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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Matt Lindstrom barks at the moon

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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If you thought Matt Lindstrom pitched like a dog Friday, you're not alone. There were 1,540 Southern Florida canines who came to the same conclusion. But that doesn't mean fantasy owners need to start running in circles looking for a new Marlins closer.

The Fish had their annual "Bark at the Park" promotion in play Friday and for eight innings, it looked like a happy ending. The hosts were cruising with a 3-0 lead, Josh Johnson looked fantastic again (seven scoreless innings, eight strikeouts), and Lindstrom, the closer, was in to get the final three outs.

Alas, on this night, Lindstrom didn't have anything working. First he couldn't find the plate, then his strikes were rocketed all over the park. Shane Victorino's crushed a grand slam. Chase Utley stroked a solo homer. The Phillies eventually got seven runs off Lindstrom, who wasn't even able to complete the inning.

Make sure you don't drift into revisionist history as you attempt to break down the Lindstrom file. Keep in mind he entered the night with just one earned run allowed over six appearances, and he had pitched especially well in his last four outings. His last assignment came Sunday in Washington, so perhaps we can attribute this collapse to a lack of sharpness. Gonzalez went out of his way to support his closer after Friday's loss, too.

"We need him to get right and run him back out there," Gonzalez said. "I thought it was a great situation for him -- save situation with a good crowd. I'm sure he wanted to close as bad as anybody. It just didn't happen today. … I think over the course of the season, this is going to be a positive that he's going to learn from and that we're going to be OK."

Of course this all goes out the window if something happens to be physically wrong with Lindstrom, but there's no evidence of that right now. Look, every closer is going to have a messy outing here and there. Mariano Rivera blew a save Friday, too (albeit in far less explosive fashion). If the Lindstrom owner in your league is ready to start hurling stuff out the window, perhaps it's a good time to open up some trade talks. Lindstrom might be a closer with fleas, but he's still got an excellent set-up around him, and looks like a good bet for 30 or more saves.

The Rays roughed up Trevor Cahill (2.2 IP, 7 ER), pushing the kid's ERA up to 5.40. You don't want to overreact to one poor start but you also have to wonder if Cahill should even be in the majors right now. He's fanned just seven batters thus far over 20 innings, a good sign that he's not ready to be considered as a mixed-league play. Former Oakland corner Carlos Pena did most of the damage (two homers, four RBIs), and the running Rays continued to play it aggressively on the bases (Carl Crawford swiped his sixth bag, and Dioner Navarro copped his first).

Another strong night from Endy Chavez (three hits, two runs, steal No. 5), who's emphatically proving that he deserves to be Seattle's everyday left-fielder. His sterling defense helps the cause as well, and you can be sure the Mariner pitchers appreciate the team's new-found dedication to catching the ball. Erik Bedard didn't have dominant stuff perhaps (6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K), but good things are going to happen for him when he pounds the strike zone and trusts his stuff, and his teammates.

Underrated Denard Span (5-2-2-0) and Justin Morneau (two-run homer) were the offensive sparkplugs as Minnesota rolled at Cleveland behind Nick Blackburn (seven innings, one run). Delmon Young has been swinging better of late but it didn't carry over at The Jake; he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, and eventually was replaced for late-inning defense.

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All sorts of messiness in the Baltimore bullpen these days, tread carefully friends. George Sherrill suffered his first blown save of the year Friday, allowing a two-run homer to Michael Young; his ERA sits at 5.87 for the year. Jim Johnson struggled in front of Sherrill, allowing four hits and a run (ultimately forcing the O's to bring Sherrill on for the eighth inning). Chris Ray retired one of the two men he faced in the seventh, but he hasn't been anything special thus far this year, either (6 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 8 K). The Texas bullpen did the job on the other side, working 2.1 scoreless innings including a perfect ninth from Frank Francisco.

The Orioles are getting tons of production from their Fab Four but things tail off significantly from there; No. 5 man Ty Wigginton went 0-for-4 and stranded six runners Friday. This could be one of the AL's top offenses later in the summer, assuming Melvin Mora comes back healthy and Matt Wieters gets recalled before too long. And because I know you're going to ask, I'll address it – I don't have any inside knowledge as to when Wieters will make an appearance, but here's my educated guess: May 25 against Toronto.

