Wednesday was not a good day for the two best closers of 2018. Edwin Diaz blew his second save of the season after entering the bottom of the ninth with an 8-5 lead against the Dodgers. Coming into the game, the Mets’ closer had allowed little damage when facing lefties, holding them to a collective .071/.133/.214 slash line, but Joc Pederson and Max Muncy defied the trend, hitting back-to-back homers to begin the Dodgers’ half of the inning. Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger followed that up with consecutive doubles, with Bellinger’s erasing the lead. Diaz would face three more batters but would only retire the last one. Unfortunately, the batter was Alex Verdugo, who hit a walk-off sacrifice fly.
Just as he did a year ago, Diaz is missing a lot of bats (17.3 percent SwStr%), but despite that, he has already equaled last season’s total of home runs allowed (five). That may be something of a fluke, as his flyball rate is up only slightly, from 35.3 to 37.0 percent, as is his average exit velocity allowed on flies and liners, from 91.5 to 92.1 mph (per Baseball Savant). It may be a good time to get in touch with a frustrated Diaz owner.
Blake Treinen, who led all relievers in Roto value (standard 5×5) last season, was entrusted to keep the Athletics in a 5-5 tie with the Angels in the top of the ninth inning. Though he began by hitting Kole Calhoun with a 93 mph cutter, it didn’t look as if it were going to be an eventful inning for Treinen. He retired Cesar Puello and got Brian Goodwin to hit a grounder that got Calhoun out after he was caught off second base. Treinen got a full count on Luis Rengifo, but the Angels’ second baseman laced an RBI double. Jared Walsh gave the Angels an insurance run by singling in Rengifo before Treinen finally got out of the inning.
The A’s rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game again, sparing Treinen his third loss of the season. He has certainly not been the pitcher he was last season, as he has been getting fewer grounders on his sinker, and the velocity on the pitch has been trending downward. Through May 18, he had been averaging 97.6 mph, but across his previous five outings, that average had been just 97.2 mph, and on Wednesday, it was only 96.4 mph.
Given that Treinen dealt with elbow tendinitis earlier this month, there is good reason to think about adding Lou Trivino, who would likely fill in for Treinen if he got moved out of the closer’s role. That move doesn’t seem to be imminent, but now would be the time to pick up Trivino if he is available. If he is already owned, now is also a good time to try to trade for Trivino at a discount, as he got hammered for five runs (four earned) in the top of the 11th after pitching a scoreless 10th inning. He was victimized by his team’s defense, as well as by his own wildness, but he had been on a dominant four-game run prior to Wednesday’s debacle.
The only reason Trivino got in the game in the first place was because Hansel Robles blew the save for the Angels in the bottom of the ninth. A leadoff homer by Mark Canha cut the lead down to a run, and two batters later, a Josh Phegley sacrifice fly tied the game. It was Robles’ second blown save in his last three outings, but an even bigger concern is his 4.7 percent SwStr% over his last 7.1 innings. Brad Ausmus has been reluctant to use Ty Buttrey in save situations, but one has to think it’s only a matter of time before he supplants Robles.
Robles is not the only slumping closer who ran into trouble. Over his last six appearances, Jose Alvarado has allowed six runs on nine hits and seven walks over 4.2 innings. The most recent of those runs came on Wednesday against the Blue Jays, as a Justin Smoak RBI single allowed Toronto to tie the Rays in the eighth inning. Alvarado left without retiring a batter, but Hunter Wood came in and shut the Blue Jays down for the remainder of the eighth inning, as well as the ninth and 10th innings.
During Alvarado’s six-game slump, he has thrown only 32.0 percent of his pitches in the strike zone and induced swings on out-of-zone pitches at a 25.7 percent rate. If this continues, he may find himself out of the Rays’ save mix.
Both Jesse Biddle and Roenis Elias blew save opportunities against the Rangers, and those were the first save opportunities presented to a Mariners’ reliever since May 14. That has made it hard to project how saves will be handled in the future, but Scott Servais has given us a possible hint over the last three days. On Monday, Anthony Bass pitched the ninth inning with a four-run lead against the Rangers. Then in Wednesday’s game, he came in with two outs in the top of the eighth inning after Elias has allowed the Rangers to tie the game. Bass remained in the game for the ninth, but in allowing back-to-back two-out doubles, he allowed the Rangers to unknot the tie.
In taking the loss, Bass may have hurt his chances for getting future saves, but those chances may be helped by Elias’ poor recent run. The lefty has now allowed at least one run (either earned or unearned) in each of his last four appearances, and his ERA for May is now up to 7.71.
Quick hits: Shane Greene (18), Brad Hand (15), Sergio Romo (11), Alex Colome (11), Shawn Kelley (6) and Steve Cishek (5) all recorded saves on Wednesday…Scott Oberg pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Diamondbacks for his first save of the season for the Rockies…Kyle McGowin gave up four runs over the final three innings of the Nationals’ 14-4 win over the Braves, but he still got credit for his first career save…Branden Kline pitched the top of the ninth for the Orioles in a tie game with the Tigers, but in giving up Brandon Dixon’s game-winning two-run homer, he took the loss. Mychal Givens, who was recently removed as the team’s closer, still got a blown save, giving up John Hicks‘ leadoff homer in the eighth inning…The Phillies placed Adam Morgan on the IL with a left forearm strain…Seth Lugo (shoulder, biceps) threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and could be activated as soon as Friday.
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.