A bunch of late September vulture saves

September 23, 2019

New York Mets — Seth Lugo got used ahead of Justin Wilson again, facing the middle of the Reds’ order. This has become a pattern of sorts, so we’ll throw an asterisk on here for the last week of the season. Robert Gsellman is also nearing a return.

Updated hierarchy: Lugo | Wilson | Diaz.
* = closer-by-committee

St. Louis Cardinals — As expected, Carlos Martinez didn’t go in five straight games; Andrew Miller got the vulture save chance and converted.

Hierarchy remains: Martinez | Miller | Gallegos.

Baltimore Orioles — Richard Bleier grabbed a two-inning save on Sunday.

Hierarchy remains: *Givens | Armstrong | Fry.
* = closer-by-committee

Miami Marlins — Late September means weird saves, and Sunday’s went to Jeff Brigham. Congratulations on the first of his career.

Hierarchy remains: Urena | Stanek | Garcia.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Josh Taylor — Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes have each pitched in three of four and four of six.
2. Ryne Stanek/Jarlin Garcia — Jose Urena threw 43 pitches on Saturday.
3. Giovanny Gallegos — Carlos Martinez and Andrew Miller have each gone in four of five.

Tuesday:
1. Justin Wilson — Seth Lugo has gone in two straight.
2. Nick Anderson — If Emilio Pagan pitches today, it’ll be three of four.

Craig Kimbrel stinks again

September 22, 2019

Chicago Cubs — Two days after he came of the IL and gave up a go-ahead homer in the 10th inning, Craig Kimbrel had a chance to redeem himself and close out a one-run victory. Instead, the Cardinals homered on his first two pitches of the inning en route to a 9-8 loss. Joe Maddon was surprised at the result, and now he’s worried about Kimbrel’s confidence. Maddon also said he wants to continue to turn to Kimbrel in save situations. We won’t blame you if your team doesn’t as you play for a fantasy title.

Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Wick | Kintzler.

Cleveland Indians – Brad Hand finally made his first appearance since Sept. 8, striking out the side in a perfect sixth inning. Hand looked sharp in his return, which is a good sign for a Cleveland team fighting for a wild card spot. We’ll continue to monitor Hand’s usage, but there’s a good chance he quickly returns to the ninth inning based on last night’s performance.

Hierarchy remains: Hand | Goody | Clippard.

Seattle Mariners — For the second time in three days, the Mariners won in extra innings. That meant for the second time in three days, rookie Erik Swanson picked up a save. Of more interest to fantasy owners, Matt Magill pitched in the sixth inning with the Mariners trailing by a run. Anthony Bass pitched the ninth inning and kept the score tied, meaning he was going to get the save chance should Sam Tuivailala not blown it in the eighth. Magill, who has battled back troubles recently, is the last non-Swanson reliever to pick up a save for the Mariners, doing so on Wednesday. Today may be the last chance for a Seattle save anyway, as the Mariners close their schedule with Houston and Oakland. Good luck.

Hierarchy remains: *Magill | Bass | Tuivailala.
* = closer-by-committee

Washington Nationals – After Fernando Rodney blew a 4-0 eighth-inning lead, current good person and former closer Sean Doolittle was finally in line for a save chance in the 10th inning, but the Nationals scored too many runs and took a 10-4 lead, which rendered Doolittle’s services unnecessary. There’s reason to think that Doolittle still isn’t right, but the Nationals may have to turn to him for some high-leverage spots in the final week as they look to clinch a wild card spot.

Hierarchy remains: *Hudson | Strickland | Rodney.
* = closer-by-committee

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Andrew Miller/Giovanny Gallegos – Carlos Martinez has pitched in four straight games. Miller got yesterday off after three straight appearances. Gallegos has gone in three of four.
2. Nick Goody – Brad Hand may not be ready for back-to-back days.
3. Ryne Stanek– Jose Urena threw 43 pitches yesterday.
4. Oliver Drake – Emilio Pagan has gone in three of four (50 pitches) and Nick Anderson has appeared in two of three (56 pitches) and four of five. Drake has worked two in a row and three of four as well, but his pitch count is far lower (24 pitches).

