Alex Cora tabbed Matt Barnes as his highest leverage reliever in the preseason. This did not translate necessarily to usage exclusively like a traditional closer. Barnes faced the heart of the order in the seventh or eighth innings as necessitated trying to preserve wins for Boston. Last night, Barnes received a save chance but left after 17 pitches to some boos from the home crowd. Barnes induced a pop out on a bunt attempt by Delino DeShields but then yielded a single to Danny Santana, a double to Elvis Andrus and a two RBI single to Nomar Mazara blowing the win for Sale and resulting in Barnes fourth blown save of the season. Barnes bounced back to strikeout Hunter Pence and then walked Asdrubal Cabrera intentionally before departing.
With Barnes usage patterns already decreasing his value in fantasy, giving up runs in three of his last four appearances will not enhance it either. Getting his 12th hold, Brandon Workman fired a clean eighth inning and he’s been scoreless in his last seven outings. Workman’s allowed a .086/.234/.140 slash line against this year with a 49 percent ground ball lean. Not sure if he will get more save chances going forward, but he should be on radars again in deeper formats. Heath Hembree retired all four batters he faced, three via strikeout. He last allowed a run on May 22nd and owns nine straight scoreless appearances spanning 6.2 innings since. Ryan Brasier takes the loss, his third, giving up a double to Santana and a single to Andrus in the top of the 11th inning. By the way, last year, Boston went 97-1 when leading after eight innings. This year, they fell to 27-3 after this contest.
On the other side of this extra-inning battle, the Rangers bullpen also ceded a lead. Given a one run lead, Shawn Kelley entered the bottom of the ninth with the save opportunity. Back-to-back singles by J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts proved to be a less than optimal start to his outing. Kelley recorded a double play ground out by Rafael Devers trying to work around the traffic, but, a pinch hit single to center by Brock Holt scored pinch runner Michael Chavis tying the game. Then, a double by Marco Hernandez ended with Holt being thrown out at home, preserving the tie. Kelley gets tagged with his fourth blown save, and second of his last three appearances. In fact, Kelley’s only converted two of his last five save chances after a strong start to the season. His hold on the position could be tenuous going forward.
Jesse Chavez escaped bases loaded and two outs in the top of the 10th and garnered his second win of the year with the Rangers rally in the top of the 11th inning. Chris Martin then notched his second save striking out two in a clean bottom of the 11th. Martin suffered a blown save on May 19th, but in his six outings since has been scoreless with his last three all being clean with seven strikeouts over three innings of work. Within the six straight scoreless, Martin owns four holds and last night’s save. On the season, his 27:3 K:BB in 25.1 innings suggests he’s been pitching well. Whether or not Kelley’s recent struggles open the door for a return to the ninth inning for Jose LeClerc remains to be seen, however, fantasy owners seem to be overlooking Martin as a part of the high leverage events in Texas going forward. Stay tuned.
While the two above situations continue to evolve, perhaps some clarity in the St. Louis bullpen. Jordan Hicks secured his 13th save working around a hit with two strikeouts against the Marlins on Monday night. This marks saves in consecutive appearances for Hicks after getting pulled against the Cubs on June second. Command proves to be a key for Hicks and he’s not issued a walk in either of his last two save conversions. John Gant did give up a run over two innings allowing a double to Harold Ramirez then two ground outs pushing him across the plate. Gant’s been a savior of sorts for the Cardinals filling a vital setup role for the team.
A strong fill-in performance by Sean Newcomb highlighted some long relief effectiveness last night. Newcomb fired 4.2 scoreless innings giving up a hit with six strikeouts. He generated 11 swinging strikes, nine with his four-seam fastball, of his 55 pitches in a dominant outing. It’s Newcomb’s first win this year and could put him in the conversation for more innings as a bulk reliever going forward with both Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz struggling in the rotation. Jacob Webb locked down his second save walking one and striking out one in 1.1 innings for the Braves as well.
Although not as dominant as Newcomb, Zack Godley gets his third win pitching 3.2 scoreless innings of relief against the Phillies. In a game which set home run records, Godley yielded two hits and two walks with a strikeout. As a reliever, Godley owns a 3.20 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and a .197/.260/.352 line against while cutting his walk percentage in half. Not saying run to the wire to get him, but, in deeper formats there’s potential value in vulture wins and three inning saves. Greg Holland added to the home run party serving up gopher balls to Rhys Hoskins and Jay Bruce in the bottom of the ninth. Holland remains 9-for-10 in save chances but this outing snaps his seven game scoreless streak.
Taking Kenley Jansen out of the equation, imagine how much better the Dodgers would be if they had the Angels bullpen? Joe Kelly imploded again handing out three walks leading to runs on a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch. Kelly only gets charged with one earned run, but three walks and three strikeouts will not work in high leverage. Ross Stripling gets his third hold but also gets charged with a run after giving up a hit preceding Dylan Floro coughing up a two-run home run to some guy named Mike Trout. As for the Angels, Ty Buttrey records his fourth win working around a hit and a walk while Hansel Robles notched his eighth save with a scoreless ninth in spite of allowing two hits.
Quick Hits: Oakland’s bullpen continues to struggle with both Yusmeiro Petit and Joakim Soria giving up two earned runs in their outings. Petit allowed a home run to Kevin Kiermaier and Soria coughed one up to Ji-Man Choi…Another nice appearance for Colin Poche with two strikeouts in 1.1 innings. He walked one in the ninth before being removed and got charged with a run when Chaz Roe gave up a double to Stephen Piscotty…Tanner Rainey records his second hold with a clean inning. So far in June, Rainey’s reeled off six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts against two walks…Save number eight for Wade Davis working around a hit with a strikeout. Scott Oberg gets the win after a Rockies rally. Oberg did give up a hit and a walk resulting in an earned run with two strikeouts. Jairo Diaz logged a clean seventh striking out two…Steve Cishek incurs the loss allowing two hits and the go ahead run to score in the bottom of the eighth inning.
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