As much as fantasy owners appreciate an orderly bullpen with clearly-defined roles, Bruce Bochy was content to play the matchups in Friday's series opener in New York. Looks like we're not done picking through the Giants relief staff, trying to figure out who's doing what in the post-Brian Wilson world. A tree grows in Brooklyn, a committee shows in Queens.
Santiago Casilla was summoned for the bottom of the ninth at Citi Field, with a one-run lead to protect. Seems like ordinary handshake duty, but Bochy only let Casilla pitch to one batter - after Jason Bay's leadoff single, Javier Lopez came into the game to face what turned into three consecutive lefty batters. The Mets scratched across a run, forcing extra innings.
San Francisco had another one-run advantage an inning later, and Sergio Romo (who finished up the ninth) was asked to protect it. But when the Mets opened with a couple of singles, Bochy went to the bullpen again, calling for journeyman Clay Hensley. It's a logical move when you consider batted-ball tendencies - Hensley's ground-ball rate is over 51 percent for his career, while Romo sits at 34 percent. Hensley wound up getting the coveted handshake, inducing a groundout, strikeout and a deep-but-catchable fly to center.
How do fantasy owners shuffle this going forward? I'm still inclined to give Casilla the biggest save potential; the lefty glut in the ninth was an unusual thing, and let's also keep in mind Lopez wasn't able to lock the game down anyway. Romo would be my second pick, and with his high-strikeout rate and excellent ratio potential, he's the type of reliever that can still help you even when he's not closing. Hensley becomes an interesting option for very deep mixers and NL-only formats; recall how useful he was for the Marlins bullpen back in 2010. He's capable of missing bats and getting ground balls, and he might luck into 6-8 wins because he'll be used in a lot of tie games. Lopez has no chance to get more than an odd save here and there; he probably won't be exposed to that many right-handed batters, and Jeremy Affeldt might be a better lefty specialist anyway.
While you rehash and recalibrate the Giants save-chase, let's load up the bullets and see what else went down on the sandlots Friday evening.
• Lance Lynn is already gone in most competitive mixers, but his 58-percent ownership tag still looks light to me. What's not to like with this kid? Lynn scored his third straight victory in a Friday cruise over the Pirates (seven innings, one run, roll the tape), and for the year he's looking at a 1.42 ERA and 0.74 whip, with 17 strikeouts against just four walks. There's no platoon split to worry about: lefties and righties are both hitting less than .200 against Lynn for his brief career. The breakout story was foreshadowed in spring training, when Lynn threw 20.2 strong innings (2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) and had three punchouts for every walk. The schedule plays along nicely, with the Cubs and Pirates lined up for the next two weeks.
The Cardinals bullpen covered Lynn nicely, with Mitchell Boggs striking out two in the eighth (he's one of the more-underrated non-closing relievers out there) and Jason Motte working around a walk in the ninth. Temporary first baseman Matt Carpenter got the call in the No. 2 slot, going 0-for-3 with a couple of walks.
• Dusty Baker unleashed the greyhounds at Chicago, as the Reds stole three bases (Drew Stubbs two, Jay Bruce one) and scored nine runs on 12 hits. The steals are notable because Cincinnati had just two bags entering the afternoon. Homer Bailey pitched to contact and made it work over seven innings (5 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K), collecting 12 ground-ball outs. Aroldis Chapman was electric in the eighth, striking out two and needing just 14 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning. I know it's frustrating to not see him in a meatier fantasy role (starting preferred, or maybe closing) but you get the sense maybe the Reds don't want to upset something that's working so well. Carlos Marmol's closing leash extended on a day where he didn't pitch; Kerry Wood (shoulder) went on the disabled list, and Rafael Dolis hasn't been anything special (5.14 ERA, 1.71 WHIP).
• Adam Dunn struggled through a week where he couldn't do anything right, but he's righted the ship nicely over the last three games. His two-homer, five-RBI outburst carried Chris Sale and Company past the Mariners on Friday, and when you add up Dunn's binge, this is what you get: 6-for-10, five extra-base hits, four walks, nine RBIs. I think we'd all be willing to accept his current slash line (.265/.368/.571) as a final answer come October.
The batters in front of Dunn also did their job Friday: Alejandro De Aza had a couple of hits and his second stolen base, Brent Morel reached base twice and scored two runs, and even Gordon Beckham had a hit and a walk in the No. 9 slot. Sale piled up 11 strikeouts over 6.1 innings, and he continues to show he can get right-handed batters out (they're hitting just .218 off him). He looks legit to me, but have a look at the tape and decide for youself. Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Hector Santiago closed out the game with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, striking out four. Dunn's eighth inning homer counterfeited the save situation, however.
