing just one hit.
-Like the aforementioned Edward Mujica, Grant Balfour notched his 22nd save of the season as the Athletics clipped the Royals 6-3 in Kansas City. Balfour came on in in relief of Tommy Milone — who tossed a two-hit shutout through eight frames — after the A’s starter surrendered four consecutive hits and two runs after retiring the Royals’ lead off batter. Balfour immediately yielded an RBI single to Salvador Perez, but eventually induced a couple of grounders to kill the Kansas City rally. On the season, Balfour is a perfect 22-for-22 in save situations with a 1.82 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.
–Quickies: Rafael Soriano untucked for the 23rd time on Friday. He retired the Friars in order to seal an 8-5 victory for the Nationals. Jonathan Papelbon fanned one Brave in the ninth en route to his 18th save in 22 chances. Trevor Rosenthal fanned three Marlins in the eighth-inning to earn his 18th hold of the season. Jim Johnson blew the only save of the day — his second failed opportunity in his last four outings — and is now 29-of-35 in save situations in ‘13. Johnson has now allowed 18 earned runs in 43 appearances. Last season, Johnson yielded just 19 earned runs in 71 trips to the bump. Ouch.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]