Tuesday night was not Arodys Vizcaino’s night. Brian Snitker charged him with the task of protecting a one-run lead against the Cubs, but after retiring Kyle Schwarber on a routine fly ball, he gave up back-to-back doubles to Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell that were smoked, respectively, with exit velocities of 100.4 and 105.2 mph. Two batters later, Ben Zobrist put the Cubs ahead on a single into shallow center field. That ultimately gave Vizcaino his second loss to go along with his second blown save.
Though Vizcaino has nominally been in a co-closer situation with A.J. Minter, he has received the bulk of the Braves’ save chances, and he hasn’t been bad. Tuesday’s loss was the first time all season that Vizcaino had allowed more than one run in an appearance, and entering the game, he had a 1.93 ERA, a .167 Avg allowed and 19 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.
Yet Snitker’s post-game announcement that Dan Winkler was being added to the closer mix seemed almost inevitable. While Vizcainio had been good enough as the Braves’ closer, Winkler had been the team’s best reliever by far, and he had been making himself at home in the primary setup role. With a 15.2 percent swinging strike rate, Winkler has been a touch better than either Vizcaino or Minter at getting whiffs, he has been far superior at inducing chases, as he owns a 35.2 percent O-Swing%. The only potential weakness that Winkler has shown is a tendency to allow flyballs, but none of the 14 flies he has yielded has been pulled. Better yet, of the 375 pitchers this season who have allowed at least 30 batted balls, only Jose Alvarado has a lower average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives than Winkler’s 86.3 mph.
If Winkler weren’t in the Braves’ bullpen, there would be little reason to be concerned about Vizcaino’s job security. But Winkler is a part of their bullpen, and now he is officially a part of their closer committee. The time is now to add Winkler to your fantasy staff before he starts to ascend the ninth-inning pecking order.
Just as Snitker has been publicly stating that the Braves’ save opportunities don’t belong to Vizcanio alone, A.J. Hinch has been clear that he does not consider Ken Giles to be his sole closer. Yet Hinch’s usage patterns suggest otherwise, as Giles has has been called upon for each of the Astros’ last three save chances. In fact, the only time Hinch has used a pitcher in a ninth-inning save situation other than Giles over the last four weeks was on May 3, when he used Will Harris and Brad Peacock to protect a two-run lead against the Yankees. You might recall that this was two days after Giles’ self-punching incident. In notching his third save in eight days on Tuesday night, Giles appears to be back in control as the Astros’ closer.
For the second time since his activation last Friday, Andrew Miller had a difficult outing, allowing multiple runs in less than an inning’s work. On Tuesday against the Tigers, Miller inherited a two-run lead with one out in the seventh inning and a runner on first. He promptly coughed up that advantage by allowing consecutive doubles to JaCoby Jones and Pete Kozma. After retiring Nicholas Castellanos for his only out, Miller had trouble finding the strike zone, walking three batters in a row and forcing in what turned out to be the winning run.
In addition to having control issues, Miller’s fastball velocity since his return has hovered just below 93 mph, more than 1 mph lower than his typical velocity just prior to sustaining his hamstring injury. Normally, Miller is a great choice for strikeouts, ratios and holds, but he should be stashed until he shows he is back in top form.
Edwin Diaz blew just his second save of the season on Tuesday, but it was hardly a meltdown. Pitching to Joey Gallo with one out and Jurickson Profar on second base, Diaz induced a grounder, which Ryon Healy flipped back to the righty for the second out. However, Gallo was slow to get out of Diaz’s way, as he tried to throw home to get Profar. The run scored, though Diaz was able to limit the damage by striking Isiah Kiner-Falefa out to end the inning.
The normally-steady Kelvin Herrera also had an off night, taking his first loss of the season. He allowed three singles, and the final one brought in the winning run for the Rays. It was only the second run Herrera has allowed over 15.2 innings this season.
Quick hits: Fernando Rodney continued his recent run of strong appearances with a perfect ninth inning against the Cardinals. He has not allowed a run in any of his last eight outings, during which he has collected six saves and allowed only two hits, both of which were singles…Amir Garrett continued his recent string of dominant performances, blanking the Giants for 2.2 innings and notching four strikeouts. It was his second straight four-strikeout game, and he has recorded 13 strikeouts over his last nine innings. Garrett has not allowed a run during this stretch…Richard Rodriguez continues to rack up strikeouts, adding two more to his total in a perfect inning against the White Sox. He now has 27 strikeouts in 15.2 innings this season. Rodriguez also has the fourth-highest swinging strike rate (18.9 percent) of any reliever with at least 10 innings pitched, trailing only Aroldis Chapman, Josh Hader and Diaz…Pedro Strop, who tossed a perfect frame against the Braves, has the third-highest O-Swing rate (42.9 percent) among relievers with 10 or more innings, ranking just behind Blake Treinen and Herrera.
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.