• The Red Sox threw a nifty birthday party for their wonderful home stadium, but the game against New York turned into a letdown: Clay Buchholz threw batting practice (five solo homers) and the Yankees cruised. Is it possible for an entire pitching staff to be overrated? The 2012 Red Sox are making a run at it. Eric Chavez crushed two of the homers, but no need to talk yourself into him. He's a mortal lock to get hurt at some point, and his OPS hasn't even topped .700 since the 2007 season
Ivan Nova picked up the New York win, his third in a row. He's having an interesting push to the season: while his ground-ball bias has disappeared and he's been fortunate with his strand rate (89.3 percent), you make things easier on yourself when you collect 20 strikeouts against just two walks. I can't endorse him for next week's turn at Texas, but otherwise, this is someone we have to consider in most mixed leagues. He'll have my endorsement for his fifth and sixth starts, when he draws the Orioles and Royals.
• Cole Hamels became the latest pitcher to take advantage of the Padres in Petco, working six solid innings (6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K), then handing it over to his bullpen for three hitless frames. San Diego is now 3-12 for the year, worst record in baseball; that's why we have to take Joe Blanton seriously as a potential Sunday streamer. Edinson Volquez worked six reasonable innings on the other side (5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K) but his ongoing fleas remain: he piles up pitches quickly, he walks too many batters, and he's tied to a weak offense. I'll be surprised if he wins more than 10 games, and he's nothing more than a matchup play going forward.
• Get to know Ross Detwiler of the Nationals, an under-the-radar lefty who's coming off a six-inning cruise over the Marlins (3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K). He's getting the coveted Petco Park assignment next week. Henry Rodriguez was the final Washington reliever on Friday, dodging a couple of walks and picking up handshake No. 4. He threw 25 pitches in the laboring assignment, only 11 in the strike zone, but he escaped without any damage done. Rick Ankiel collected three hits in the victory, including a homer, though he's yet to draw a walk through seven games.
Speed Round: Business as usual for the Dodgers, with Matt Kemp homering and Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra combining for two scoreless innings (and five strikeouts) out the door. Dee Gordon was given a night off, a good idea given his ugly start at the plate (.192/.263/.231). At least he's running as much as possible (eight bags in ten attempts). … If Nolan Reimold can simply stay healthy, the rest should take care of itself. He collected three hits in Anaheim, including his fifth homer. Other than that, the night belonged to the Angels, capped by Jordan Walden's first save (27 pitches, one walk, one strikeout). Mark Trumbo is the only LA starter from Friday that's hitting over .290; the Mike Trout watch continues. … Greg Holland lost his way against Toronto (failing to retire anyone in a five-batter appearance), so Jonathan Broxton's leash extends nicely. Sergio Santos eventually locked the win down for the Blue Jays, despite an RBI single from Yuniesky Betancourt. … It's not that Matt Moore was bad against the Twins (6.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 K), but where's the dominance we all expected? He's walked 12 men through his three starts, against just 11 strikeouts. He's at home against the Angels next week. Be careful with those buzzy sophomores, so often they don't return their draft-day value.
B.J. Upton (back) returned to the Rays, going 0-for-3 (two groundouts, one pop up). Upton batted seventh Friday but I doubt he'll be there long; Joe Maddon likes a fresh lineup card every day. … Rain washed out the Rangers and Tigers, so they'll go twice on Saturday (and it's not raining in suburban Detroit as I compose this for you). … Brandon Beachy wasn't afraid of the Arizona lineup, pouring in strikes and getting into the eighth inning (4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K). This Diamondbacks offense looks downright pedestrian when you take Justin Upton (thumb) and Chris Young out of the mix. Fab Five Freddie Freeman reached base four times and is back up to .296, and the Braves are 9-1 following their 0-4 start. … Sunday's pitching form has plenty of big names on it, but if you have to play the streaming game, consider John Danks (46 percent, at Seattle), Erik Bedard (43 percent, versus St. Louis) and strikeout ace Danny Duffy (18 percent, facing Toronto). And the aforementioned Blanton (three percent, at San Diego) is out there as well, if you need a long shot. … Daniel Hudson (shoulder) hit the DL on Saturday, which means Arizona might be dipping into the minors for one of its highly-touted pitchers (Tyler Skaggs or Trevor Bauer). Relief pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo was recalled Saturday to take the open spot for now; Hudson was slated to pitch Monday against Philadelphia. Stay tuned.