Kyle Hendricks couldn’t quite finish out his gem of a start on Tuesday night against the Reds. When he walked Nick Senzel to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, Joe Maddon turned to Kyle Ryan to keep the Cubs in front, 3-1. Ryan retired Joey Votto, but with right-handed Eugenio Suarez coming up next, Maddon called on Steve Cishek once again for the save. Ryan departed despite having held righties to a .233 wOBA this season and even though left-handed Jesse Winker was due up after Suarez.
Cishek is clearly Maddon’s top choice for save situations, and he cemented his position at the top of the Cubs’ bullpen hierarchy by getting both Suarez and Winker out.
The closer situation in Seattle is still unclear, both due to a lack of recent opportunities and the persistent struggles of Anthony Swarzak, who leads the team in save opportunities with six. Swarzak may have finally pitched his way out of the saves picture, as he did not get the call on Monday night when the Mariners were tied with the Athletics heading into the top of the ninth inning. Brandon Brennan came in, preserved the tie and then got the win after pitching in the 10th inning. Swarzak was also absent from the Mariners’ 4-3 win over the A’s on Tuesday night, as Roenis Elias pitched 2.1 scoreless innings for his fifth save.
Elias leads the team in saves, and at least according to FIP, he has been the Mariners’ best reliever. He is the reliever to own out of Seattle’s bullpen, and it’s possible that maybe he would have pitched in the ninth inning on Monday as well, if he hadn’t thrown 40 pitches on Saturday against the Red Sox. Then again, Elias was pitching in a mop-up role in that game, so roles are still not clearly defined. For the time being, I am still including Brennan and Swarzak in the grid as part of a closer committee.
By now, we are all resigned to the fact that neither Blake Parker nor Taylor Rogers is on the verge of running away with the Twins’ closer job. On Tuesday night, it was Parker’s turn to try for a save, and he nearly didn’t get it. Rogers started off the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead, but after getting the first two outs, he relinquished the mound to Parker, leaving him with Shohei Ohtani on first base. Parker gave up a single to his first batter, Albert Pujols, which moved Ohtani over to second base. Then Brian Goodwin lined a ball into center, right in front of Byron Buxton, who took it on one hop and threw a perfect strike to Mitch Garver at home to get Ohtani in a close play. Garver sustained a high ankle sprain on the play and had to leave the game.
While Parker was inches away from blowing the save in the eighth inning, he returned for the ninth inning and did not encounter much drama. He worked around a walk to Luis Rengifo to record his seventh save. Parker not only got a little lucky in Tuesday night’s game, but he’s been fortunate to have a 1.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and no blown saves. He is not getting many strikeouts (19.3 percent K%), throwing many strikes (36.5 percent Zone%) or inducing many chases (25.2 percent O-Swing%) or softly-hit balls (47.4 percent hard-hit rate, per Baseball Savant). Parker is getting by with 95.9 percent strand rate and .189 BABIP, and he is not profiling like someone who would be better-than-average for either metric. If you have been stashing Rogers in the hopes that he will get more save chances at some point, keep holding.
If Rogers does work his way into more steady ninth-inning work, he will be following the trail recently blazed by Matt Barnes. Earlier on this season, Barnes ceded most of the save situations to Ryan Brasier, even though he had the superior skill indicators. Lately, he has been favored as a ninth-inning option, and on Tuesday night, Alex Cora went with Barnes for both the ninth and 10th innings in a 4-4 tie with the Rockies at Fenway Park. Barnes was perfect through both frames and struck out the final five batters he faced. Brasier came in for the 11th inning and gave up Mark Reynolds‘ go-ahead single.
While Brasier is likely to see more setup work going forward, his recent string of performances may look worse than it actually has been. After a couple of tough appearances in the first week of May, he rebounded by turning in a pair of solid outings. Then against the Rockies, Brasier got into trouble by issuing two walks. Control has hardly been an issue for him, as he had walked only two batters over his previous 16.2 innings.
Quick hits: Kenley Jansen (13) and Wade Davis (7) both successfully converted saves on Tuesday night…The Mets activated Jeurys Familia on Monday, but they do not anticipate using him in a setup role initially…David Robertson (flexor strain) has been shut down for three weeks and may not return any sooner than early July…Trey Wingenter (shoulder) tossed a bullpen session on Tuesday and could be close to returning to the Padres’ bullpen…In giving up a three-run homer to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on Tuesday night, Reyes Moronta has now allowed at least one run in three consecutive outings. He has also been unusually reliant on his fastball in those appearances, throwing it at a 73.4 percent rate…Corbin Burnes gave up an unearned run over two innings against the Phillies with four strikeouts. Over his last seven innings, Burnes has not allowed an earned run, and he has 11 strikeouts and one walk…Giovanny Gallegos struck out two Braves in a perfect seventh inning, increasing his strikeout total to 27. Since his season debut on April 11, only Josh Hader (28 strikeouts) has a higher total than the Cardinals’ righty…Scott Barlow retired all six Rangers he faced in the Royals’ 11-5 win. He recorded two strikeouts, lifting his total to 14 for the month of May. Over that span, he has thrown eight scoreless innings, allowing only a single and a walk…The Dodgers placed Julio Urias on 7-day administrative leave, subsequent to his arrest on suspicious of domestic violence.
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.