JC Ramirez and Deolis Guerra closing options for Angels after Fernando Salas trade

August 31, 2016

Los Angeles Angels — With the waiver deadline deal of Fernando Salas to the Mets, we expect a combination of J.C. Ramirez and Deolis Guerra (traded from the Mets eight years ago for Johan Santana) to handle the L.A. closing duties going forward. Whichever guy gets the job full-time will be the Angels’ fifth closer of the season.

Updated hierarchy: *Ramirez | Guerra | Morin.
* = closer-by-committee

Luke Gregerson pitching again in Houston

August 31, 2016

Houston Astros — Luke Gregerson is back and got the call in the eighth inning in his second appearance following an extended absence. Gregerson allowed a solo home run, but otherwise protected what became a two-run lead. With Will Harris having pitched the seventh, it appears as if Gregerson is once again the eighth-inning guy in Houston.

Updated hierarchy: Giles | Gregerson | Harris.

Atlanta Braves – Arodys Vizcaino will head back to the disabled list due to inflamation in his throwing shoulder. The Braves did get good news, though, as Shae Simmons will finally rejoin the roster. It’s been 25 months since Simmons has thrown a pitch in the majors, so don’t necessarily expect him to be immediately thrown into a high-leverage situation. However, Simmons did pitch well during his rehab stint in Triple-A, so we expect to see him get some looks in the late innings during the final month of the season.

Updated hierarchy: Johnson | Cabrera | Simmons.

New York Yankees — Chasen Shreve collected his first career save in a 10-inning win for the Yankees. Meanwhile, Adam Warren’s struggles continued. He was the first pitcher out of a 59-minute rain delay and quickly allowed a run after he gave up a hit to both batters he faced before being pulled. Tyler Clippard, on the other hand, has not allowed a run in his last 11 appearances to lower his ERA to 0.73. Don’t be surprised if Clippard begins to get more chances directly ahead of Dellin Betances.

Updated hierarchy: Betances | Clippard | Warren.

Boston Red Sox — Prior to Tuesday’s game, John Farrell anointed Clay Buchholz as his eighth-inning guy, unless three righties are due up. In that case, Brad Ziegler – who was unavailable Tuesday with the flu – will get the call. Buchholz immediately got thrust into a high-leverage spot, but allowed a solo home run to break a 3-3 tie. It was his only blemish, and Buchholz is still a lot better than any other options in a beleaguered Sox ‘pen that is closer to getting some help in the form of Koji Uehara. When available, Ziegler should still get any save opportunities that don’t go to Craig Kimbrel, but expect Buchholz to protect more eighth-inning leads as the calendar turns to September.

Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Ziegler | Buchholz.

Cleveland Indians – Cody Allen threw 37 pitches on Monday, so as predicted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Andrew Miller picked up the save on Tuesday night. He remains a reliable option in the ninth inning should Allen either falter or need a night off.

Hierarchy remains: *Allen | Miller | Shaw.
* = closer-by-committee

St. Louis Cardinals — Kevin Siegrist got the eighth and Seung Hwan Oh pitched the ninth in a tie game, and when the Cardinals took the lead in the top of the 10th, Mike Matheny opted to not run Oh out for another inning. Instead, he turned to Matt Bowman, who proceeded to record just one out. Lefty specialist Zach Duke then came in to get the final two outs and record the save.

Hierarchy remains: Oh | Siegrist | Bowman.

1. Carlos Torres, Milwaukee Brewers — Both Tyler Thornburg (42 pitches) and Corey Knebel (53) have been busy over the last two days.
2. Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners — Edwin Diaz was asked to get a six-out save on Tuesday, and while he got through the eighth, he failed to record an out in the ninth and finished with 34 pitches. He may get a night off.
3. Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals — Mark Melancon has pitched in five of six.

Nate Jones leads the league in blown saves

August 30, 2016

St. Louis Cardinals — Alex Reyes’s return to the rotation over the weekend has left a hole in the seventh inning for the Cardinals. Matt Bowman has been filling in there, but when he and Kevin Siegrist gave up a combined four runs last night, it was the recently promoted Miguel Socolovich who stopped the bleeding and set St. Louis up for a comeback win. It was an impressive outing for Socolovich, but not enough to crack the hierarchy yet.

Updated hierarchy: Oh | Siegrist | Bowman.

Chicago White Sox — The major league leader in blown saves is Nate Jones, who suffered his ninth on Monday night. It’s mostly been a matter of bad timing, however; his 0.93 WHIP and 3.25 FIP don’t point to any significant problems.

Hierarchy remains: Robertson | Jones | Jennings.

