The chase for saves is one of our never-ending pursuits in this crazy game, and that's why we begin tonight's wrap with an audit of the ninth inning at Seattle.
Mariners closer David Aardsma(notes) didn't have a thing against Baltimore Wednesday, allowing five straight men to reach before he was mercifully removed from the game. His teammates played some spotty defense behind him as well, but make no mistake, this stomach-punch defeat is squarely on the shoulders of the bullpen ace, no one else.
Generally it's best to have a short memory when these outings come up – Aardsma's in the middle of an outstanding year (17-for-19 on saves, 2.11 ERA, juicy strikeout rate) and deserves a pass – but we also have to consider that he had a sore back last week and he's never been in this role for an extended period of time. Mark Lowe's(notes) stat line isn't anything that blows you away (3.40 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .248 BAA), but if you're in a deep league where there's a knife fight over every save, he might be worth a speculation grab until we know for sure that Aardama isn't dinged up.
• The second hat trick of the week belongs to Andruw Jones(notes), who pounded three balls into the rock formations at the Big A Wednesday night. This doesn't necessarily make Jones a hot fantasy commodity, albeit 14 homers in 160 at-bats is rather impressive; two of his taters came off the struggling Ervin Santana(notes) (3 HR allowed, 7.81 ERA), and Ron Washington has yet to show that he'll commit an everyday lineup spot to Jones. And let's not forget that Jones brings average risk (he's at .250) into the equation and he's no longer a major factor on the bases (three steals).
• Has Homer Bailey(notes) finally turned the corner? He was a mess in his first start back (seven walks), but he rebounded nicely with a sterling turn against the Cardinals last week (7.1 IP, 2 R) and he was sharp again Wednesday, in Philadelphia of all places (6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K). Bailey's fly-ball tendencies will always make him something of a risk in his home park, but I'm at least curious to see how he performs out of the break next week. Just a couple of years ago, he was a trendy prospect with plenty of buzz; pedigree never goes away.
• It's been 40 years since Jim Bouton's Ball Four season, a fact that Oliver Perez(notes) might have had on the brain as he meandered through five messy innings against the Dodgers Wednesday (5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 7 BB, 2 K, and hey, a lucky win). He labored for 108 pitches in this stint, with just 55 strikes. "I felt like we left him off the hook a little bit," Casey Blake(notes) admitted. I'll need to see several steps in the opposite direction before I let Perez influence my ERA and WHIP.
• Jonathan Papelbon(notes) keeps closing games for the Red Sox but he's not making things easy on himself, carrying around a 1.37 WHIP and 18 walks through 38 innings. Papelbon probably would have suffered a blown save Wednesday if the Back Bay winds weren't gusting in; Scott Hairston(notes) roped a ball to left-center field that was knocked down and secured at the base of the wall. Papelbon's latest save came in support of Tim Wakefield's(notes) 11th victory; the first-time all-star turned in a season-high eight strikeouts against Oakland, but he also skated around 10 hits and a walk through six-plus innings.
• Scott Kazmir(notes) has thrown more strikes of late – just four walks in his last three turns – but the Jays didn't have any problem hitting his strikes Tuesday, knocking him around for nine hits and seven runs over 6.1 innings. There's no poorer return for your dollar in the American League right now than the overrated Tampa lefty. Alas, Kazmir didn't have to suffer a loss, as the magnetic Rays offense threw 17 hits, 10 runs, and four steals at five Toronto pitchers. Jason Frasor(notes) was tagged with the game-deciding run in the bottom of the ninth, though the game ended with Scott Downs(notes) (1 H, 1 BB) on the mound.
Injury Blog: Raul Ibanez(notes) (groin) is making good progress and remains on schedule to join the Phillies this weekend. … Torii Hunter(notes) (groin) wasn't able to play Wednesday and might take it easy into the break (he's also declined an invitation to the Home Run contest). … Aubrey Huff(notes) strained his groin late in Baltimore's comeback win and had to leave the game. The Orioles are off Thursday. Brian Roberts(notes) (respiratory infection) got the day off. … Hanley Ramirez(notes) (hip flexor) sat for the fourth straight game and there's no specific word on when he'll return. Fredi Gonzalez is hoping Ramirez will play two games in the Arizona series, but we've heard this optimistic tune all week. … The Braves aren't sure what's up with Jordan Schafer's(notes) wrist injury, but there's been talk of him potentially missing the rest of the year. … Geovany Soto(notes) (oblique) might be a candidate for the DL, depending on what the team learns from his MRI, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. … Carlos Guillen(notes) (soulder) will start a rehab assignment on the weekend. … Kiko Calero(notes) (shoulder) is back with the Marlins, just to make things a little more congested in that bullpen. He was in the middle of an outstanding year before he got hurt. … Emmanuel Burriss(notes) is headed for foot surgery, not that you were glued to his progress in Triple-A. Bruce Bochy says he'll miss two months.
Speed Round: Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says the team isn't going to trade Adam Dunn(notes). I suppose the Nats would love to ship Nick Johnson(notes) somewhere and let Dunn take over at first; the lumbering left fielder has become an embarrassment in left field (10 errors, spotty range). … Daniel Murphy(notes) pretty much has no mixed-league roto value these days, but we gotta give him some props for this sweet play at first base. … Alfonso Soriano(notes) wasn't in the lineup Wednesday and apparently wasn't happy that he wasn't told ahead of time. … If you need more proof of Magglio Ordonez's(notes) diminished fantasy value, here it is – Jim Leyland plans to platoon Ordonez with Clete Thomas(notes) in right field going forward. Next question. … Joe Mauer(notes) homered in the loss to New York and he missed a second homer by about two feet. He's up to .388 on the year. … Matt Kemp(notes) is making it work in the No. 8 slot; he had three hits and a pair of runs in Wednesday's loss. Joe Torre, I'll never understand your lineup decisions. … I stand behind the Chris Volstad(notes) argument I threw your way last week, but credit where it's due – he was outstanding at San Francisco Wednesday (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, just 105 pitches). The maddening Dan Uggla(notes) helped the cause with a three-run homer and two walks. … Ian Kinsler(notes) was given a routine day off in the OC.