No relief appearance from Sunday’s games was more meaningful than Carlos Carrasco’s inning of work against the Rays. Pitching in his first game since being diagnosed with leukemia in June, Carrasco came in for the bottom of the seventh inning with the Indians behind by a 4-1 score. He began by inducing a pair of ground ball outs, and then Carrasco yielded a Tommy Pham double and a Travis d’Arnaud RBI single. He finished off the inning with a third groundout, this one off the bat of Joey Wendle.
The Reds’ bullpen has had its share of tumult of late, and the roller coaster ride continued on Sunday. They entered the day with a doubleheader against the Cardinals just completed and another doubleheader just ahead of them. In the nightcap of Saturday’s twin bill, Raisel Iglesias let a one-run lead and a split slip away, as Harrison Bader’s RBI single tied the game up at 2-2. He left runners on first and second base with no one out for Kevin Gausman, who allowed Matt Carpenter to hit a walk-off RBI single.
That dropped Iglesias to 2-11 with five blown saves in 32 tries and left him with three losses and two blown saves in his last five appearances. It also put Iglesias’ role into question. When asked if Iglesias would no longer be the Reds’ closer after Saturday’s doubleheader, David Bell told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale that he didn’t “get too caught up in what inning or what role” his top relievers were pitching in. While that was not an assertion that Iglesias was getting demoted from the closer’s role, it wasn’t a denial either.
In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, Bell turned to Michael Lorenzen to relieve Amir Garrett in the bottom of the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead and runners on the corners and no outs. A Paul DeJong sacrifice fly tied the score, but Lorenzen got two more outs to keep the game knotted. Bell opted to keep Lorenzen in the game for the bottom of the ninth with the score still tied, but he allowed Bader to be a hero once again. After issuing a leadoff walk to José Martínez and giving up a Yadier Molina ground rule double, Lorenzen coughed up Bader’s game-winning single.
Was Bell sending a statement by using Lorenzen in that situation instead of Iglesias? Was he saving his incumbent closer for the second game? Whatever Bell’s pregame plans might have been, Lorenzen’s appearance in the first game opened the door for Iglesias to redeem himself in the nightcap, and that’s exactly what happened. The Reds had a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, and Iglesias came in and struck out all three Cardinals he faced for his 28th save.
Despite the strong performance, I am still listing Iglesias as being on the “Hot Seat” in the closer grid. It’s not clear if he is already sharing the closer’s role with Lorenzen, but Bell’s comments suggest that he is not opposed to such an arrangement. If Iglesias’ next save opportunity is a bad one, it would be surprising if Lorenzen did not get the one after that.
Neither Ken Giles nor Craig Kimbrel blew a save on Sunday, but both had difficult outings. Three Blue Jays pitchers (Wilmer Font, Sam Gaviglio and Zack Godley) dueled the Astros and Justin Verlander to a scoreless tie for eight innings, but in allowing Abraham Toro‘s two-run homer in the top of the ninth, Giles wound up getting saddled with his third loss of the season. Verlander made sure of that, securing his third career no-hitter in the bottom of the inning. Kimbrel was charged with keeping the Cubs’ deficit to the Brewers at 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning, but he gave up a walk and two hits, the latter of the hits being Christian Yelich’s three-run homer. Prior to these outings, Giles had turned in six straight scoreless appearances, while Kimbrel had run his streak to five scoreless appearances.
Liam Hendriks entered September with the second-lowest SIERA of any qualified reliever in August and the fifth-highest Roto value of any relief-eligible pitcher over the last 30 days (per ESPN’s Player Rater). He also turned the calendar after getting a five-out save against the Royals last Thursday that included five strikeouts but also a pair of RBI singles. On Sunday, Hendriks was charged yet again with getting a five-out save, as he was brought in to protect a 4-1 lead against the Yankees with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. It started similarly, as Hendriks gave up a Didi Gregorius two-out single that brought in two inherited runners. However, he struck out Luke Voit to keep the Athletics in front by a run.
Adam Ottavino kept the A’s off the board in the top of the ninth, so Hendriks still had a one-run margin to work with in the bottom of the inning. That lead vanished with Brett Gardner’s leadoff home run, and then the next hitter, Mike Ford, ended the game with a solo shot of his own.
Hendriks has not had to pay for a minuscule 29.3 percent ground ball rate this season, as the back-to-back homers were just the third and fourth ones he had allowed in 71.1 innings this season. Even with a tidy 91.8 mph average exit velocity allowed on flyballs and line drives, Hendriks was probably due for an outing like this. While it’s possible that he is wearing down, there is no particular reason to be concerned about the A’s closer. In fact, the 98.0 mph he averaged in fastball velocity on Sunday was the seventh-highest mark among his 62 outings this year.
Quick hits: Ian Kennedy (25), Brandon Workman (10) and Mark Melancon (8) each notched a save on Sunday…Pedro Báez recorded his first career save on Sunday, pitching a perfect bottom of the 11th inning in the Dodgers’ 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks. Closer Kenley Jansen also threw a perfect frame in the eighth inning…The Nationals activated Sean Doolittle on Sunday, and he pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning against the Marlins in Washington’s 9-3 win. He was preceded in the bottom of the eighth by José Ureña, who was also activated on Sunday. Ureña, too, pitched a scoreless inning. Earlier reports revealed that he may get save chances for the Marlins over the final month…The Mariners activated Austin Adams on Sunday, and he pitched a scoreless inning in an 11-3 win over the Rangers…Brusdar Graterol, one of the Twins’ Sept. 1 callups, made his major league debut against the Tigers, tossing a scoreless inning in an 8-3 victory…The Angels placed Cam Bedrosian on the 10-day IL on Saturday with a right forearm strain…Reyes Moronta is out for the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The righty recorded 15 holds for the Giants…The Astros placed Collin McHugh on the 10-day IL on Saturday with right elbow discomfort.
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.