Where you don’t need a full day of games to justify talking about the bullpens…
• Jon Rauch entered the 8th inning today to protect a one run lead and ended up with the loss after giving up two runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Tim Byrdak retired the final batter in the eighth and Bobby Parnell came on for a clean ninth inning, down by a run. Frank Francicso has actually been great lately, pitching 6 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts against just five base runners, converting all of his five save chances, so the Mets aren’t looking at any closer controversy. However, if something were to happen to Frank Squared, Bobby Parnell may get the first shot as Jon Rauch has continued to struggle with five losses, three blown saves and a pedestrian 4.27 xFIP and 5.16 k/9 and could now miss some time after being sent for exams due to elbow tenderness after today’s game.
• Cubs reliever Casey Coleman has been mentioned as possibly getting into the saves mix in Chicago but he was used today in the sixth inning against the Giants. Yes, he did throw a perfect inning but it’s unlikely that someone pitching the sixth inning will be used in many high leverage innings in the near future. Carlos Marmol started the seventh inning for the Cubs, but was unable to complete it after blowing the lead and getting the loss on two walks, a hit and a run. Sound familiar? It’s the same song we have seen all year from Marmol, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be pitching in the late innings any time soon either. James Russell pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts and has continued his season of good ERA with bad peripherals (1.80 ERA/4.69 xFIP). Russell still figures to be a primary saves candidate in Chicago, but clearly this situation is murky.
After pitching consecutive days and getting saves in both of them, Giants reliever Sergio Romo wasn’t used today with lefty Jeremy Affeldt finishing the game for the now rare two inning save. Affeldt is a solid reliever (3.08 xFIP; 8.66 k/9) but his role speaks more to the depth of the Giants pen than the chances of him getting any saves especially since Santiago Casilla not expected to be placed on the DL.
• Javy Guerra had been pitching very well since being demoted from closer (one earned run in his last 11.2 innings pitched) but it will be a little while until he pitches again as he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury. In his place the Dodgers called up reliever Shawn Tolleson, a name you should familiarize yourself with if you are in need of strikeouts. Tolleson was the 12th ranked prospect in the Dodgers system this year and started the year in Double-A before getting promoted to Triple-A a few weeks ago, and in 22.1 combined innings in the minors this year all Tolleson has done is strike out 34 batters (13.7 k/9) without the control concerns you generally see from high strikeout relievers (2.0 bb/9). The Dodgers already have a premier strike out reliever closing for them in Kenley Jansen (who converted the save tonight), but don’t be surprised to see Tolleson make his presence known if Jansen starts to struggle.
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A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Craig Kimbrel (ATL) at MIA
Anibal Sanchez and Tim Hudson face off tomorrow in a divisional matchup that the Braves will want to win. The Braves have never been shy about using Craig Kimbrel and he should be rested with the off day today. Kimbrel has been dominant of late, pitching nine consecutive scoreless innings with only three base runners and 14 strikeouts. Expect a close game tomorrow against the Marlins, with Kimbrel getting a chance to show off his electric stuff (1.92 xFIP; 14.85 k/9).
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]