• Joe Maddon continues to play Russian Roulette with his ninth inning. Today it was Joel Peralta‘s turn to help fantasy owners out in the ol’ SV category. The righty spun a scoreless ninth, notching a pair of punchouts as Tampa Bay cruised to a 5-2 win. The outing lowered Peralta’s unspectacular, but solid, xFIP to 3.31 and it was his first save since May 17th of last year (a four-out affair against the Red Sox). Jake McGee leads the team in leverage index (a measure of how “crucial” the game situation is) over the last two weeks, with Peralta and Grant Balfour a little behind. Trendy candidate Juan Oviedo continues to be a little further back in the race for manager trust it appears, with other guys like Brad Boxberger, Cesar Ramos, and Kirby Yates well off the radar, regardless of how good their Triple-A numbers might have been. For now, keep owning the top three guys. However, no one seems to be running away with the job right now.
• Koji Uehara did something he hadn’t done since July 6th of last year. He blew a save. It came in un-Uehara-like fashion, as well, as the Boston righty gave up two solo homers to Stephen Vogt and John Jason in the ninth inning, turning a 6-4 lead into a 6-6 tie. It wasn’t a total loss for his owners as David Ortiz homered to lead off the top of the 10th and John Farrell let Uehara finish his own game (kind of a win, loss, blown save, and save all rolled into one!). At 39 years old, Uehara is no spring chicken. His velocity is down a tick in 2014 and he throwing less first-pitch strikes (70% last year compared to 63% this year) which is forcing him to fall behind more frequently, although you wouldn’t know from his 3% BB%. While his 24% LD% is a concern, his SIERA is only up marginally (from 1.29 to 1.47). His per-pitch whiff rate is up and he still owns one of baseball’s best K%-BB%. He might not be a key target in dynasty leagues, but there’s no reason to think he won’t finish this year as a top-5 closer.
• In the first installment of our once-yearly “Gifs of Closers Getting At Bats” segment, Sean Doolittle pinch hit in the already-discussed Boston-Oakland game. He actually was Uehara’s final victim in the bottom of the tenth, weakly rolling out to Dustin Pedroia. Doolittle was required to hit thanks to the A’s emptying their bench before a (likely) concussion befell Derek Norris (requiring the team to lose the DH). The fact that Doolittle (admittedly a former first baseman) put the ball in play against Uehara is actually fairly impressive. For example, Manny Machado is 0-4 with four whiffs against Boston’s closer. Transitive property, right?
• Quick hits: Fernando Rodney pitched in his fourth consecutive game this afternoon, successfully converting a one-run save. Danny Farquhar is a sneaky play in daily leagues if you are desperate for saves. Jared Burton got the save with Glen Perkins getting the day off. After Casey Fien‘s walk-off loss to Boston earlier in the week, Burton might be back to second-in-line if injury were to befall Perkins. Mark Melancon wasn’t at his best on Sunday, but his not-best was good enough to finish off the Cubs. He’ll be an elite closer if he can keep Jason Grilli at bay.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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