Man, do the Detroit Tigers need some stability at closer.
Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney and Kyle Farnsworth have all taken a turn running the carnival ride for Detroit this year, and on Tuesday night in Chicago, Joel Zumaya got his shot. Jim Leyland announced before the game that Zumaya would be Tuesday's closer, and the skipper patiently waited until the last of the 14th before inserting the flame-throwing righty. Zumaya merely needed to get three outs and safeguard a two-run lead, but as so often is the case, easier said than done.
When Zumaya normally struggles it's walks and command that do him in, but on this night the White Sox simply hit him. Orlando Cabrera started the rally with a ringing single, the ridiculous Carlos Quentin (four hits, including a homer) laced a pretty opposite-field double, and with two outs in the inning Nick Swisher ended the game with a three-run blast to dead center. In Zumaya's defense, an Edgar Renteria error in the middle of the inning extended the game, but it's a bottom-line business and Zumaya clearly didn't do the job here.
To make things worse for Zumaya, most of his bullpen mates got the job done on this night. Rodney out of nowhere had a dominant performance (3 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 5 K), on the heels of a terrible four-game stretch. Underrated Bobby Seay handled the seventh (perfect inning, 1 K), and Freddy Dolsi handled the 13 (1H, 1 K). Kyle Farnsworth was the temporary goat after allowing a game-tying homer in the eighth, but his sharp slider did return in the ninth.
So, back to the drawing board. The Tigers can at least feel good about Zumaya being around the plate – it wasn't wildness that did him in. Does that mean he'll get another save chance fairly soon? Maybe Rodney can get another look in the ninth, after a day of rest. Seay has to fight the left-handed bias, but he's been far and away the team's most reliable bullpen option for six weeks. Add it all up and we're stuck in committee city. And the closer carousel goes round and round . . .
The Tigers aren't the only team struggling to nail down victories; after a fairly-stable summer with save-chasers, all hell has broken loose in the last few weeks. Let's make the rounds:
• The other cleat dropped in Texas, and now everything is clearly defined. C.J. Wilson has bone spurs in his elbow and is headed to the DL, not to mention a trip to see Dr. Lewis Yocum and discuss possible surgery. Wilson allowed an eighth-inning bomb to Richie Sexson Tuesday, but that was only the final piece of evidence in a long-running story. He tried to pitch hurt, and he couldn't do it. Eddie Guardado wound up getting Tuesday's save and should be universally owned in short order; Everyday Eddie has lived up to the name of late, working seven times in nine days. Frank Francisco figures to step into the main set-up role and could get some match-up saves, depending on how Ron Washington wants to play it.
• Huston Street very quietly has the worst save percentage of any AL closer, and Tuesday in Toronto wasn't one of his better nights (3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, blown save No. 6). Street's meltdown came on the heels of another Brad Ziegler special (2 IP, 0 R, six ground-ball outs), and you have to figure the A's will shift into full-committee mode very soon, with Street, Ziegler, and left-hander Jerry Blevins the main contenders.
• Ryan Franklin was slapped with a blown save Tuesday, but Jason Isringhausen was the guy who threw away Chris Carpenter's win. Izzy allowed five straight batters to reach in the ninth, then mercifully was lifted; when Casey Blake followed with a sacrifice fly, the BS tag fell on Franklin. I don't see how fantasy owners can feel confident about either guy here (Franklin dodged three baserunners in his five-out appearance).
• J.J. Putz has the closing gig back in Seattle; Brandon Morrow has been sent to the minors and will begin work as a starting pitcher. Putz was brought into an eighth-inning jam Tuesday and couldn't hold the lead (hence, the BS tag), but he picked up a victory when his teammates rallied against Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan in the bottom of the inning. Two closers getting eighth-inning work in the same game? It must have been 70s night at The Safe.
• Fantasy owners would love to see Rafael Perez in a closing role, but Eric Wedge seems to appreciate what Perez is worth as a jams guy. Despite Perez's effecient two-inning save Monday, the team's official site doesn't feel that Wedge is grooming Perez as a closer. Granted, a few messy Masa Kobayashi outings could change that plan rather quickly.
• Just when the Adam Jones story was starting to take off, an injury kills the buzz. Jones has a broken left foot, the Orioles announced Tuesday, and he'll be out a minimum of four weeks. Given where Baltimore will be in the standing by the time September rolls around, it's possible the team might not play him again in 2008. Luke Scott (sore Achilles) is also playing hurt but intends to gut it out; he's been in a five-week funk, but his bat came alive Tuesday in Anaheim (three hits, homer).
• Keep your fingers crossed if you own Joba Chamberlain – the big righty is headed to Alabama to have his shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews. The Yankees didn't say much about Joba's MRI Tuesday, but the fact that they're getting Andrews involved is certainly ominous. "I envison him not making his next start," Joe Girardi told Newsday. "Beyond that, I can't say much." Looks like Ian Kennedy might get a turn on the weekend.
• Edinson Volquez was knocked around for the fourth time in five starts Tuesday (5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 2 K), bumping his ERA to 2.93. "(Milwaukee) made a pretty good adjustment tonight," Volquez told the AP. "They were taking pitches and taking good swings. I was in the same sequence on every batter-hard, soft, hard, soft. That won't happen again." Volquez dominated the Brewers when he faced them on July 12 (1 R, 10 K), but that's the last time he resembled an ace. At least he draws a mediocre Houston club on Sunday.
• Chad Billingsley was limited to five innings Tuesday at St. Louis (6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K) because of a couple of rain delays. Chris Carpenter pitched to contact and got favorable results (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K), even if he didn't resemble the Carpenter of old; the rain also limited his stint.
• Injury Lap: Kerry Wood (blister) came off the DL Tuesday and worked a scoreless eighth inning against Houston. Lou Piniella says Wood will get one more non-closing appearance, then shift back to the ninth inning . . . Ryan Zimmerman (hand) was back in the Washington lineup Tuesday and had a single and a walk . . . A sore calf kept Elijah Dukes out of the lineup the last two days, a shame with Coors Field calling . . . Rick Ankiel is still dealing with an abdominal injury and probably won't start again until the weekend . . . Adam Wainwright (finger) was wild in a simulated game Tuesday, but nonetheless he's set to begin a rehab assignment Saturday and should be back with the Cardinals fairly soon . . . Mike Lowell (hip) was back in the mix and went 0-for-4 at Kansas City. David Ortiz (wrist) also played, going 1-for-5 . . . Freddy Sanchez (back) knocked out two more hits, giving him five in two games since he returned to action . . . Andy LaRoche (finger) won't go until the weekend, and he's just 2-for-16 since joining the Bucs (one hit was a homer).
• Just one leftover handshake to mention, George Sherrill's 31st of the year at Anaheim (scoreless inning, one hit). I don't want any of our C/T customers to feel cheated, so here's an important relief-pitcher video to consume on the way out. Have fun in the comments, and Dr. Behrens will be your guide tomorrow night.