Anytime news breaks regarding an injury or the need for a change at closer, the speculation ensues. With Toronto’s Roberto Osuna placed on administrative leave by baseball, adding the correct Blue Jay reliever means a chance at procuring saves. Some focused on Seung-Hwan Oh who owns closing experience, but he pitched the sixth inning with his team down by one. Others took a chance on John Axford, he’s been pitching very well of late with seven straight scoreless outings over 9.1 innings with eight strikeouts and only one walk. Alas, he worked the seventh inning and his ability to work more than one inning could keep him out of the save mix going forward unless he records a “Hader”.
So, it boiled down to Ryan Tepera or Tyler Clippard. Manager John Gibbons opted for the closer experience with Tepera keeping his role in the eighth inning. Tepera garnered the win giving up a walk with a strikeout after Toronto rallied for four runs in the bottom of the frame. Then, Tyler Clippard entered for his first save of the year giving up a hit with two strikeouts. Over his last six appearances, Clippard’s registered three holds, a win and a save allowing four hits, an unearned run and a walk with 10 strikeouts. Although regression will happen with Clippard, it’s his role to lose with Toronto until more clarity emerges with Osuna’s pending suspension.
It’s hard to believe, but Craig Kimbrel’s never recorded a save requiring him to get more than four outs. He tried again to make history last night, but not only blew the save, his outing led to a Red Sox loss. Many will question his entering the game so soon, but with it on the line, Alex Cora made the right move, it just did not work out. Kimbrel entered with runners on first and third with one out giving up a triple to Brett Gardner to turn the tide then Aaron Judge hit a home run to center before Kimbrel retired the last two by strikeouts to end the inning. In spite of the blown save, Kimbrel’s been trending in the right direction of late. Speaking of which, Aroldis Chapman closed the door notching his ninth save giving up a hit and striking out three working on back-to-back days. Same goes for Chad Green, so if a save chance presents itself in the Bronx tonight, plan on David Robertson to get the opportunity.
First, the good news, Kenley Jansen recorded his sixth save in a clean ninth inning. He’s turned in three straight scoreless outings and worked in consecutive days for the Dodgers. However, he’s pacing towards 63 strikeouts in 68.2 innings so far this season which does not scream elite. Jansen’s whiffed 14 in 15 innings of work this year but has only two strikeouts so far in May, in which all six innings have been against the Diamondbacks. Owners will accept his 1.50 ERA and 0.83 WHIP so far this month, but they paid a premium for a closer who presently has generated over six percent less swings and misses with a reduced chase rate while his contact’s up over seven percent. There’s time to right the ship, but Steamer’s adjusted his rest-of-the-season projections to 29 more saves with 66 strikeouts and 13 walks.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Arodys Vizcaino’s surging for the Braves. He saved his sixth game of the season and has notched a save in five of his last six outings. Since transitioning to closer on July 30th last year, Vizcaino’s 18-for-20 in save chances. Also, in his last 11 innings since his last blown save, Vizcaino’s only yielded one earned run while converting all six save chances.
Trusting Keone Kela requires a strong stomach. Kela did pitch very well on Wednesday getting the win when the Rangers rallied for another walk-off win. He worked two innings giving up a hit with three strikeouts on only 23 pitches. In save opportunities, Kela’s converted all seven chances this year with 6.1 shutout innings and 10 strikeouts against one walk. However, his work out of saves can get dicey as he’s given up eight earned runs in 7.2 innings in such outings. Fortunately, he’s the best arm in the Texas bullpen right now and should have a long leash unless injury derails his season given his checkered past.
While things seem to be settling in for Toronto, the White Sox bullpen continues to dissolve. Joakim Soria’s given up runs in two of his last three appearances, so the team tried Nate Jones once again in the ninth for the save against the Pirates. Jones imploded giving up four hits and four earned runs incurring his second blown save of the year. Although Jones has turned in 10 scoreless outings this year, his volatility along with Soria’s makes either hard to trust going forward. Keep tabs on Jace Fry. He joined the team on May 4th and in three games he’s struck out five in 3.2 innings giving up only one walk. He also pitched well in Triple-A whiffing 11 in 6.2 innings with a 1.35 ERA and o.45 WHIP.
Just when it seemed like moving on from Ken Giles could make sense, he’s saved game in back-to-back games for the Astros. Giles worked a clean ninth for his fifth save on Wednesday and he’s five-for-five in save chances. However, most remember his meltdown on the mound and walking to the dugout against the Yankees rather than focusing on the fact Giles has turned in scoreless outings in 10 of his last 11 appearances. Prior to the famed Yankee game, Giles did not allow a base runner during his seven outings prior to the implosion. Once again, trust can be fleeting, but Giles continues to turn his season around in spite of how he’s perceived.
Quick Hits: After the Mets used Robert Gsellman for two clean innings and Seth Lugo for an inning with two strikeouts, A.J. Ramos undid all of it within four pitches resulting in a walk-off home run for Adam Duvall. Raisel Iglesias benefited from this garnering his first win of the year working two innings with three strikeouts. Milwaukee welcomed back Corey Knebel back from the disabled list but he picked up right where he left off, giving up a home run to Francisco Lindor in the seventh inning. Knebel did not record a swinging strike of his 15 pitches but did average 96.5 MPH with his fastball. Perhaps the Brewers will ease him back into the ninth inning, great news for Josh Hader owners. Felipe Vazquez notched his seventh save with a clean ninth in Chicago. He’s only allowed one earned run over his last 14.1 innings. Bounce back game for Joe Jimenez who struck out the side and has not allowed an earned run in 16 of his 20 appearances this season. Richard Bleier continues to be the most valuable reliever for Baltimore. He won his second game and worked two scoreless innings giving up two hits and extended his streak to 19.1 innings without giving up a run. Brad Brach closed out the game for his fourth save with a walk and two strikeouts. Brad Hand continues to thrive notching his 10th save allowing a hit with two strikeouts. He’s yet to yield a hit to a left-handed batter this year.