Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen have stepped up as the elite relievers in 2018. We can’t know how Pedro Strop would have stacked up with The Big Two over a full season, because he was a setup reliever for most of the first half. However, after taking over for Brandon Morrow (biceps) after the All-Star break, Strop has been close to automatic as the Cubs’ closer. Only Diaz, Treinen and Jose Leclerc have had more Roto value among full-time closers in the second half (per CBS rankings).
Though he was not in a save situation, Strop was typically solid on Thursday, keeping the Cubs tied with the Nationals through 1.2 innings. With the Cubs taking the lead in the top of the 10th inning, Joe Maddon elected to have Strop bat in order to bring him back for a third inning. He pulled up with a hamstring injury while running out a grounder, and Randy Rosario had to come in to get the save.
Strop is scheduled to have an MRI, but he told reporters he expects to miss at least two weeks. As of Thursday night, Joe Maddon did not have a plan for how he was going to replace Strop in save situations. Back on Wednesday, Morrow said he was making progress but did not think he would be back for at least another week. In the meantime, a committee situation would appear to be the most likely result. Under different circumstances, maybe Maddon would hand the keys to Carl Edwards Jr., but the righty has had trouble throwing strikes over his last several outings. It’s conceivable he could use some combination of Jesse Chavez, Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek for saves through the end of the regular season. Maybe Morrow will enter the mix at some point, but it’s not a given that he will.
Strop did come away with a win on Thursday, as Sean Doolittle allowed the Cubs to break the tie. The Nationals’ lefty got through the ninth inning with only Albert Almora Jr. getting on base by way of a Trea Turner throwing error. He came back for the 1oth inning in his first multiple-inning appearance since returning from the DL. Doolittle ran into trouble allowing a one-out Kris Bryant double, followed by singles from Daniel Murphy and Javier Baez (in his case, specifically a bunt single), which respectively had hit probabilities of 12 and 8 percent.
With Rosario shutting down the Nationals in the bottom of the inning, Doolittle took the loss, and he has now allowed a run in consecutive appearances. However, his defense shoulders some of the blame for Thursday’s loss, and despite being called on to pitch a second inning, Doolittle’s fastball velocity did not flag as his pitch count increased. There is no reason for owners to think about sitting Doolittle at this point.
The Marlins’ found themselves with a save situation in the first game of their Thursday doubleheader with the Mets, but Don Mattingly passed on using Drew Steckenrider, who has struggled lately. With a 3-2 lead, Adam Conley returned from a spotless eighth inning to retire Jay Bruce. With Amed Rosario set to pinch hit for Jerry Blevins, Mattingly summoned former closer Kyle Barraclough. Mickey Callaway countered with another pinch-hitter, Dominic Smith. Barraclough induced a weak grounder, but two pitches later, he blew the save by giving up a Michael Conforto home run. Then Todd Frazier walked it off with a solo shot of his own, saddling Barraclough with his sixth loss of the season.
For most fantasy owners, the Marlins’ closer situation is one to avoid. However, for owners in a tight race for saves, a pickup of Conley might be warranted. If waivers are devoid of any current closers, Conley could be the best option. With both Steckenrider and Barraclough proving to be unreliable, Conley could wind up with the Marlins’ remaining save chances, simply by default.
Quick hits: Mychal Givens inherited a one-out bases-loaded situation in the eighth inning against the Athletics on Thursday night, but he got out of the jam and preserved a 4-3 lead. With an extra run of cushion, Givens returned for the ninth inning and notched his seventh save….Kenley Jansen pitched the bottom of the ninth inning against the Cardinals with a 9-5 lead, but he provided some dramatic tension despite the seemingly comfortable lead. He loaded the bases by issuing a pair of walks that sandwiched a Jose Martinez single, and two runners scored on a Jedd Gyorko grounder, though one run was unearned due to Manny Machado’s errant throw to first base. Jansen usually has impeccable control, but he has thrown only 40.1 percent of his pitches in the strike zone since returning from the DL on Aug. 20…The Diamondbacks fell behind the Rockies early on Thursday, but there were still some discouraging developments regarding their wide-open closer situation. Jake Diekman, Brad Boxberger and Andrew Chafin all appeared in the game, and each allowed at least one run. Of the six relievers employed by Torey Lovullo, only Jimmie Sherfy and Yoan Lopez went without getting charged with a run…Matt Barnes (hip) is expected to throw off a mound by sometime early next week.
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.