Monday:
1. Kevin Ginkel – Archie Bradley needed 16 pitches to get the final four outs yesterday. A lengthy outing today may lead to an off day on Monday.
2. Matt Barnes/Josh Taylor – Brandon Workman has pitched in two of three, throwing 48 pitches in that span. Barnes and Taylor have also been busy, so keep an eye on today’s usage.
3. Andrew Miller/Giovanny Gallegos – Carlos Martinez may get a second straight day off after his recent workload.

Carlos Carrasco, Trevor May save the day

September 21, 2019

Cleveland Indians – With Brad Hand still working back from arm fatigue, Cleveland turned to an unlikely player to close out a three-run game last night. Carlos Carrasco, who earlier this month returned from a leukemia diagnosis, got the last out of the eighth and stuck around for the ninth to earn the save. Carrasco has been pitching out of the bullpen since his return with somewhat mixed results, but with Cleveland in the middle of the playoff hunt, they may try to repeat last night’s performance in higher leverage spots. Hand is available to pitch this series, but manager Terry Francona has said they want to deploy him strategically, not only to avoid injury but also to maximize his value during games. Cleveland is facing must-win games night in and night out, so expect some flux from the Indians bullpen over the last week of the season. 

Hierarchy remains: Hand | Goody | Clippard.

Minnesota Twins — As the Vulture Save Watch noted, Taylor Rogers needed some rest. The same could also be said for the rest of the Twins hierarchy, which left Trevor May to pitch the ninth inning last night for Minnesota. May, who is former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway’s spirit animal, locked in his second save of the year thanks to three strikeouts. May had a spectacular August, but hasn’t worked himself into the regular rotation of late-inning arms. However, with a high strikeout rate and Minnesota likely resting its top arms for the playoffs once it clinches the division, May could see some additional chances over the final few games.

Hierarchy remains: *Rogers | Romo | Duffey.
* = closer-by-committee

Houston Astros — The Astros activated Ryan Pressly from the IL on Friday and he earned a seventh-inning hold in his return. Manager A.J. Hinch said that he has predetermined days and spots in which he wants Pressly to pitch, but he did not disclose those to anyone. Normally Pressly would be the handcuff to Roberto Osuna, but given Hinch’s comments, Will Harris may be the most likely reliever to vulture a save if Osuna needs some rest.  

Updated hierarchy: Osuna | Harris | Pressly.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Nick Goody – Brad Hand may not get the ninth inning yet and Goody is fully rested. 
2. Will Harris – Roberto Osuna has pitched in three of four and may get the night off. 
3. Giovanny Gallegos – Carlos Martinez and Andrew Miller have both pitched three in a row while Gallegos was held out last night. 

Sunday:
1. Nick Anderson/Oliver Drake – Today would be back to back and three of four for Emilio Pagan, but Anderson and Drake have similar usage. Whoever is held out today will likely pitch on Sunday. 
2. Hunter Strickland – Daniel Hudson threw 28 pitches last night, so any appearance today would earn him some rest on Sunday. 

Craig Kimbrel returns, takes loss as uneven season continues

September 20, 2019

Chicago Cubs — The Cubs activated Craig Kimbrel Thursday and immediately thrust him into action in a tie game in the 10th inning. He took the loss after allowing a go-ahead home run to Matt Carpenter, who hadn’t homered since Aug. 25. While he might see off days here and there, possibly including today, Kimbrel (0-3. 1.53 WHIP, 5.95 ERA) will return to closer duties for the stretch run. Meanwhile, Brandon Kintzler, who originally targeted today for a return, is now more likely to be back early next week.

Updated hierarchy: Kimbrel | Wick | Kintzler.

St. Louis Cardinals — After a gem by Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals were up 4-1 and brought in Carlos Martinez, who coughed up two runs and recorded just one out before being pulled. Andrew Miller allowed an RBI groundout to tie the game, but managed to stop the bleeding and send the game into extras. After Matt Carpenter’s homer in the top half of the tenth, Giovanny Gallegos came out for the bottom half to record his first save. Gallegos likely rewarded a significant number of patient owners who rostered him for his excellent contributions to the ratios (0.73 WHIP, 2.07 ERA, 92/15 K/BB ratio in 69.2 IP). 

Hierarchy remains: Martinez | Miller | Gallegos.

