The mystery of the Cubs’ bullpen usage from Tuesday night was solved on Wednesday. The team placed closer Pedro Strop on the IL with a strained left hamstring, which helps to explain why Joe Maddon went with Steve Cishek in the top of the ninth inning in a 2-2 game with the Marlins.
Maddon turned to Cishek for an actual save situation on Wednesday, but only after Kyle Ryan started off the top of the ninth to face switch-hitter Neil Walker, whose 14 plate appearances against lefties had produced one single this season. Ryan departed after allowing Walker’s second single against southpaws this season, so Cishek came in and still needed three outs to preserve a 2-1 lead. A Starlin Castro single, a wild pitch and a Miguel Rojas RBI groundout later, Cishek was tagged with his first blown save of 2019. The Cubs ultimately prevailed in 11 innings with Carl Edwards Jr. getting the win.
In Strop’s absence, Cishek could get more save chances, but so could virtually anyone in the Cubs’ bullpen. In talking to reporters, Maddon cited every current member of his bullpen as being a part of the saves mix, except for Allen Webster. If you’re wondering if that mix includes Tyler Chatwood…well, here’s what Maddon had to say about that, per MLB.com. “Chatwood. I mean, listen, I’m really curious about this, too. If Chatty goes out there and pounds the strike zone, there’s a lot that he can do good for us.”
So, in short, it probably won’t be worth your while to put a big bid on Cishek, even though he was Maddon’s choice for the ninth inning in each of the last two games.
The Rangers’ closer situation — at least while Jose Leclerc works on rediscovering his form — isn’t quite as wide open, but it’s not exactly stable. Shawn Kelley got the first save opportunity since Leclerc was ousted from the role, nailing down a win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Chris Martin got his turn on Wednesday night, tossing a perfect frame to finish off a 9-6 win over the Pirates. This was always Chris Woodward’s plan, as he had stated over the weekend that he would use both relievers in save situations.
Martin would not have had a save opportunity to convert if it weren’t for the difficulties faced by the Pirates’ setup corps. Pittsburgh was cruising along with a 6-2 lead entering the eighth inning, and they kicked off that frame with Michael Feliz taking over for Francisco Liriano. Feliz walked the bases loaded and then allowed Hunter Pence’s game-tying grand slam. Tyler Lyons, who had already been called into a couple of high-leverage situations since joining the Pirates on Saturday, got the final out, keeping the game tied for the bottom of the inning.
With Keone Kela (shoulder) unavailable and subsequently placed on the IL, Richard Rodriguez having already pitched in the game and Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez having been used in the last three games, Lyons came back out for the ninth inning with the game still tied. An Isiah Kiner-Falefa RBI double and a two-run homer from Rougned Odor provided the Rangers with the lead and Martin with the opportunity to earn the save.
The Pirates designated Lyons for assignment on Thursday morning. Crick and Vazquez should be back for Thursday night’s series opener in St. Louis, but the rest of the bullpen pecking order is unclear for now.
Greg Holland suffered his first blown save of the season for the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, but it could have been worse. Holland gave up a two-out double to Yandy Diaz on an 0-2 pitch, and he eventually scored on a well-struck Kevin Kiermaier single into center field. Tommy Pham tried to score the go-ahead run while Kiermaier was caught up in a rundown, but he was thrown out on a close play at the plate (that was reviewed and upheld) that moved the game into extra innings.
Archie Bradley, who had been struggling recently, did not pitch in a setup capacity, but that may have been for the best. He pitched the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, keeping the Rays off the board in each frame. Bradley struck out five batters and got nine swinging strikes in the process. That set the stage for Wilmer Flores‘ go-ahead single in the top of the 13th and Zack Godley’s first career save in the bottom of the inning.
Quick hits: Kirby Yates not only got his 15th save of the season on Wednesday, holding the Mets scoreless in the ninth inning, but for the third consecutive appearance, he got three strikeouts in an inning. It was the fifth time he had accomplished the feat this season…Blake Treinen was sharp in his first appearance since April 28, keeping the Athletics tied with the Reds, 4-4, in the ninth and 10th innings. He did not allow a baserunner, racking up two strikeouts and three groundouts. Treinen had missed time due to discomfort in his right elbow…Josh Hader notched a two-out save, relieving Burch Smith with runners on second and third base. He did load the bases with a walk to Michael A. Taylor, but he struck out Kurt Suzuki and Adam Eaton to preserve the 7-3 win for the Brewers over the Nationals…Heath Hembree recorded the first save of his career and did so in convincing fashion. He struck out all three Orioles he faced, closing out a 2-1 Red Sox win in the 12th inning…Kelvin Herrera’s first appearance since leaving Sunday’s game against the Red Sox with a stiff back did not end triumphantly. Inheriting a two-outs, runner-on-first situation from Jace Fry in a 3-3 game with the Indians, Herrera gave up a walk-off homer to Jose Ramirez…The Marlins placed Drew Steckenrider on the IL with right elbow inflammation…Pirates righty Nick Burdi has been diagnosed with nerve damage in his right bicep and has been shut down for four weeks.
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.