In Sunday’s edition of the Bullpen Report, Ben Pasinkoff covered some of the key happenings from Sunday afternoon’s games, and the most notable of those was Justin Wilson getting the save in the Mets’ 6-3 win over the Reds. This is a hard move to interpret, as not only was Seth Lugo available, but he set up for Wilson in the eighth inning. It was also not a matter of Mickey Callaway using Lugo in a high-pressure situation in which the Reds’ best hitters were due up. Lugo entered the game with a three-run cushion and Tucker Barnhart, José Iglesias and José Peraza coming up. These were the Reds’ 5-6-7 hitters. Lugo gave up a leadoff home run to Barnhart but nothing else. It was the first home run yielded by Lugo since Juan Soto went yard against him on Aug. 10.
The Mets got the run back in the top of the ninth inning on Brandon Nimmo’s solo shot off Sal Romano. Wilson protected the 6-3 margin, allowing only a walk to Joey Votto. It was the lefty’s fourth save of the season, and given that there is no clear alternative explanation for this pattern of reliever usage, one can only assume that Wilson and Lugo will be splitting whatever save opportunities come the Mets’ way over the final week.
The Reds never recovered from allowing the Mets to score four runs in the top of the first inning, so they had no need to use the back end of their bullpen in this game. If they had, we would not have seen either Michael Lorenzen or Robert Stephenson, as both relievers were both sent home with flu-like symptoms.
Since failing to keep the Orioles locked in a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth inning against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Mychal Givens has not been used as a closer. He has twice been used in eighth-inning setup situations, and in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Mariners, Givens did not appear at all. Richard Bleier relieved starter John Means for the top of the eighth inning, and he retired each of the Mariners’ last six batters, five by way of a groundout. It’s entirely possible that Brandon Hyde could turn to Shawn Armstrong or go back to Givens for the Orioles’ next save opportunity, especially if the opposing lineup isn’t lefty-heavy, like the top of the Mariners’ lineup was on Sunday. As has been the case for much of this season, it is probably best to just avoid this situation altogether.
The Marlins’ situation appears to be much like the Orioles’, but it is not nearly as unstable as it appears. Jeff Brigham got the save in the Marlins’ 5-3 victory over the Nationals, but José Ureña was likely unavailable, as he threw 43 pitches in Saturday’s loss. Yet because Ureña has allowed eight runs in seven innings since joining the Marlins’ bullpen on Sept. 1, it may look as if Don Mattingly has lost patience with the former starter. On the other hand, Brigham has pitched well over the last several weeks, posting a 1.65 ERA and 0.73 WHIP with three holds over his last 16.1 innings. Yet Brigham would be an unconventional choice for a closer, as he has a 7.6 percent SwStr% over that stretch.
Meanwhile, Ureña has shown some encouraging signs, even though his results have not always inspired confidence. Over his last five appearances, he has struck out eight batters and walked two over five innings, while compiling a 21.3 percent SwStr% and a 41.0 percent O-Swing%. He has allowed a .304 batting average over that span, but according to Baseball Savant, his xBA is a more reassuring .259. There is some chance Mattingly could given Brigham another chance at a save, given his recent success, but it wouldn’t necessarily go well, given how contact-friendly he is. In all likelihood, Ureña will continue in his previous role once he is fully rested. In playing series against the Mets and Phillies, both of whom are on the brink of elimination, it’s not unthinkable that the Marlins could have some save opportunities this week.
A pair of relievers who rely heavily on their sinkers have risen into higher-leverage roles. Dustin May has been the eighth-inning setup reliever for Kenley Jansen for each of his last two outings, and in both cases, he kept the opposition from scoring and recorded a hold. May has now reeled off five consecutive scoreless relief appearances covering seven innings. On Sunday against the Rockies, the Dodgers tacked on a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to expand their lead to 7-3, so Jansen did not have a save opportunity. Sam Hilliard’s two-out RBI double closed the lead back to three runs, but that is all of the damage that Jansen allowed.
Tyler Rogers got a two-inning hold for the Giants, keeping the Braves scoreless for the seventh and eighth innings. That set Will Smith up for his 34th save of the season. Rogers has just 11 strikeouts in 14.2 innings, but he has a 70.7 percent ground ball rate that has enabled him to limit the opposition to just three extra-base hits (all doubles). It has also helped Rogers to post a 1.23 ERA. He and Darwinzon Hernandez are the only pitchers to have allowed at least 40 batted balls without giving up a barrel.
Quick hits: Josh Hader (35) and Joe Jiménez (8) also got saves on Sunday…Buck Farmer got his 15th hold pitching a scoreless eighth inning for the Tigers against the White Sox, and in doing so, he extended his scoreless innings streak to 10…With Carlos Martínez having pitched on four consecutive days, Mike Shildt called on Andrew Miller to close out the Cardinals’ 3-2 win over the Cubs. In allowing only a Jason Heyward single, Miller recorded his sixth save of the season.
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.