Happy Zach Britton Day! The Orioles are planning to activate their once-and-future closer on Monday, though not surprisingly, he will likely be eased into the closer’s role. It’s also not a shock that, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles may deal Britton, along with Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, prior to the trade deadline. If all three are dealt, perhaps current setup relievers Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier could get save chances later in the season. The Sun report also cites Tanner Scott as having received more work in high-leverage situations prior to his getting optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, so he could be a late-season candidate for saves or holds as well.
For the Astros’ bullpen, the new status quo prevailed on Sunday, meaning that it was Hector Rondon getting a save opportunity and Ken Giles pitching in a non-save situation. In striking out all three Rangers he faced in the ninth inning, Rondon nailed down his third save in five days and his second in as many days. Giles pitched in the sixth and seventh innings, but in a departure from his recent trend in non-save situations, he fared well, allowing only a walk and no runs over his 1.2 innings.
Given A.J. Hinch’s proclivity to go with the hot hand, we could see Rondon continue to get saves as long as he remains effective. The Astros have Monday off, so even though Rondon has pitched two days in a row, he should be sufficiently rested to get the team’s next save chance, even if it comes as soon as Tuesday.
One reason Rondon was used on consecutive days was because Keone Kela failed to keep the Rangers tied with the Astros in the ninth inning of Sunday’s series finale. Over the previous three weeks, Kela had been particularly tough on hitters, allowing one run on a double, a single and a walk with eight strikeouts over a 6.1-inning span. He could chalk up his success in avoiding walks to getting more chases during that period, but on Sunday, Kela started off with a four-pitch walk to George Springer. He paid for his wildness again when he threw a wild pitch to Alex Bregman. Then Springer advanced to third base on a Yulieski Gurriel flyout and scored when Kela balked.
Jeurys Familia‘s absence from the Mets and the closer’s role is expected to be brief. Though he was placed on the 10-day DL on Friday (retroactive to Thursday), he could be back when eligible to return this weekend. The Mets have already sent Familia to begin a rehab assignment in Florida. Meanwhile, it appears that Anthony Swarzak will be Mickey Callaway’s first choice to close out games for as long as Familia is out. For the second night in a row, Robert Gsellman entered a tight game against the Yankees in the seventh inning, only to give way to Swarzak. After getting saddled with the loss on Saturday, Swarzak pitched for the save in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. A one-out walk to Greg Bird was the only blemish on Swarzak’s frame, but no further damage was done, as Gary Sanchez hit into a game-ending double play.
Raisel Iglesias pitched on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so despite not pitching on Saturday, he did not get the call on Sunday, when the Reds held a three-run lead over the Cardinals for the final two innings. While Iglesias was getting another day of rest, Jared Hughes came out for the eighth inning, and after retiring the side, he was sent back out for the ninth. In holding the Cardinals scoreless, Hughes notched his fourth save of the season.
Hughes ranks 24th in Roto value (per ESPN’s Player Rater) among relief-eligible pitchers, largely on the strength of his 1.02 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. He gets a lot of mileage out of his sinker, which has yielded a 65.4 percent ground ball rate, but of the 24 pitchers who have had at least 60 batted sinkers, he has allowed the 10th-highest average exit velocity (89.2 mph), according to Baseball Savant. While Hughes has been enjoying the fruits of a minuscule .059 Iso, his xIso of .126 (per xStats.org) is more suggestive of the degree to which he has allowed hard contact. That’s particularly worth noting for someone with a pedestrian 20.5 percent strikeout rate.
Quick hits: Much has been made of Giles’ troubles in non-save situations, but Fernando Rodney has had similar struggles. Pitching with a four-run lead in the top of the ninth inning against the Angels, Rodney yielded a pair of runs on an Albert Pujols single. He increased his WHIP in non-save situations this season to 1.95, as compared to his 0.75 WHIP in save situations…A trio of setup relievers went on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday. The Astros placed Joe Smith on the DL with right elbow soreness, while the Nationals put Brandon Kintzler on the DL with a right forearm flexor strain. The Rockies’ Scott Oberg has been sidelined with a back strain…With Kintzler out, Sammy Solis has taken over the third spot in the Nationals’ portion of the roster grid for now, but Justin Miller is a reliever to watch. He has struck out 17 batters with no walks over nine scoreless, one-hit innings…After not allowing a run in each of his first 12 major league appearances, Seranthony Dominguez has now allowed runs in back-to-back outings. He tossed a perfect seventh inning against the Brewers on Sunday, but gave up a run on three singles in the eighth inning. He still bequeathed a one-run lead to Luis Garcia in the final frame, but after the Brewers got back-to-back two-out base hits, Tommy Hunter was called in to get the final out. Hunter induced a Christian Yelich grounder for his first save of the season.
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.