Seattle Mariners — Rookie Erik Swanson worked around a walk to strike out the side in the 11th in getting his first career save. Anthony Bass had pitched earlier in the game and Matt Magill, who recently dealt with a sore back, was perhaps getting some rest during Thursday’s matinee after earning his fifth save on Wednesday night. 

Hierarchy remains: *Magill | Bass | Tuivailala.
* = closer-by-committee

New York Yankees – Dellin Betances is expected to be ready for spring training after he partially tore his Achilles tendon on Sunday. Doctors said Betances should not need surgery and should make a full recovery, but he is obviously out for the season. He pitched in just one game this year, striking out the only two batters he faced on Sept. 15. 

Hierarchy remains: Chapman | Britton | Ottavino.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Matt Barnes – Brandon Workman threw 29 pitches Thursday and has pitched in four of his last six. 
2. Andrew Miller – Carlos Martinez has pitched in two straight and three of four. 
3. Rowan Wick/Steve Cishek – Though the Cubs are fighting for their playoff lives, Craig Kimbrel probably won’t pitch back-to-back so soon after returning from the IL.
4. Sergio Romo – Taylor Rogers has gone in three of four. Sergio Romo has had the same workload, but threw only 29 pitches over that span (including just five on Thursday).
5. Nick Goody – Brad Hand (arm fatigue) pitched in a side session Wednesday and “looked like himself,” but it’s not known when he will return.

Saturday:
1. Nick Goody — See above.
2. Michael Lorenzen — Raisel Iglesias pitched in three of four before the Reds were off on Thursday, so a Friday outing would bring his recent workload to three of four (again) and four of six. 
3. Jose Alvarez/Blake Parker — A Friday outing would be three of four for Hector Neris.

Turn the lights off when you go, Hunter Harvey

September 19, 2019

Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen pieced together three straight solid outings, leading Dodgers fans to wonder if the closer had finally turned the corner and regained his edge. Then came Wednesday and his career-high eighth blown save. The only upside for LA was that their loss kept the Yankees up late and prevented them from clinching the AL East.

Hierarchy remains: Jansen | Kelly | Baez.

Baltimore Orioles — Hunter Harvey was supposedly recovered from last week’s biceps soreness, but Brandon Hyde let Miguel Castro blow a four-run lead in the ninth without so much as getting Harvey up. After the game, Hyde confirmed that Harvey would be shut down for the rest of the season. This is a big deal: it’s no exaggeration to say that a healthy Harvey down the stretch could have been the difference between a 51-111 Orioles team no one wants to watch and a 53-109 Orioles team no one wants to watch.

Updated hierarchy: *Givens | Armstrong | Fry.
* = closer-by-committee

Philadelphia Phillies — Jose Alvarez keeps getting late-inning holds, including Wednesday’s eighth-inning bridge to Hector Neris. Also playing an important role in recent high-leverage spots has been Blake Parker, former Twins closer.

Updated hierarchy: Neris | Alvarez | Parker.

Seattle Mariners — As we suspected, now that Matt Magill is healthy, he’s back at the top of Seattle’s closer committee.

Updated hierarchy: *Magill | Bass | Tuivailala.
* = closer-by-committee

Toronto Blue Jays — The Jays rested Ken Giles a day earlier than we predicted, going to Derek Law in the ninth after an epic Orioles collapse. Law didn’t make it easy, loading the bases and giving up a run, but he ultimately escaped with the save.

Hierarchy remains: Giles | Law | Adam.

Tampa Bay Rays — All it took was an 11-inning tilt using nine Rays pitchers for Peter Fairbanks (7.94 ERA) to get his second save in eight days. We don’t expect another.

Hierarchy remains: Pagan | Anderson | Drake.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Steve Cishek — Rowan Wick has thrown 51 pitches in the last three days and Brandon Kintzler won’t be back until Friday.
2. Nick Goody — There’s no guarantee Brad Hand is available.
3. Matt Barnes/Josh Taylor — Brandon Workman might get a second straight day off.
4. Paul Fry — DON’T STREAM AN ORIOLES RELIEVER.

Friday:
1. Jose Alvarez/Blake Parker — Hector Neris has pitched in two straight (40 pitches). Alvarez has also pitched back-to-back.
2. Michael Lorenzen — The Reds don’t play today, but Iglesias could get two days off.
3. Sergio Romo — Same with Taylor Rogers.