When the White Sox faced the Rangers this past weekend, they found themselves in late-inning situations with a slim lead and a cluster of lefties due up. That situation availed itself on both Saturday and Sunday, and both times, Rick Renteria turned to Jace Fry. After an eighth-inning rally against the Orioles on Tuesday night, it was déjà vu all over again for Renteria, but this time, it was Nate Jones who got the call.
Jones started off the ninth inning by walking Chris Davis, but then he struck out Pedro Alvarez, giving himself some breathing room before facing right-handed Mark Trumbo. On the first pitch from Jones, Trumbo singled into center field, but even with lefties Jace Peterson and Chance Sisco due up, Jones stayed in the game. Fortunately for Jones, he retired them both for his fourth save. Unfortunately for Fry’s fantasy owners, the young lefty was robbed of a chance for his second save in three days. And we all lost, because we were deprived of the chance to see a Jace-Off between Fry and Peterson.
While Renteria’s usage patterns from this past weekend seemingly sent a signal that Jones and Fry were transitioning into a closer platoon, Tuesday’s events suggest otherwise. In all likelihood, Fry got the save on Sunday because Renteria wanted to rest Jones after he had pitched on three of the previous four days. It sure looks like Jones is now the primary — and maybe sole — closer for the White Sox.
In case there was any doubt whether Corey Knebel was fully entrenched back in the closer’s role for the Brewers, he was Craig Counsell’s choice for the save for the second night in a row. Once the Brewers claimed a 1-0 lead over the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the sixth on Tuesday night, Counsell brought out Josh Hader to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. Because he’s Josh Hader, he preserved that lead, and then Knebel notched the save in the top of the ninth inning.
The righty bounced back from a stressful start to the inning. He went to a full count on Jake Lamb, and then home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called ball four on a pitch that caught the inside of the plate. Knebel had some words for Hernandez, but Counsell intervened and got himself ejected. Nick Ahmed pinch-ran for Lamb and was thrown out trying to steal by Manny Pina, and then Knebel sealed the win by striking out Paul Goldschmidt and getting Daniel Descalso to ground out.
With Knebel back and Hader having the ability to go multiple innings late in games, Matt Albers has faded from the late-inning picture. However, it should not be overlooked that the 35-year-old is having similar success to last year’s surprising breakout with the Nationals. Last season, Albers stymied batters by posting a 30.9 percent soft contact rate, and he is following it up with a 29.2 percent mark this year. Among pitchers who have allowed at least 50 batted balls, only Brent Suter, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen have allowed a lower average exit velocity on grounders than Albers’ 77.7 mph. Not only does he have a 1.17 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, but Albers is tied for second on the Brewers with six holds.
Save opportunities have been scarce for the Blue Jays since Roberto Osuna was placed on administrative leave subsequent to him being arrested and charged for assaulting a woman on May 8. The Blue Jays ended a string of 10 consecutive games without a save chance on Tuesday night when they took a 5-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning against the Angels. Tyler Clippard, who was called on for the team’s last save on May 9, pitched a perfect ninth inning to preserve the win.
While more frequent save opportunities may reveal a different pattern, at least for now, the committee designation has been removed from the Blue Jays’ portion of the grid below. Clippard is now listed as the team’s sole closer.
As with the Jays, the Braves have lacked for save opportunities lately, but Arodys Vizcaino has been getting the vast majority of the chances the team has had. Six days have separated Vizcaino’s last two appearances, but in both of them — including Tuesday night’s outing against the Phillies — he has pitched a perfect inning for a save. Vizcaino is now listed in the grid as the Braves’ sole closer.
Quick hits: Brad Ziegler rebounded from a poor performance against the Braves on Sunday to pitch a perfect ninth inning against the Mets on Tuesday. His performance closed out a 5-1 win for the Marlins…The next time the Cardinals have a narrow late-inning lead, one has to wonder if Greg Holland will be entrusted to be a part of the bridge to Bud Norris. On Tuesday night, he started off the ninth inning with the Cardinals down 3-1 to the Royals. He did not retire any of the four batters he faced and allowed the Royals to tack on two more runs to their lead…The Orioles are planning to send Zach Britton (Achilles) on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Norfolk, starting May 30…Mark Melancon (elbow) pitched a perfect inning in his first appearance on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento. His rehab stint is expected to last about two weeks, and upon his return to the Giants, he will not initially be used as a closer.
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.