June 28, 2011
Walden blew his third consecutive save chance in Monday's extra-inning win over the Nationals, allowing a ninth-inning homer to Danny Espinosa(notes). Nothing cheap about the blast — roll the tape. Walden doesn't have a strikeout in his last three appearances, and he's been a little wild most of the year (17 walks in 34.2 innings).
So what does it all mean going forward? Maybe nothing. Scioscia hasn't sounded the alarm yet. Let's go to Lyle Spencer of MLB.com:
Mike Scioscia remains firmly behind the young Texan in the ninth inning.
"It's tough for Jordan, but he rebounded to get the last out and give us a chance to win."
It's a little easier for Scioscia to remain calm given the Angels have managed to bail out two of Walden's three recent blown saves, and the two previous missteps had extenuating circumstances (the umps blew some calls at Chavez Ravine on Sunday, and Walden inherited an eighth-inning mess against the Marlins on Wednesday). And it's always a good practice for the manager to show faith in his players, especially the younger ones. If the skipper isn't ready to make a move, why put any doubt in Walden's head? That established, some of us are fighting for every save we can get, and that means we have to look around at the other possibilities if Walden can't get right.
Veteran lefty Scott Downs(notes) has been the most effective man in the Angels bullpen, posting a 1.69 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 26.2 innings. He's been dominant against both sides of the plate (righties hit .192, lefties hit .182) and he's only walked six men all year. You won't get a dazzling strikeout rate here, but Downs can survive pitching to contact — he's carrying a 57.1 ground-ball rate for his career.
Those in holds leagues know all about Downs — he's already grabbed 11 of those. He also picked up win No. 5 on Monday, working a scoreless 10th inning. In deeper leagues, Downs has some value even if he's not closing.
Perhaps Downs could see the ninth inning if Walden doesn't right the ship this week. The saves dynamic varies greatly from league to league, so your plan of attack will differ depending on format. I made a speculation play with Downs last night, especially in one league where I already have Walden. In shallower leagues, this is more of a situation to monitor.
As for the rest of Monday's sandlottery, here are some tasty bullets:
• Mike Leake(notes) doesn't have the most electric stuff on the Cincinnati staff, not even close, but lately he's been the best pitcher. He threw six scoreless innings at Tampa on Monday and is on a nifty 2.49 roll since he returned from the minors seven starts ago (four wins, eight walks, 26 strikeouts). The modest K/9 rate makes some nervous, but so long as he's not walking anyone, you can win with this profile. Leake also gets a ground ball 49.2 percent of the time for his career, a necessity for his home park. He's at home Sunday against the Indians, a spot I'd dial him up for.
• The Cubs had an easy time of it in their matinee, with Aramis Ramirez(notes) and Carlos Pena both homering twice in a 7-3 victory. If you were patient with either corner, you've been richly rewarded of late. Ramirez has a .548 slugging percentage and six homers in June, while Pena has been on a .251/.369/.567 wave (with 15 homers) since May 1.
• Brandon Beachy's(notes) starts are becoming appointment TV, and we can safely say his oblique injury is a thing of the past. He toyed with the Mariners at Safeco (6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K), throwing 75 of 107 pitches for strikes. A parade of relievers took over from there, with Jonny Venters(notes) mercifully getting a day off. Craig Kimbrel(notes) struck out the side in the ninth on just 12 pitches. The next Beach day comes Sunday at home against Baltimore.
• Eric Thames(notes) got into the lineup for Toronto, hitting second. He went 1-for-4 with a double and three strikeouts, to go with his 2-for-5 effort back on Friday. The Blue Jays haven't moved Jose Bautista(notes) to third base yet, but it's expected to happen this week — which should be the impetus for Thames to secure a full-time audition.
• The Dodgers used the old Chapter 11 distraction trick at Minnesota and it worked like a charm: 15 runs, 25 hits. Tony Gwynn Jr.(notes) posted a 6-2-4-1 line with two steals, which should probably keep him in the lineup for a while (he was Sunday's hero as well). Chad Billingsley(notes) has no pattern, so we won't bother looking for one. He's been sharp in two starts after getting kicked around in his previous three. Don't look for Jonathan Broxton(notes) back anytime soon; he's headed for an MRI on his elbow.
Speed Round: Lonnie Chisenhall(notes) went 2-for-4 in his debut (single, double) and the Indians got a victory courtesy of two Cabrera homers (one Orlando, one Asdrubal). J.J. Putz(notes) allowed the O-Cab homer in the ninth, snapping a 4-4 tie. … The Padres scratched out a 4-3 lead through six innings against Kansas City, then the bullpen was able to Save it for Latos. Heath Bell(notes) wasn't in a hurry in the ninth — he allowed two hits and made about 47 pickoff throws — but it all ended with a handshake, so no worries. … Adam Kennedy(notes) homered for Seattle, because that's what No. 3 hitters (and designated hitters) do. Dustin Ackley(notes) went 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts out of the No. 5 slot. … Jonny Gomes(notes) has his mojo working of late, with three homers in five days and a .326/.444/.628 slash this month. He homered in front of his old catwalk friends on Monday, and is a worthy spot-play for the next two days while the Reds have a need for a DH. … Derek Jeter(notes) (calf) won't be ready to come off the DL on Wednesday, when he's first eligible. … Outfielder Alex Presley(notes) is an interesting call-up in Pittsburgh. He posted a .336/.389/.500 slash in Triple-A, with eight homers and 18 steals. The Bucs have three games at Toronto starting Tuesday, which buys an extra lineup slot. … You're cordially invited to follow Roto Arcade on Facebook, and I'm on Twitter as well.