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Andy Behrens

Closing Thoughts: K-Rod, Fuentes struggling; Francisco returns

Andy Behrens
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Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez(notes) has blown his last two save opportunities, which is not exactly a common occurrence for him. K-Rod has averaged 48.5 saves per season since 2005. The loss on Friday night was particularly stunning, as he failed to record an out while giving up two hits, three walks (one intentional) and five runs. The Mets were beaten on a walkoff grand slam by li'l Everth Cabrera(notes) (5-9, 176).

But K-Rod was squeezed on more than one call by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson, and the Mets were absolutely robbed on this play at the plate. Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation on Sunday, closing out Johan Santana's(notes) win. He threw 16 pitches, 15 of which were 93-94 mph fastballs. There's no apparent injury. My recommendation: Take advantage of the panicky sky-is-falling note on K-Rod's player page if possible. There might be a small buying window here.

Of course K-Rod is a Met, so he could shatter at any moment. No guarantees, no refunds, no returns.

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Even when Brian Fuentes(notes) is going well, it's tough to say why. You'd never call his stuff "overpowering," yet he delivers plenty of strikeouts (10.1 K/9) and, until this year, he's maintained low fantasy ratios. But every season -- usually in late June or early July -- Fuentes seems to drift into a period where he's thoroughly hittable. We are presently in such a period. The lefty has allowed eight hits and seven earned runs over his last four appearances and he hasn't struck out a batter since July 23. Yes, he earned a two-out save on Saturday against the Rangers, but both outs were on liners, and one required a gem of a play by shortstop Erick Aybar. Fuentes is scary right now, and not in a good way. I'm much less interested in buying him. Only in a semi-desperate move, at the right price.

Fuentes no doubt has a long leash, but we should at least review the other options in the 'pen. If any sort of move were made, a committee would likely form. Hard-throwing Kevin Jepsen(notes) (95.9 mph average fastball) has had a primary set-up role for the Angels recently. He's saved 34 games over the past four minor league seasons and posted decent ratios for the Angels since the All-Star break (2.53, 0.94). Jose Arredondo(notes) was finally recalled from Triple-A over the weekend. He allowed a run in 1.2 innings of work on Sunday, but at least he didn't walk anyone. That's progress. He's put up a 2.18 ERA 19 Triple-A appearances this season with 24 Ks and 14 walks in 20.2 innings. Darren Oliver(notes) is...well, he's Darren Oliver: Ancient, left-handed, not overwhelming.

Unceremoniously (although there may have been a small banquet...can't say), CJ Wilson(notes) is officially out as Texas' closer. Frank Francisco(notes) has his old job back. In three set-up situations this month, Francisco has pitched 2.2 innings, allowed one hit, walked no one and struck out two. Wilson has scuffled lately, but the Ks are still there (seven in three August innings). Manager Ron Washington says the move was made because Wilson can pitch multiple innings in relief; Francisco has been on and off the DL this season, but he was the multiple-innings guy last year.

Florida's Matt Lindstrom(notes) tells the Palm Beach Post, "I prefer to be in the ninth inning, but whatever they need." The Marlins thought they needed Heath Bell at the trade deadline, you'll recall, but the price was insane so they've stuck with Leo Nunez(notes) in the ninth. Nunez hasn't been charged with a blown save since mid-June, but he's allowed runs in five of his last nine appearances. (No doubt prompting Lindstrom to think, "Yup, that's how it's done.") Per the Post: "Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Lindstrom will get a chance to close again but he didn't say when." Thus, Lindstrom needs to be stashed and not started in many formats.

Mike MacDougal(notes) carried you last week in head-to-head, earning saves on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. He allowed three hits, three walks and no runs over five innings. Jorge Sosa(notes) mixed in a couple saves for the suddenly unbeatable Nats, too. Yesterday's effort was a multi-inning save in which the lead ballooned to seven runs.

As soon as we raise the alert on Kevin Gregg(notes) -- "tired arm," runs aplenty -- he settles down. He picked up a save on Saturday at Colorado, though Carlos Marmol(notes) was more impressive in the eighth (three Ks), facing a more difficult segment of the Rockies' lineup (Hawpe-Stewart-Iannetta). But I can't win this one. You love Kevin Gregg. More importantly, Lou loves Kevin Gregg.

If you think that Matt Capps(notes) intentionally hit Albert Pujols(notes), then you must first believe that Capps (5.97 ERA, 1.75 WHIP) can hit targets. Video here, via MLB.com. Capps says he didn't do it on purpose -- "I had him 0-1, tried to go in and it got away" -- and Pujols reportedly didn't think it was intentional. But Tony La Russa had a different take, as he often does:

"I think it was an intentional hit and there is no doubt in my mind it came from the bench, and I really believe it didn't come from the manager," La Russa said. "Don't ask me to expound on that."

He then adjusted his foil hat, shut his office door, and continued his research into crop circles and their relationship to balks.

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