Closing Time: Scott Baker battered, B.J. Ryan brutal

Our usual closer is suffering from the vapours tonight, so you'll have to settle for me. And after watching CC Sabathia allow seven runs (six earned) to the American League's lowest-scoring lineup, I'm feeling a little vapoury, too. Let's dig in. We've got struggling aces and imminent closer changes to cover...

Scott Baker was feeling particularly generous in the early innings against Boston. He allowed two-run homers in each of the first three innings, ultimately giving up 10 hits and six runs. Baker's velocity was just fine (90-93 mph), but his mistakes were thoroughly punished.

Nonetheless, he sounded oddly confident after the game:

"It was a little better than last outing as far as the mechanics go, as far as getting the ball down ... I'm not too discouraged ... Physically, I feel great. The stuff is there; I just need to be more consistent."

It's not so surprising that Baker has been mass-dropped today (8,388 times as of 10:45 PT). His WHIP is 2.08 after two starts and his ERA is 12.46. But this is what a buy-low candidate looks like: flawed, winless, big-WHIPped.

Benching him against Tampa next week is reasonable; redefining him as an unownable pitcher after 8.2 innings is not. The streamers among you can do whatever you like, but other Baker owners need to show some restraint. This is not the time for a vengeful drop.

Tim Wakefield picked up a rain-shortened seven-inning complete game in Boston's win, which is sweet for those of you in ridiculous, gimmicky leagues that use categories like CGs and SHOs. Feel free to use the comments section to gloat. The rest of you may proceed to the bullets...

Toronto managed to win tonight, despite the efforts of B.J. Ryan. He hit the first batter he faced, walked the second, and eventually allowed a homer and three runs. Ryan's ERA is now 11.12; Scott Downs' ERA is 1.02.

Here are the essential details from the AP recap:

Manager Cito Gaston said Ryan’s future as Toronto’s closer will be decided after a chat with Ryan and general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

"He’s having trouble with his control to me," Gaston said. "I don’t know if he’s hurting or not hurting, but we’d certainly like to see him do a little bit better than that. That’s not going to get it done for us."

Add Downs tonight, saves chasers. Now.

Also note that Rafael Soriano got the save for Atlanta against the Nats. Mike Gonzalez entered a tied game in the eighth to face Adam Dunn, in a lefty-versus-lefty move. He struck out Dunn, but the Braves pinch-hit for Gonzalez in the ninth while walking their way to a one-run lead. (Thank you very much, Mike Hinckley). Soriano then took over and closed the door on Washington, striking out two batters in a perfect inning. This could be a co-closer situation. Soriano has been awfully good so far: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K.

Nyjer Morgan stole bases No. 5 and 6 in Team LaRoche's Pittsburgh's 7-4 win over Ricky Nolasco and the Fish. The Yahoo! community has been ditching Nolasco, (2,505 drops so far today), but it's worth noting that he started poorly last year, too. Nolasco posted a 5.79 April ERA in '08, with 12 Ks in 23 innings; he finished with 186 strikeouts and great ratios.

And who are the Baker and Nolasco droppers picking up? Jarrod Washburn, of course. The M's lefty is 34 years old and he has a 5.37 career K/9, yet he's been added 16,171 times today. Yes, he was excellent on Tuesday. (Per their usual, USS Mariner had the best analysis of Washburn's win). However, it should be possible to appreciate a great effort from a player like Washburn without deciding that he's reached a new plateau from which he will never descend.

It's like when Brian Bannister throws six scoreless innings against Cleveland (4 H, 2 BB, 1 K) and picks up a win. Don't add. Just appreciate Bannister's game and move on.

Cliff Lee was the hard-luck loser against the Royals. Lee pitched eight quality innings, allowing just two runs and striking out five. One of the runs scored on a weak bloop off the bat of Willie Bloomquist. Joakim Soria pitched an unusually messy ninth (one hit, one walk, one deep fly that DeJesus nearly dropped), but he K'd Trevor Crowe on an untouchable curve to finish the Tribe.

