Jeurys Familia has had his ups and downs this season, but he hit a new low on Wednesday when he did not retire any of the four batters he faced in the Mets’ 5-3 loss to the Pirates. He began the top of the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead, and he allowed three straight singles. Familia stayed in to face Jordy Mercer with the bases loaded, but a four-pitch walk cut the lead to a run and ended his night. He was relieved by Anthony Swarzak, who did him no favors by allowing David Freese‘s two-RBI single and Josh Bell’s sacrifice fly.
While this most recent outing was particularly bad for Familia, he had been struggling on and off for a month and a half. Over a span of 15.2 inning entering Wednesday’s game, Famila had compiled a 3.45 ERA and 1.72 WHIP, and a .408 BABIP rate was key to the bloating of his ratios. Going back to May 13, Familia has allowed hard contact at a 34.0 percent rate, but that slightly-elevated rate hardly seems to be cause for an astronomical BABIP. According to Baseball Savant, there is reason to be skeptical — and hopeful — about Familia’s recent trend. While he has allowed batters to hit .353 against him over his last 15 appearances, his opponents’ collective xBA is just .277 over that period.
If Famila allows hitters to bat close to .280 against him going forward, that is still less than ideal. There is probably less reason to be concerned about Familia than his recent stats would indicate, but it would certainly be reassuring if he started getting more ground balls and more soft contact in general.
Whereas we can take some comfort in looking more deeply into Familia’s struggles, there is not much to feel good about in regards to Zach Britton. Kyle Seager’s two-run homer off Britton provided the Orioles’ closer with his first blown save, and he has allowed runs in only two of his eight appearances to date. That’s pretty much all of the good news. The average velocity on Britton’s sinker is down more than 2 mph from last year, and he has lost more than two inches of vertical movement. His ground ball rate on the pitch of 64.7 percent is his lowest mark since his rookie season, when he was a starter with a 4.61 ERA.
Because the Orioles have a strong incentive to trade him, it’s conceivable that Britton could remain the team’s closer even if he is not all that effective. His job security is helped by Brad Brach and Mychal Givens have struggles of their own and by Darren O’Day (hamstring) being on the DL. These factors account for Britton avoiding the “Hot Seat” label in the grid below, but that doesn’t mean you should not avoid using him, if at all possible.
On the surface, Ryan Tepera appears to be in the same boat with Britton and Familia, having blown saves in consecutive appearances. Allowing Alex Bregman’s two-run walk-off homer on Wednesday night was not exactly a highlight moment, but his prior appearances in June had few blemishes. In his nine other appearances this month, Tepera had allowed only one run on nine hits and two walks over 12 innings. During that stretch, the only extra-base hits he allowed were a pair of doubles, and he struck out 14 batters.
A pair of unsettled closer situations gained a little bit of clarity on Wednesday. Ned Yost brought in Tim Hill to pitch the ninth inning against the Brewers with a four-run lead, but he gave way to Wily Peralta with no outs after giving up Brad Miller’s three-run homer. Peralta struck out Eric Thames, and then allowed an Erik Kratz single that he subsequently erased on a Ryan Braun double play ball. Hill’s failure would appear to give Peralta, who has recorded both of the Royals’ last two saves, an edge in receiving future save opportunities.
A.J. Minter would appear to have a similar advantage over Dan Winkler. After allowing four runs in 0.1 innings against the Orioles last Friday, Winkler lost a chance for redemption on Wednesday, allowing the Reds to take the lead in the seventh inning on Adam Duvall’s two-RBI single. The Braves failed to rally, but Minter pitched the ninth inning and kept the deficit at one run.
As expected, the Cubs activated Brandon Morrow on Wednesday, but he did not appear in their 7-5 loss to the Dodgers. The bullpen did not record a single save during Morrow’s 10-day absence.
Quick hits: Seranthony Dominguez pitched two perfect innings against the Yankees for his fifth save. Sandwiched in between Dominguez’s innings, the Yankees called on Domingo German to pitch the bottom of the eighth. It was German’s first relief appearance since May 1, which was five days before he joined the rotation. Luis Cessa started the game, so with CC Sabathia having his start pushed back, German was not needed to make a start this weekend against the Red Sox…Brad Boxberger allowed a solo home run to Starlin Castro on Wednesday night. It was the sixth homer he has allowed in 29.1 innings this season. Of all relievers who have allowed at least 25 flyballs, Boxberger ranks 10th in pulled fly rate and seventh in HR/FB ratio…Blake Treinen had pitched on three of the four previous days, so Lou Trivino got a save opportunity against the Tigers on Wednesday night. Trivino pitched a perfect ninth inning for his second save…Sam Dyson was also rested due to workload, so Reyes Moronta got the final two outs for the Giants against the Rockies, and he was credited with his fourth win of the season…In allowing two runs (one earned) in 0.2 innings against the Angels, Joe Kelly raised his June ERA to 8.22.
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.