Bullpen Report: September 14, 2017

All that stood between the Indians and the major league record for consecutive wins with no ties was Kelvin Herrera. On a different night, it could have been Scott Alexander who was charged with protecting a streak-ending 2-1 lead for the Royals. However, the lefty had pitched on each of the two previous days, tossing a total of 37 pitches, and on five of the previous seven days. So on Thursday night, Ned Yost chose Herrera to pitch the bottom of the ninth.

It was Herrera’s first save opportunity in a week and his third appearance since being removed from the closer’s role last Friday. He was close to preventing the Indians from making history, as he worked a 1-2 count on Francisco Lindor with two outs and a runner on first. Herrera’s fourth pitch was high, and Lindor smashed his fifth pitch off the left-field wall for a game-tying double. While Herrera blew the save, he did not take the loss, as he retired Austin Jackson for the third out.

In the 10th inning, the Indians got their 22nd straight win off Brandon Maurer, who gave up a leadoff double to Jose Ramirez, a walk to Edwin Encarnacion and a walkoff double to Jay Bruce. Though Maurer and Herrera played key roles in helping the Indians to achieve a historic feat, neither did much for their chances to get save opportunities over the final two-plus weeks. Mike Minor, a member of the current closer committee, entered in the sixth inning with two outs, but it made sense for Yost not to hold him back for a potential save in this game. Jake Junis’ pitch count was rising and the Indians had a potential threat with Encarnacion at first base and left-handed Bruce coming to bat.

Minor remains one of the Royals’ most reliable relievers, but he has yet to record his first career save. Alexander has looked like the Royals’ reliever to own, and after Thursday night’s game, his status as the team’s primary closer is appears even more secure.

Matt Belisle gave Herrera some company by blowing his second save since becoming the Twins’ closer in early August. Prior to Thursday night’s apperance against the Blue Jays, Belisle had been defying skeptics, much like Brandon Kintzler did before him. Like his predecessor, Belisle had been succeeding by inducing soft contact at an above-average rate (specifically, 22.2 percent since  Aug. 6), but he had also been striking out opponents at a 34.8 percent rate during that stretch. Prior to taking over the closer duties, Belisle’s strikeout rate was just 19.1 percent. Given that he has not experienced notable changes in his swinging or called strike rates, we probably should not read too much into his K-rate spike, especially since it came over a total of 12.2 innings.

Then again, Belisle is unowned in at least two-thirds of leagues on CBS, ESPN and Yahoo. At this point, Belisle might make half a dozen more appearances, so if he regresses in his strikeout rate, you are losing maybe only a couple of strikeouts. He should be a perfectly fine source of saves, though, so he is a worthy add if you are looking for a Herrera replacement or an upgrade over a struggling Shane Greene.

The Blue Jays, for their part, did not call on Ryan Tepera or Dominic Leone when they had a tie game going into either the ninth and 10th innings. They also did not use Roberto Osuna, who rejoined the team after being on paternity leave. Instead, Carlos Ramirez pitched the ninth, and Luis Santos worked the 10th — that is, until he gave up Byron Buxton’s two-out walkoff homer.

Other reliever notes: Keynan Middleton exited Thursday night’s game against the Astros with an undisclosed injury. He started off the seventh inning with the Angels trailing, 2-1. Middleton faced only one batter before departing…The Washington Post reports that Koda Glover (shoulder, hip) will not return for the Nationals this season.

Thursday night’s Astros-Angels game was still in progress at the time of this writing.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley David Hernandez
ATL Arodys Vizcaino Jose Ramirez Sam Freeman
BAL Zach Britton Brad Brach Mychal Givens
BOS Craig Kimbrel Addison Reed Matt Barnes Carson Smith
CHC Wade Davis Pedro Strop Carl Edwards Jr.
CWS Juan Minaya Danny Farquhar Gregory Infante Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias Michael Lorenzen Kevin Shackelford Drew Storen
CLE Cody Allen Andrew Miller Joe Smith
COL Greg Holland Jake McGee Pat Neshek
DET Shane Greene Alex Wilson Joe Jimenez
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Luke Gregerson
KC Brandon Maurer Mike Minor Scott Alexander
LAA Blake Parker Cam Bedrosian Yusmeiro Petit
LAD Kenley Jansen Brandon Morrow Pedro Baez
MIA Brad Ziegler Kyle Barraclough Drew Steckenrider
MIL Corey Knebel Anthony Swarzak Josh Hader
MIN Matt Belisle Trevor Hildenberger Alan Busenitz
NYM A.J. Ramos Jeurys Familia Paul Sewald
NYY Aroldis Chapman David Robertson Dellin Betances
OAK Blake Treinen Chris Hatcher Liam Hendriks
PHI Hector Neris Luis Garcia Adam Morgan
PIT Felipe Rivero Daniel Hudson A.J. Schugel Joaquin Benoit
STL Juan Nicasio Tyler Lyons John Brebbia Trevor Rosenthal
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Phil Maton
SF Sam Dyson Hunter Strickland Cory Gearrin Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Nick Vincent Marc Rzepczynski Tony Zych
TB Alex Colome Tommy Hunter Steve Cishek
TEX Alex Claudio Tony Barnette Matt Bush
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Dominic Leone
WSH Sean Doolittle Brandon Kintzler Ryan Madson

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

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Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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With Soria returning to the KC bullpen, won’t he get serious consideration to close?