If there was any uncertainty around Brad Brach taking over the closer duties for the Orioles while Zach Britton is out due to a PRP injection, we didn’t have to live with that uncertainty for very long. Brach’s first save chance in his third iteration as the Orioles’ primary closer came on Thursday night against the Rays. It had some drama, as he issued a two-out walk to Steven Souza Jr., which was followed by a J.J. Hardy error that put runners on the corners with a 3-1 lead. Brach worked out of the jam by getting Kevin Kiermaier to fly out, collecting his 18th save of the season and his first save since Aug. 27.
Mike Minor needed only six pitches to close out a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays on Thursday night, earning his second save in a week. The Royals’ closer situation is still ambiguous, though. The Kansas City Star reported that Scott Alexander has been dealing with fatigue, and may not be available for Friday’s series opener at the White Sox. Even if Minor were to get another save on Friday, that would not necessarily mean he has the closer’s job all to himself.
That said, Minor has been pitching well enough to run away with the job over the final week-plus of the season. Over his last 11.2 innings, the lefty has allowed one run with 13 strikeouts, though he has walked five batters.
Minor’s recent propensity for walks is, um, minor compared to that exhibited recently by Arodys Vizcaino. Prior to Thursday, the Braves’ closer had walked seven batters over his last four innings, with three coming in Wednesday’s outing against the Nationals, in which he did not record a single out. Vizcaino provided his owners with a bounceback performance on Thursday, striking out the side in the finale against the Nationals en route to his 12th save.
The saves recorded by Brach, Minor and Vizcaino had greater relevance for fantasy owners, but plenty of eyeballs were likely on Wade Davis‘ attempt to finish off the Brewers in a crucial NL Central showdown. Davis entered this contest on a nice roll, having allowed only one run over his previous 14 innings and limiting opponents to an .089/.212/.111 slash line. He came into the game with a 3-3 tie and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Justin Grimm had given up a Neil Walker single. Davis got himself into trouble right away, hitting Ryan Braun and then allowing Travis Shaw to load the bases with a single.
However, Davis did not allow any runners to score, and the Cubs took a two-run lead in the top of the 10th on a Kris Bryant home run. Davis came back out for the bottom of the 1oth and looked more like the pitcher he had been over the previous five weeks. In striking out Jett Bandy, Keon Broxton and Andrew Susac in succession, Davis picked up his fourth win of the season.
Had Corey Knebel been available for the Brewers, maybe Davis would not have had a chance to be the hero. Jeremy Jeffress had the task of protecting a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, and he allowed a leadoff single to Ian Happ on a close play that was reviewed. If not for Jeffress hesitating while running to cover first base, there is a good chance Happ would have made the first out. Three batters later, Happ scored on a Javier Baez single, ruining Jeffress’ first save opportunity since July 31, 2016, which was the day before he was traded from the Brewers to the Rangers as part of the Jonathan Lucroy deal.
Knebel was not the only closer who was not available on Thursday. Cody Allen was held out of game action on Thursday, as well as on Wednesday night, and both games provided save opportunities for the Indians. On Wednesday, it was Bryan Shaw who came through with a two-inning save, and on Thursday, Tyler Olson tossed a perfect inning against the Angels. Terry Francona told MLB.com that Allen will be available again on Friday. Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian noted that Allen’s average fastball velocity dipped in his most recent appearance, reaching its lowest point in nearly two months. Perhaps with rest, Allen’s velocity will rebound, but owners should monitor his next appearance to see if he is still hovering in the vicinity of 93 mph or lower.
Also, Alex Claudio did not appear in the Rangers’ 4-2 win over the Mariners, as Keone Kela pitched the ninth inning for his second save of the season. Claudio had pitched each of the two previous nights, including a 30-pitch, two-inning performance on Wednesday.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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.