Brad Penny pitched six effective, largely K-less innings in the second game of the Twins-Red Sox doubleheader, earning a win over Francisco Liriano. For those who stream, Penny should get Cleveland next.

One more Boston nugget: Julio Lugo is actively rehabbing, and could return as early as next Monday.

Jorge Posada requested the baseball after doubling off Brett Anderson in the third inning today, apparently because he'd just moved into 11th place on the all-time Yankees doubles list. Seriously. Anderson was mostly a wreck, and not just because he gave up the historic double. He allowed nine hits, three homers and five earned runs to the Yanks, and failed to cover first base on what should have been a routine 3-1 ground-out. Instead, it became a footrace between Landon Powell and Hideki Matsui.

In just six games at the new Yankee Stadium, 26 home runs have been hit. Brian Cashman has pledged to monitor the issue. "It's possible that the ballpark is a home run-type park," said the GM.

Ryan Spilborghs went 4-for-5 today, raising his average to a suddenly respectable .283. He scored no runs and drove none in, yet he accounted for most of the offensive attack against Dan Haren, who was excellent again (7 IP, 0 ER, 9 K). You'll recall that the key split with Haren has been pre-All Star break versus post-ASB. File that away for trade purposes.

Pablo Sandoval started at catcher for the Giants, but Bengie Molina would not sit idle. Molina entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the tenth and drove in the winning (and only) run in the Giants victory over the Padres. Do not react to Barry Zito's line. In fact, don't even look at it.

The Cubs were humbled by Johnny Cueto (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 K) on Wednesday, and Milton Bradley was thrice-whiffed in his return. Chicago will call up Jeff Samardzija to assist the 'pen on Thursday. He'll offer Ks and holds.

Brewers fans, here's a sentence from the Associated Press that should make you feel good about your team's chances this year:

PHILADELPHIA (AP)—With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets gone, Braden Looper has given the Milwaukee Brewers a new ace.

That's right: Braden Looper, staff ace. Go forth and conquer. Todd Coffey picked up a sloppy save against the Phils, but remember that Trevor Hoffman returns soon.

Speaking of rogue saves, LaTroy Hawkins shut the door for Houston in a 1-2-3 ninth. Jose Valverde was unavailable, because of a medley of lower leg issues. Hawkins has now pitched in three straight games, so you shouldn't expect him to go tomorrow against LA. Valverde might be ready.

How good is John Danks? So good that we won't even make a big deal out of yet another one-run effort. It's worth noting that Alexei Ramirez was heard from again (1 R, 1 SB), and Josh Fields went 3-for-5 with his first homer of the season. Leadoff hitter Chris Getz went 3-for-4, scored three runs, drove in two, and raised his average to .316.

Ryan Franklin just picked up one of the all-time cheap saves. He had a three-run lead, and he managed to coax a pop-out from a 40-year-old man. This was Franklin's final line: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0R, 0 K, 1 SV. What a closing mentality that dude has.

Good news here for Beltran owners:

Manuel also is looking to energize the lineup and said he’d move Carlos Beltran up two spots to third in the order Thursday, switching places with David Wright.

Every Angels starter collected at least one hit against the Tigers tonight and nearly everyone scored a run, so there's not much hope for Brandon Wood. He had another DNP. The Angels still lost, 12-10, in a game that was very much not a pitching duel. The seven percent-owned Kendry Morales had a big fantasy line (2-for-5, 1 HR, 5 RBI). Yahoo! Sports blogger Curtis Granderson went 3-for-4, as did blogger Torii Hunter. Granderson homered, though, so we win.

Jorge Cantu's wrist injury is apparently nothing more than a bruise, and he could return by the end of the week.

We leave you tonight with video of Manny Ramirez hitting a ball approximately 9,000 feet, completely out of Minute Maid Park. That ain't easy.


Photos via AP Images

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