Pedro Strop is close to returning for the Cubs, but will he also return to the ninth inning? Because nothing is ever easy in fantasy baseball, the answer is not clear.
Joe Maddon has stated previously that he does not have to go with a single closer, yet he has leaned heavily on Steve Cishek in Strop’s absence. Still, that should raise some doubt about whether Strop will have save opportunities all to himself when he comes back from his IL stint for a strained left hamstring. His return could happen in a matter of days, as he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday and then may rejoin the team without having to go on a rehab assignment.
So the upshot here is that if you own Cishek, it is probably premature to toss him back out onto waivers.
Mychal Givens did not get a save opportunity against the Yankees on Thursday, but he looked as if he was going to turn in a bounceback performance after having blown a save in Monday’s series opener. He started off the top of the ninth inning with a 5-5 tie and struck out Brett Gardner and Cameron Maybin. Then it would take five more batters before Givens would get the third out. In sandwiching walks around a Gary Sanchez single, Givens loaded the bases and then, in walking Aaron Hicks, he brought in the go-ahead run.
Zack Britton had little trouble protecting the lead in the bottom of the inning. He did allow a Pedro Severino single, but then Britton did what Britton does — getting a double play grounder from Jonathan Villar to end the game. Britton was filling for Aroldis Chapman, who had already notched two saves in the series, and he recorded his second save. Givens dropped to 0-2 and has had only six save chances all season.
Though Givens has now had two poor outings in a row, the reasons behind his difficulties were different in each appearance. On Thursday, he threw 21 of his 34 pitches outside of the strike zone, but hitters swung only twice at those offerings. On Monday night, Givens had great control (17 of 31 pitches in the zone), but the Yankees whiffed on only one of his in-zone pitches. The Orioles’ saves situation is not an enticing one, and even in deeper formats, it’s probably too soon to do much more than monitor this situation.
The same is true of the Tigers’ situation, but at this point, it does require some attention. That may seem premature, as Shane Greene‘s blown save against the Marlins on Thursday was his first of the year, and none of his five runs allowed were earned, due to Dawel Lugo‘s error that put Harold Ramirez on base to start off the inning. Greene did allow a Neil Walker RBI single that allowed the Marlins to pull within a run of the Tigers’ lead, but even after walking Jorge Alfaro, he had a chance to get out of the inning. He induced what appeared to be a double play ball from Miguel Rojas. However, Ronny Rodriguez had trouble corralling the ball, and while he was able to get Alfaro out at second base, Rojas was able to beat out Gordon Beckham’s throw to first base on a close play (which was reviewed and upheld).
A steal by Rojas and an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson filled the bases, and then Greene gave up a grand slam to Garrett Cooper. While the Tigers’ infield defense could have prevented this situation in the first place, Greene has looked vulnerable to this type of blowup lately. In this appearance, he did not get a swinging strike and, of the 13 pitches he threw outside of the strike zone, Greene induced only one swing. Over his last six innings, Greene has a 6.3 percent SwStr% and a 26.2 percent O-Swing%, so allowing too much contact and issuing walks could be a continuing issue. If you’ve been stashing Joe Jimenez, it might not be for naught.
For his part, Sergio Romo pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth for his ninth save. Thursday’s outing marked the first time all season that Romo threw a majority of his pitches in the strike zone, and it was his first time since May 5 that he located as many as 40 percent of his pitches in the zone. To his credit, Romo has had little problem getting hitters to chase out-of-zone pitches (38.7 percent O-Swing%).
Pat Neshek has had trouble building some momentum this season, and his outing against the Cubs on Thursday was probably his worst of the season. He allowed two home runs (and three runs total) in the seventh inning, allowing the Cubs to pull within two runs of the Phillies. Hector Neris was able to hold on for a four-out save, though in allowing a single, a walk and an RBI double (to pinch-hitter Tyler Chatwood!) in the bottom of the ninth, it was something of an adventure.
The Mets and Nationals did not need any more bullpen drama in their series, but that’s exactly what they got in Thursday’s finale. Robert Gsellman failed to protect a 3-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning, allowing the Nationals to put up three runs. Wander Suero, who gave up a critical three-run homer to J.D. Davis on Tuesday night, coughed up another three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth, this time to Carlos Gomez. Edwin Diaz made the lead stick, pitching a perfect top of the ninth.
Quick hits: Luke Jackson rebounded from his back-to-back blown saves, pitching two scoreless innings to earn his third win in the Braves’ 5-4, 13-inning victory over the Giants…The Braves were able to get the game into extra innings, thanks to Austin Riley’s game-tying, two-run homer off Tony Watson in the eighth inning. Prior to Thursday’s outing, Watson had held opponents to an .091 ISO. Reyes Moronta took the loss for the Giants, and he has now allowed seven runs in his last 7.1 innings…Carlos Estevez gave up home runs to Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds and Starling Marte in the seventh inning of the Pirates’ 14-6 win over the Rockies…Two-way player Jared Walsh made his pitching debut for the Angels, giving up a run on two singles and a walk in the ninth inning of their 16-7 loss to the Twins.
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.