Although it’s never assured, it appears Anthony Bass assumed the role of interim closer in Seattle until Hunter Strickland returns. Of course, with the Mariners only winning seven games in May, it may not be a booming position to hold. Pressed into duty in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, Bass induced an out to left field by Jonathan Lucroy. Bass then returned for the ninth retiring the side in order with two strikeouts for his first save this season, the fourth of his career and first since 2014. Since joining Seattle, Bass owns six strikeouts, with no walks, a 1.47 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in five outings spanning 6.1 innings.
Working in a lower leverage spot, but still notching a hold, Mychal Givens retired all three hitters he faced, two via strikeout without getting pushed beyond one inning of work. Givens outing sandwiched between Paul Fry walking one in 1.1 innings for his seventh hold and Richard Bleier recording his second save giving up a hit with a strikeout in 1.2 scoreless innings. Bleier factored in high leverage during the second half of last year with an encouraging ground ball lean and low walk rate. So far this year, Bleier’s working with a reduced ground ball percentage, down 15 percent compared to last year, but his 3.3 walk percentage provides hope. It’s almost certain the Orioles will continue to play match-ups with this bullpen, so Bleier’s been added to the grid. Also note, Shawn Armstrong did not pitch on Friday, so he should be rested for a save chance if needed on Saturday.
Two of the most fluid bullpens faced each other on Friday night. Tampa Bay used Emilio Pagan for 1.2 innings and he overcame being hit by a comebacker for 1.2 scoreless innings allowing a hit and striking out two. Pagan finished May with 13.1 scoreless innings and a robust 21 strikeouts against four walks. Jose Alvarado faced three batters, retiring two and walking one before being lifted in the eighth inning. Diego Castillo took over getting the last out in the eight, but struggled when returning for the ninth inning. Castillo started the ninth hitting Jonathan Schoop with a pitch. Byron Buxton sacrificed Schoop with a bunt then a Max Kepler ground out seemed to quell the rally. However, Castillo intentionally walked Jorge Polanco before hitting Willians Astudillo with a pitch to load the bases. Adam Kolarek entered with the bases loaded to face Eddie Rosario allowing a two-RBI single.
Castillo gets tagged with the loss, his fourth and two earned runs. Taylor Rogers worked 2.1 innings giving up a hit and striking out one for his second win. Rogers only needed 27 pitches to record seven outs and he finishes May with 11 strikeouts versus two walks in 11.1 innings. But, Rogers last recorded a save on May seventh due to the Twins propensity to win by more than three runs. Due to usage, it appears Blake Parker, or even Ryne Harper could get the save chance on Saturday depending on how Minnesota handles high leverage.
Flexing its muscles, the Yankees bullpen shutdown the Red Sox with four scoreless innings of relief preserving the win on Friday night. Adam Ottavino secured his 13th hold working around a hit with a strikeout. He’s been scoreless over his last 16 appearances spanning 16.1 innings. Tommy Kahnle pitched the seventh, also giving up a hit with a strikeout. Kahnle’s recorded no hits and no runs in 19 of his 26 outings this year. Zack Britton notched his 12th hold navigating around a walk for his 12th scoreless appearance over 12.1 innings. Then, Aroldis Chapman secured his 16th save with a clean ninth striking out two. Chapman’s converted 13 straight saves and led all relievers with 11 saves in May during which Chapman surged to a 0.79 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 18 strikeouts against three walks in 11.1 innings.
More high leverage events occurred in St. Louis. In the top of the 10th inning, Mike Montgomery started the inning by getting Dexter Fowler to ground out. But, he yielded a double to Kolten Wong putting the winning run in scoring position. Dillon Maples entered and issued a controversial walk to Harrison Bader. Joe Maddon complained about his at-bat during his post-game presser. Another walk to Jedd Gyorko loaded the bases and forced Maples from the game. Steve Cishek entered and promptly an opposite field single to Matt Carpenter resulting in a Cubs loss. Jordan Hicks garnered the win working two scoreless innings issuing two walks and striking out two for St. Louis. The strikeouts represent the first ones for Hicks since May 19th. He’s been better this year with a 3.60 ERA, 3.26 xFIP and 16.2 strikeouts minus walks percentage. But, Hicks could be even better if he reduces his walk percentage from its present 12.5 and builds on his 11.7 swinging strike rate. Time will tell, but command could fuel a breakout.
Quick Hits: Working in a non-save outing, Felipe Vazquez allowed a hit with two strikeouts. Francisco Liriano fired a clean inning and he’s only given up one earned run over his last 10 relief outings…Shawn Kelley also worked a clean ninth with a four run lead. Chris Martin yielded a hit in a scoreless eighth inning…Save number 16 for Roberto Osuna with a clean ninth. He finishes May with a 15:3 K:BB in 14 innings. Ryan Pressly worked a clean eighth for his 15th hold and recorded a tidy 14:2 K:BB during 14 innings in May as well. Hector Rondon gets his third win with a scoreless seventh…Lou Trivino struggles again coughing up the go ahead home run to Derek Fisher leading to his second los and third blown save this year…Kirby Yates continues to surge notching his 22nd save in a row this year. In May, Yates racked up 20 strikeouts versus three walks in 10 innings with a 0.80 WHIP…One out save for Kenley Jansen, always a fantasy benefit. Jansen’s up to 16 saves this year and he recorded his only via strikeout…Providing Edwin Diaz with much needed rest, Robert Gsellman recorded his first save this season with a scoreless ninth walking one. Seth Lugo gets his seventh hold working around a hit and a walk in the eighth….Pedro Strop could be activated as soon as today, so keep tabs on his usage going forward…Hunter Strickland will continue to pitch off the mound in preparation for a potential rehab outing soon…Last, but not least, with the MLB draft looming, the Craig Kimbrel rumors will swirl. Both Minnesota and Atlanta will be in the mix. However, the Cubs could be lurking with money freed up by Ben Zobrist on the restricted list as reported by Ken Rosenthal. With the draft pick attached to Kimbrel about to lapse, his market will heat up with the recent weather and home run totals. Stay tuned.
Avid fantasy baseball player and writer. You can find my work here chasing the next save or as the lead fantasy analyst on Fantasy Alarm. Any questions, hit me up on the Twitter machine, @gjewett9