• The Cubs closing situation sounds like it could become as foggy as the one Mike Scioscia has control over in southern California. Apparently earlier this morning, Dale Sveum was quoted as saying Casey Coleman would have closed yesterday had a save situation arose. This comment was made all the more interesting by the fact that the Cubs had a save situation today and Casey Coleman was nowhere to be found. Instead, Shawn Camp pitched the eighth (stranding a runner at third he inherited with no outs), leading everyone in Wrigley to figure “OK, James Russell for the ninth.” Well, surprise, surprise, out trots Camp for the ninth — so, two-inning save? Not really. Sveum left Camp in to pitch to Chase Headley — ironically, a switch-hitter without a discernible platoon split. After Headley was retired, Sveum switched gears and called on Russell to face the left-handed John Baker, the switch-hitting Everth Cabrera and the pinch-hitting righty, Nick Hundley. Outside of a bloop double just out of the reach of Darwin Barney, Russell was able to finish off the 5-3 game uneventfully and provide his fantasy owners with the key “S” in the box score.
Camp (and even Coleman) are both right-handed and superior pitchers peripherally to Russell (who sports a mediocre career big league xFIP of 4.50) so it would seem Camp or Coleman would be the logical favorites for ninth inning duties. However, Russell appears to have the all-important manager’s confidence, and, combined with the fact that today’s game showed Sveum seems content to play matchups and/or ride the hot hand, is very much in the mix as well. Side note: Carlos Marmol is now back from the DL — he is not imminently close to the ninth inning, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to slip back into the mix down the road. Keep an eye on him as he works low-leverage situations.
• Heath Bell pitched an impressive (for him) ninth inning in the Marlins 3-1 win over the Nats. A notable part of the outing was that he brought the heat (fastball) on 12 out of his 14 pitches (a pitch that has been absolutely awful for him this year — -2.54 wFB/C (runs per 100 fastballs)) and did a good job of not leaving any of them hanging out over the center of the plate. That makes two “non-terrible” outings in a row for Bell, but today’s two strikeouts (combined with no walks) were needed to bring his K/BB back up to 1.00 for the season. As has been said in this space pretty much every night for the last week, Bell’s leash is long because of his contract, but the Marlins probably want to see him string together quite a few more outings like tonight before that queasy feeling when Bell trots through the bullpen door finally subsides.
• Casey Janssen had a rough non-save situation against the Orioles. He came in with a four-run lead but quickly gave up a two-run shot to hot-hot-hot Adam Jones before allowing a single and a walk (bringing the go-ahead run to the plate). Thankfully (for Jays fans, at least) he then induced Chris Davis to pop out to third and Wilson Betemit to ground out to short to wrap up the victory. Janssen is still sporting a tidy 3.38 xFIP, doesn’t walk a lot of guys (career 2.39 BB/9), and had not allowed an earned run since April 26th before tonight, so one shaky outing shouldn’t do much to dent John Farrell’s or fantasy owners’ confidence.
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: David Hernandez (ARI) @ SF
Even with Tim Lincecum‘s un-Lincecum-like start to 2012, a betting man would certainly drop some coin on it being a low-scoring battle between him and Ian Kennedy in the “City by the Bay.” As the Diamondbacks top setup guy, Hernandez figures to see some action whether Arizona is up, down, or tied as long as they’re still in it. He’s only allowed 1 ER in May to go along with 15 punchouts in 10.2 innings. Why stop now?
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]