• Just as I was about to press the “publish now” button on the Bullpen Report from last evening, John Axford decided to blow his second save of the season. The mustached one entered with a two-run lead, but surrendered a hit and two walks, resulting in two earned while whiffing just one to send the game into extras. Although this was only Axford’s second blown opportunity of the season, the Brewers’ closer has allowed six earned runs in his last four outings with five walks to just three punch outs. Looking further, Axford has actually increased his K/9 since 2011 — 10.51 to 12.93 batters per nine — but has allowed about double the free passes as he did last season (3.05 to 6.08 BB/9). Additionally, Axford has been a bit unlucky on average on balls in play (.361 versus .301 career) and is stranding less runners (62.2 LOB%) than his career (76.3%), which leads me to believe his 4.94 ERA is due for some improvement. Assuming there are no injury concerns, Axford needs to limit walks and reduce line drives if he wants to be the effective closer who recently held a 49-game consecutive save streak that ended May 11th. Should Axford continue to struggle, former closer Francisco Rodriguez is waiting in the first chair for the Brew Crew.
• Ryan Cook faced just one batter over the minimum and yielded just one hit last night to nail down his second save in as many days for the Athletics. Cook has been nothing short of dominant this season — allowing just two earned runs in 26 appearances — for a stellar 0.64 ERA (2.95 FIP). Similar to the aforementioned John Axford, Cook could improve on his 5.14 BB/9 (1.69 K/BB), but for the time being, he looks like to reliever to own in Oakland if your searching for saves.
• Jose Valverde converted the save Thursday afternoon and is now 13-for-16 on the young season. For the time being, it appears the Detroit Tigers’ reliever closed out the Cubs today without controversy, which is not the case for Sunday’s save against the Reds. As many of you know by now, Valverde was accused of throwing a 1-2 spitball to Reds’ catcher Devin Mesoraco, who swung-and-missed at the “doctored” offering. Although Buster Olney indicated that MLB reviewed the video and failed to issue a formal warning to the Tigers’ reliever, the “handling of the incident should be considered the de facto warning.”
• Less than 48 hours after earning his first save of the season, Shawn Camp surrendered two earned runs in the ninth frame of today’s game in a non-save situation. Manager Dale Sveum called upon the righty to keep the Cubs within one run of the Tigers, but gave up a one-out triple to pinch hitter Don Kelly, then a two-run blast to Austin Jackson. On a side note, Sveum used James Russell again to set-up for Shawn Camp like he did in Tuesday’s game. Barring a spectacular match-up for Russell during the Cubs’ next closing opportunity, I believe Camp continues to get a shot in the ninth.
For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here is a matchup you may be able to exploit.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Addison Reed vs. LAD
Addison Reed is 7-for-7 in save chances on the season. With a Chris Sale-Clayton Kershaw duel set for Friday, look for Robin Ventura to call on Reed should the South Siders want to keep the game close or close out the game if they are in position.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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