Whaddya hear, whaddya say? Let's see what happened on the sandlots over the last 24 hours, with a heavy focus on the saves chase.
• Has the other cleat finally dropped for slumping Minnesota closer Matt Capps(notes)? He blew his seventh save of the year in Friday's 2-1 loss to Kansas City, offering up a courtesy fastball that Eric Hosmer(notes) took out of the yard. Capps hasn't struck out anyone in three weeks, his ERA has pushed up to 4.76, and the Twins have a perfectly serviceable alternative to go back to in Joe Nathan(notes) (seven straight scoreless innings, no walks, seven whiffs). Ron Gardenhire, a little help, please? Your team might sneak back into the AL Central race, but you can't keep handing away ballgames at the end. (Saturday PM Update: Finally, Gardy wakes up. Welcome back to the ninth, Joe Nathan. Put down that coffee, Matty Capps.)
• Ryan Dempster(notes) was a guy pitching in poor luck for just about the entire first half, but he opened the second half in style. The Marlins couldn't do a thing with Dempster over eight innings Friday afternoon (4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K), which was important for the Cubs because Ricky Nolasco(notes) was terrific on the other side (7 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 7 K). Any respectable GM from a contending club needs to be calling the Cubs regularly to see if Dempster can be had in trade. (As for Nolasco, the Marlins say he's going nowhere — same for Anibal Sanchez(notes).)
Dempster's win almost went in the dumpster in the ninth, as Carlos Marmol(notes) didn't have it for the second straight day. Three of five batters reached against Marmol before Sean Marshall(notes) bailed him out, putting down the fire. Given that Mike Quade went into a substantial Marmol defense just 24 hours ago, I'm not going to worry too much about Marmol yet — so long as we don't hear any talk about physical problems.
• The Reds and Cardinals played the game of the night, a tense and spirited division blood feud that featured plenty of lead changes and momentum swings. Albert Pujols(notes) gave the Cardinals the upper hand when he crushed an Aroldis Chapman(notes) fastball in the eighth inning, but the Reds stole the decision back in the bottom of the ninth on Brandon Phillips's(notes) walk-off clout against Fernando Salas(notes). You couldn't blame the Cardinals closer on the final pitch, Phillips practically took the ball off his shoetop. Chris Heisey(notes) was the earlier star of the night, homering twice and scoring three runs out of the leadoff spot. Dusty Baker, get this guy in there regularly.
The recent gushing over Chapman doesn't go away because he allowed a Pujols blast — that's going to happen now and then. And I really don't want to tax Salas for the fact that he blew a game on a reasonable pitch (over, but low), and yet we can't ignore that the Cardinals are regularly seen as a contender in the Heath Bell(notes) chase. Salas has been steady as the closer over the last few months, but he doesn't have the perfect skill set for the position, with a good-not-great fastball in the 91-92 range. Tread carefully.
• The Blue Jays don't have Jose Bautista(notes) back yet but that didn't matter Friday against the Yanks, as Toronto piled up another 11 hits and seven runs and cruised to victory. The same pickup candidates keep shining here: Eric Thames(notes) had two hits and two runs, Travis Snider(notes) posted a 3-1-2-1 line with a steal, and Edwin Encarnacion(notes) reached three times and swiped a base. The Blue Jays are quietly the fourth-best offense in the majors right now (449 runs), only behind the Red Sox, Rangers and Yankees. And yes, Virginia, that's why we always tell you to steer your pitchers away from the AL East, all else equal. It's a pretty difficult place for a hurler to make a living.
• The Mets were prepared to give a Friday night save chance to Jason Isringhausen(notes) (not Bobby Parnell(notes)), but it didn't matter as the Phillies rolled to a 7-2 victory. Short-term interest players Raul Ibanez(notes) (homer) and John Mayberry(notes) (five RBIs) carried the Philly offense, while Vance Worley(notes) ducked and weaved his way to a victory (5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K). I'm not going to trust Worley in Wrigley Field next week, however. Ryan Madson(notes) is back with the Phils, though he won't be pushed into closing right away. He posted a scoreless inning. Carlos Beltran(notes) had a homer late in the match, duly noted by the numerous scouts in attendance.
• The Livan Hernandez(notes) matrix has been clear for a while: he's steady at home this year (3.09/1.12) and scary on the road (5.25/1.71). The Braves kicked him around for six runs (three earned) on Friday, then tacked on five more tallies against the dregs of the Washington bullpen. Lineup returnee Martin Prado(notes) had the starring role (homer, two hits, three runs) while Freddie Freeman(notes) (still underowned) added two hits and three RBIs. Alex Gonzalez(notes) dropped to the No. 8 slot in the Atlanta lineup with Prado back, a move we can all agree with.
• It was a fairly tidy day for the Dodgers at Arizona, with Clayton Kershaw(notes) getting his tenth win, Javy Guerra(notes) getting his fifth save (a one-out job in relief of Hong-Chih Kuo(notes)) and no checks bouncing, as far as we know. Juan Rivera(notes) went 2-for-4 with a homer in his LA debut, but he won't be facing Joe Saunders(notes) every night. Willie Bloomquist(notes) was the spark of the Arizona attack, reaching base three times and trying a couple of steal attempts (made it once, thrown out once). Brandon Allen(notes) appeared as a pinch-hitter and struck out.
• Oakland's promotion department decided to call this "80s Weekend" with the signature moment coming Sunday: M.C. Hammer Bobblehead Night. Apparently Friday was Manage Like Tony La Russa Night as Bob Melvin used seven pitchers in a 5-3 victory over the Angels. Joey Devine's(notes) brief outing can't be blamed on the skipper (his sore back did him in), but otherwise this was a reminder of one of baseball's most annoying problems in the current state — too many short relief stints. More exciting elements from this game: Jemile Weeks(notes) (two hits, one steal in two attempts), Josh Willingham(notes) (homer, three hits) and Brandon McCarthy(notes) (seven strikeouts, though he ran up 111 pitches by the middle of the sixth). I'd keep McCarthy benched next week, as he'll probably go at New York (Detroit is the other option).
• I'm all for the wonderful Pittsburgh story, but it's still difficult to gauge their starting pitching going forward. Consider Wiggy Recipient Jeff Karstens(notes), who threw a five-hit shutout at Houston on Friday. You love that Karstens pounded the strike zone (no walks) and was efficient (a mere 83 pitches), but we also have to note that he struck out just two batters and the Pirates made several outstanding defensive plays behind him. Karstens has a 2.38 ERA up front but it swells to 4.48 if you crunch the FIP numbers (he's been lucky with a .235 BABIP and 88.7 strand rate). I can't trust him against Cincinnati next week.
• The Mariners didn't score Friday against Texas — they're not allowed to support Doug Fister(notes) in any way, apparently — as Colby Lewis(notes) had his good stuff (8.2 IP, 8 K). Brandon League(notes) won't be looking over his shoulder anytime soon; Tommy John surgery has been recommended for David Aardsma(notes). At least the punchless Mariners have loosened the reins on hotshot rookie Dustin Ackley(notes) (.289/.353/.500). He's settled in as the No. 3 hitter, and he had a hit and a walk Friday.
Capps image courtesy Associated Press