Frieri: on point lately
Over his last 10 outings, Grant Balfour has blown two of eight save chances and walked six in 9 2/3 innings. (That's a 5.59 BB/9 for those keeping track.) After a recent stretch of three straight scoreless trips, he allowed a two-run homer to blow a closing call Wednesday.
Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin is sticking with him, despite the Australian's reoccurring trouble with walks. That trio of effective outings probably gave Balfour more cred with skip. On the bright side, Balfour has walked just one batter over his last five outings, during which he's fanned five. Maybe a recent stint of inactivity got to him, despite his assertions.
Ryan Cook's similar struggles don't have him threatening Balfour. Sean Doolittle wrapped one up last Friday, but he was facing a gang of lefty batters, and Melvin didn't want to discard him after the leadoff hitter. Maybe Doolittle will make another cameo, but Balfour was warming up for his last one. Outside rest, he should continue to prepare for such situations with Oakland close to clinching the AL West.
Mark Melancon suffered his third blown save of the season on Wednesday (two runs, four hits allowed). Jason Grilli hasn't allowed a run in his last pair of games; that's an improvement on a rough stretch following his activation from the disabled list. On the off-chance the Pittsburgh Pirates want to see if their closer for most of the season would be a better postseason option than the one that's filled his gap, Grilli is worth a trial in deep leagues.
Is Ernesto Frieri trying to become Goose Gossage? Following his two-inning wrap-up Sunday, he now has seven multi-inning saves on the season, which leads the bigs. He's given only up two plate-crossings (one earned) over those 11 innings, with 19 K's and six walks.
Mike Scioscia hasn't worried about letting the 28-year-old go the extra frame for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Most of the time, Frieri has enjoyed at least one day of rest beforehand. Frieri's 0.51 ERA during his last 15 games (including a 9-for-9 saves record and 23 K's in 17 2/3 innings) has given him firm control of this picture heading into next year.
The Houston Astros will look "to shore up the bullpen" next year, in the words of Jeff Luhnow. He wasn't specific as to the desired roles to acquire, but even if he brings in capable setup men, they'll at least push Joshua Fields for the back-end throne in the spring. The right-hander, however, looks like the front-runner next camp and, though he'd be one of the last closers drafted, could pay off nicely if his late-2013 improvements carry over.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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