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With Jim Johnson hospitalized due to flu-like symptoms, the Baltimore Orioles filled the gap by having Pedro Strop log a save Tuesday. The right-hander walked one but struck out two in an accurate reflection of his skills - shaky control but attractive dominance that should give him staying power as an AL-only LIMA reliever.
Johnson will likely miss Wednesday's action, too, and probably more after that. Thanks to his mid- to high-90s stuff, Strop has earned high-leverage duty while rattling off 14 K's, five walks and a 2.45 ERA in 11 frames. The struggling Kevin Gregg hasn't pitched since last Wednesday; Baltimore is finally souring on him, it seems.
Strop and Matt Lindstrom, who's in the midst of another strong campaign, are the best fantasy bets, in that order, to keep the O's afloat during this or any other Johnson absence.
In his first save chance since April 8, Carlos Marmol came in to make a likely four-out appearance but gave up a two-out, two-run jack to Matt Holliday in the eighth to lose the lead. The Chicago Cubs' eventual comeback win dulls the pain from that botch, but it's a reminder of the pain that will frequently accompany such opportunities.
He isn't losing them, though, per skipper Dale Sveum: "He's been pitching good," Sveum said. "That's just a case to me of a 2-2 slider that (a guy) we know is one of the strongest guys in baseball hit for a home run. Did (Marmol) do anything wrong? No. It was just another guy on the other side of the fence making a lot of money that does that quite often.
"He'll be right back out there and do the same thing."
Craig Kimbrel saved Tuesday night's Atlanta Braves victory, working around a hit and walk by striking out the side. That sounds like a typical outing for the righty. He has allowed six knocks and six walks this season, though, so it has been a rough go.
Understudy Jonny Venters is already a setup man worth owning, but Kimbrel's tap dancing isn't something to panic over yet, especially since he's surviving. Still, given Kimbrel's workload concerns heading into 2012, it's something to monitor.
At least Fredi Gonzalez seems to be doing so after his aggressive handling of the righty last year; only one of Kimbrel's seven appearances so far has been in non-closing duty.
With top saves competitor Jon Rauch working a perfect eighth to secure his third win of the year, Frank Francisco worked around a walk for a scoreless inning to grab the New York Mets a save. It was his first scoreless work in five appearances, and 10 of his 16 pitches were strikes. The Mets backed Francisco after his recent stumbles and should be expected to stick with him if he can sustain this performance. He'll have these streaky bouts during the season.
Rauch shouldn't leave your watch list and is pitching well enough now to warrant a deep-league add regardless; his slider is in high gear, and he could be in line for plenty more vulture victories if this Mets staff continues its solid performance.
Unfortunately, his .111 BABIP and increase in line drives allowed say a violent correction could come. Increasing his K's would help stave off a drop-off in production, but he hasn't been a big strikeout artist in recent years.
Javy Guerra took the Los Angeles Dodgers loss after coming into a tied Tuesday affair; he allowed a single and a two-out triple. Eight of his 10 appearances this year have been of the scoreless variety, and this won't put him in jeopardy even with the improving Kenley Jansen's six-outing streak of not allowing a tally.
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