There's a lot to smile about in the YYZ these days, as the Jays have the best record (13-5) and top offense (118 runs) in the majors. The Toronto Twister threw 14 runs and 21 hits at the White Sox Friday; other than Lyle Overbay (4-1-0-0), every Jays starter got a healthy piece of this. I've been somewhat skeptical of Marco Scutaro's start to this point, but we have to give him some extra fantasy cred simply because he's at the front of this offense. Am I the only one who sees a little of Jeff Kent in second sacker Aaron Hill? There's not much positive to offer from Chicago's side of this game, though a pair of under-appreciated sleepers rapped out two hits apiece: second baseman Chris Getz and center fielder Brian Anderson.

Not an Injury Blog: Brandon Webb (shoulder) had a setback and will be out of action for the next three weeks at minimum. As a result, Yusmeiro Petit will stay in the rotation for now. … Brian McCann's eye blurriness has returned and he'll probably need to go on the DL. It's possible he might undergo a second LASIK procedure on the eye. … Aramis Ramirez strained a left calf muscle and admitted "right now, it doesn't feel too good" after the game. … Milton Bradley (groin) skipped another start but was able to pinch hit. … Jorge Cantu (wrist) is hoping to get back to action Saturday. He had a cortisone shot in the wrist Wednesday. … A sore hamstring kept Jason Giambi out of Friday's lineup . . . Yankees set-up ace Brian Bruney (shoulder) was not with the club Friday. The Yanks also put Chien-Ming Wang (hip) on the 15-day disabled list. … Joakim Soria is temporarily shut down with a tight shoulder, and Dr. Behrens is here to tell you all about it. … Is 2009 going to be the Year of the Oblique? Nate McLouth's sore side kept him out of Friday's game at San Diego. … Conor Jackson (illness) was a late scratch Friday, with Eric Byrnes (two hits) spelling him. … Kyle Lohse (knee) didn't show any structural damage on his MRI and probably won't miss a start.

Handshakes: The Braves went back to their conventional bullpen order Friday, with Rafael Soriano working the eighth and Mike Gonzalez getting the ninth, and the save (perfect inning, two strikeouts). … Francisco Rodriguez allowed a two-run homer to Jesus Flores in the ninth, but it wasn't a big deal as the Mets held a three-run lead. … Hideki Okajima didn't have it against the Yankees (four straight hits), but the five relievers that followed worked five scoreless innings as the Red Sox clipped New York in an eleven-inning beauty. Jason Bay's two-out homer off Mariano Rivera extended the game, and Kevin Youkilis won it with a round-tripper two innings later. … Make it five saves and eight scoreless innings for Ryan Franklin, who's running away with the closer gig in St. Louis. … Hong-Chih Kuo was erratic again for the Dodgers (allowing a game-tying homer to Clint Barmes), but he got a vulture win when his teammates pushed a run across on Manny Corpas in the following inning (it's worth nothing that Jason Grilli and Huston Street also struggled Friday night). Sizzling Jonathan Broxton struck out two of the four men he faced in the bottom of the ninth. … The Pirates got five scoreless innings of relief work before Matt Capps gave up the game-deciding run at San Diego in the 11th. … Carlos Marmol allowed the go-ahead run at St. Louis, and eventually left the game with a strained knee. The team expects Marmol to miss a few games at minimum, and a DL trip is a possibility.

Speed Round: If you needed confirmation on the greatness of Johan Santana, Zack Greinke or Tim Lincecum Friday night, you got it, emphatically. Enjoy those gaudy numbers. Yovani Gallardo wasn't far behind, working a snappy complete game for the Brewers. … Alfonso Soriano dropped to the No. 3 spot for the Cubs Friday while Ryan Theriot hit leadoff. The duo combined to go 1-for-9 against Adam Wainwright and company. … I guess Albert Pujols wants to be known as a five-category stud; he swiped his third base of the year Friday. … Another homer and two walks for Jeff Francoeur, who's off to a steady .317 start in his pivotal season. I'm not going to scream his names from rooftops or anything, but I'd put Frenchy in the "hold" file for now. … Maybe it doesn't matter if Mark Teahen doesn't have second-base eligibility; he's on a 12-for-28 binge (with two homers) since Alex Gordon went on the disabled list. … Another useful game from Coco Crisp (4-1-2-2), who's been taking much better swings this week.

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