Just a few notes on a relatively slow night from the bullpen arms (at the time of this writing, at least)….
Jose Valverde needed just nine pitches in the bottom of the ninth-inning to close out the Rays and save a gem for starter Max Scherzer today. The Tigers stopgap last took the hill on 5/31 in Baltimore where he served up two long balls, leading to four earned runs and his second blown save of the year. So, it’s a safe bet that Detroit’s brass and his fantasy owners alike, took a deep sigh of relief at the conclusion of tonight’s efficient outing. With that said, Valverde’s velocity appears to be down a tick or more on both his fastball and splitter, entering tonight he’s been missing fewer bats (8.8% SwStr%) through 14 appearances versus his career 12.8% SwStr% and he’s been getting a bit lucky on balls in play (.156 BABIP). Hate to say it, but I see this glass as half-empty, and I’d be looking to add him as a sweetener in a larger deal with an owner in need of saves.
The Orioles called on Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz in relief of Miguel Gonzalez this afternoon in Houston before handing the ball to closer Jim Johnson — and relieve they sure did. O’Day dished an inning-and-two-thirds, allowed just one hit and struck out two Astros en route to his ninth hold of the twenty-thirteen campaign. Matusz entered with two down in the eighth frame and struck out Jason Castro to earn his ninth hold as well. A throwing error and a hit batsmen stirred up a bit of drama in the home team’s half of the ninth, but Johnson induced a game ending double play to seal his 20th save of the season — just how the ground baller drew it up. Over the past five outings, Johnson is a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances, sports a 0.00 ERA, a 0.40 WHIP and is the owner of a 5.0 K/BB.
What do Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman and Fernando Rodney have in common? Well, yea, they are — or were (*ahem, Rodney*) — elite closers that owners paid a hefty price for during draft season. But, what is it that they are lacking about a third of the way through the season? As many saves as Cardinals’ closer, Edward Mujica has. And I know Mujica may not fan as many batters as his ninth-inning counterparts, but he’s been fantastic closing out games for St. Louis. Mujica is the reason we don’t pay for saves — he’s been waiver wire gold. Tonight he needed just two-thirds of a frame to notch his 18th save of the season, placing him in a tie for fifth-most among closers at the time of this writing. Mujica remains a perfect 18-for-18 in save opportunities with a sparkling 1.63 ERA and 0.61 WHIP.
Thirty-five-year-old Grant Balfour escaped a minor tenth-inning jam to earn his 14th save of the year. The minor jam came in the form of a leadoff single off the bat Alejandro de Aza, but the “Closer from Down Under” sat down the next three White Sox in consecutive order to remain a perfect 14-for-14 on the year.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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