Toronto Blue Jays — Joe Biagini picked up a clean eighth-inning hold last night, his fifth of the season to go with a 2.28 ERA. Biagini still seems to be fourth in the Toronto bullpen, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the big righty down the stretch.

Hierarchy remains: Osuna | Grilli | Benoit.

1. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians — Cody Allen threw 37 pitches to get five outs on Monday.
2. Antonio Bastardo, Pittsburgh Pirates — The Pirates bullpen is running on fumes at this point. Tony Watson and Felipe Rivero have pitched on five of the last six days, and Neftali Feliz has gone on four of five (including a 29-pitch outing last night). Who’s left? We’re crazy enough to think it might be Bastardo, who has pitched surprisingly well since returning to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.
3. Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals — Mark Melancon has pitched in four of five.

Derek Law goes to the DL and Clay Buchholz could be a key reliever

August 29, 2016

San Francisco Giants — More bad news for the woebegone Giants over the weekend, as Derek Law, the team’s most effective reliever since the All-Star break, went on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. Law had Tommy John surgery in 2014, but says that an MRI showed only inflammation from scar tissue. Bruce Bochy said that he would lean on Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearrin in Law’s absence.

Updated hierarchy: Casilla | Romo | Strickland.

Boston Red Sox — Matt Barnes got the call in a very high-leverage spot for Boston, up two in the sixth, with one out and the bases loaded. It didn’t go well. Infield single, three-run triple, hit-by-pitch, fielder’s choice, single to left — the final word was three inherited runs allowed, plus five charged to his own account. Since the All-Star break, Barnes has an 8.62 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. As unlikely as it once seemed, Clay Buchholz could play a pivotal role as an eighth-inning reliever for Boston down the stretch.

Updated hierarchy: Kimbrel | Ziegler | Buchholz.

New York YankeesJonathan Holder is the 23-year-old closer for New York’s AAA affiliate in Scranton (the mighty RailRiders). He entered Sunday’s game in Rochester in the sixth inning, up two with two on and nobody out, and proceeded to strike out the next 11 hitters. After a bloop infield single, he finished the game with another strikeout, earning a 12-K, 4-IP save for the ages. The MLB record for consecutive strikeouts is 10 (Tom Seaver), and no one has ever struck out more than nine while earning a major league save. Keep an eye on Holder.

Hierarchy remains: Betances | Warren | Clippard.

1. Joe Blanton/Adam Liberatore, Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen has pitched in three straight, five of six, and six of eight. Blanton has also seen some heavy use lately.
2. Neftali Feliz, Pittsburgh Pirates — Tony Watson has gone in four of five, and Feliz grabbed the last vulture save on Saturday.
3. John Axford, Oakland A’s — Ryan Madson pitched Saturday and Sunday; Monday could tell us whether Axford has slipped out of the backup closer role.
4. Joaquin Benoit, Toronto Blue Jays — Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna have each pitched in two straight.

Feliz and Quackenbush record saves

August 28, 2016

Pittsburgh Pirates — As predicted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Tony Watson got the day off on Saturday and Neftali Feliz picked up the save.  Feliz should continue to fill in as closer when Watson is unavailable.

Hierarchy remains: Watson | Feliz | Rivero.

San Diego Padres — Kevin Quackenbush pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his first save of the season.  The Vulture Save Watch correctly predicted that Brandon Maurer would have Saturday off and that Quackenbush would get the save.  However, Brad Hand was available and pitched the eighth inning.  Quackenbush saved six games for the Padres down the stretch in 2014 and it looks like he has moved ahead of Hand in the Padres bullpen and could continue to see save chances when Maurer is not able to go.

Updated hierarchy: Maurer | Quackenbush | Hand. 

Seattle Mariners — The Mariners have placed Tom Wilhelmsen on the disabled list with back spasms.  Steve Cishek and Nick Vincent should help set-up Edwin Diaz while Wilhemsen is out.

Updated hierarchy: Diaz | Cishek | Vincent.

Colorado Rockies – Up until yesterday, Adam Ottavino’s ERA for 2015 and 2016 matched his jersey number; 0.  Ottavino blew the save on Saturday while giving up his first run since September 2014.  Ottavino had the longest active scoreless streak in the majors, but it was ended by the Washington Nationals, who ended Zach Britton’s streak just a few days earlier.

Hierarchy remains: Ottavino | Logan | Estevez.

1. Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals – Mark Melancon has gone in three straight.
2. Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Dodgers – Kenley Jansen has pitched in back-to-back games and four of the past five.
3. A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins – Fernando Rodney has appeared in three of the past four games.
4. Randall Delgado, Arizona Diamondbacks – Daniel Hudson got the last save opportunity but was unable to convert it so Delgado could get the next shot.