Closing Time: Blown saves abound as Frieri's struggles continue

Closing Time: Blown saves abound as Frieri's struggles continue
Closing Time: Blown saves abound as Frieri's struggles continue

When a big league manager gives a vote of confidence to his closer, it's basically the rhetorical version of an executioner polishing an axe. So when Angels manager Mike Scioscia declares that he's sticking with Ernesto Frieri, fantasy owners need to assume the opposite will soon be true.

Frieri coughed up four earned runs on three hits and a walk against the Nationals on Wednesday, retiring just one batter. He's allowed multiple hitters to reach base in each of his last five appearances, a streak that includes two blown saves. Jose Lobaton greeted him with a homer on Wednesday; Jayson Werth finished him with a rocket of a double, swinging on a 3-0 count.

"It's in him [to close]," Scioscia later said. "We just need to get him a little more consistent."

Yeah, OK.

If the team is looking for consistency (and effectiveness), they'll look to the eighth, where Joe Smith has been cruising. Smith delivered a quiet frame against the Nats, working around a one-out error, and he's had just one rough outing all year to this point. Smith has K'd 11 batters in 10.0 innings, issuing just three walks and coaxing a thousand grounders. He's the add in this 'pen, with Frieri likely down to his final bullet.

The Cubs celebrated the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field on Wednesday, with balloons and throwback uniforms and former players (but not Sammy) and party hats and cakes of various sizes. It was, for the most part, a delightful afternoon. And then the Cubs' bullpen arrived on the scene. They, apparently, had decided to reenact a Carlos Marmol blown save on its one-year anniversary. Pedro Strop entered with a three-run lead and promptly walked the first hitter he faced. A misplay by Starlin Castro allowed another base-runner, then Strop walked a pinch-hitter. And then this nonsense happened.

Strop would eventually strike out a pair of batters (Parra, Goldschmidt), but he was removed after throwing his zillionth pitch (17 of them strikes). James Russell entered, gave up a game-tying hit to Miguel Montero, then checked out. And then Justin Grimm allowed a go-ahead triple, while Chicago's right-fielder injured himself. And somewhere along the way, this young lad learned something of pain. (Hope his parents let him stay up for the Hawks game, but probably no.)

So that was just about the Cubsiest way the team could have possibly honored its heritage. Well done, fellas. If you're speculating on ninth inning turnover in Chicago, maybe give Hector Rondon a look (1.06 WHIP, 0.79 ERA).

The one nice thing we can say about Josh Fields' performance on Wednesday is that he was throwing strikes (7 of 8 pitches). But he was also giving up hits — three, including a Kyle Seager walk-off bomb. Fields had earned a save on Tuesday, plus he'd made five straight hitless appearances, so he appeared to be the head of Houston's bullpen committee. He's now worked three consecutive days, however, so expect him to be rested on Thursday. The committee continues, presumably.

Aaron Harang's astonishing dominance continued, as the 35-year-old bewildered the Miami lineup on Wednesday afternoon (6.0 IP, 6 H, R, 11 Ks). Perhaps there's a quality-of-opponent aspect to Harang's success story — he's seen the Fish once, the Mets twice — but we shouldn't simply dismiss a 0.88 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 31.2 innings. His swinging-strike rate has spiked this season (11.1), though the arsenal appears to be roughly the same. Harang was a useful arm in the not-so-distant past, and he'll see Miami again in his next turn.

The Giants and Rox gave us a 22-run fantasy smorgasbord, with all the usual Closing Time favorites inflicting damage. Michael Morse hit a couple of grown-man home runs, Justin Morneau went deep for the fifth time this season, and Charlie Blackmon filled up the box score (and then I traded him in F&F, which I may regret).

Alfredo Simon earned his third win of the season, holding the Bucs to two runs over 6.2 innings. He also walked more batters than he K'd (5-4), which obviously isn't great, but those who streamed him aren't complaining. He's a clear start next time out against the Cubs, but this is not a case where fantasy owners should get too comfortable. The strikeouts aren't piling up (5.53 K/9), and he's had plenty of luck along the way (.185 BABIP).

Brett Lawrie has now homered in back-to-back games (his fourth and fifth of the year), and he had a three-hit performance against the O's on Wednesday. So either he's waking up, or this is the sell-high window. Don't ask me. I really have a remarkably poor history of forecasting this player.

Marcus Semien did bad things to the Tigers on Wednesday, launching a seventh-inning go-ahead grand slam. Semien is only slashing .234/.280/.394 at the moment, but the power/speed potential is clear enough. He's 8-for-19 over his last four games, building a strong case to remain in the mix when Gordon Beckham returns. Semien hit .284/.401/.479 in the high minors last year with 19 homers and 24 steals in 29 attempts.

Lucas Duda went deep against the Cards on Wednesday, his fourth homer of the year. He's currently hitting .271/.358/.492 and playing every day, following the Ike Davis trade. If you're looking for a cheap power source, Duda is your guy. We can't promise a stellar average, but 25-or-so homers could certainly happen.

Jean Segura was hitting eighth against the Pads on Wednesday, a spot that can be a fantasy death sentence for an N.L. hitter. But he managed to go 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs in support of Kyle Lohse, so that's nice to see. Segura is 7-for-23 in his last five games with a pair of steals; let's hope it's the beginning of a surge.

The D-Backs got some bad news on Mark Trumbo, announcing that the outfielder is dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot. Cody Ross now has a clear path to at-bats, if that matters in your world.

Discretion, Michael Pineda. Discretion. Learn it. Live it. Make it your mantra

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