Rays’ bullpen having a hard time saving games

by Gary Shelton on July 9, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Alvarado started the season well, but he's been cold lately../STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 3 a.m.

It's supposed to be an easy stat, really. Just get three outs before you give up three runs. On a lot of nights, that's all.

It's supposed to be a short putt. You enter the game clean, and if you give up only as many runs as a starting pitcher does in a quality start, you get a save. Tic, Tac and Toe.

The position of closer has evolved to the point where the old-timers make fun of the modern-day guys. They often entered with the bases loaded or their team in similar trouble. These days, there are usually no base-runners darting about. They have three outs to work with.

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Castillo was fading before he was hurt./CHUCK MULLER

Think of it like this. A pitcher enters the game with a three-run lead. He gives, up, in succession, a mammoth home run and two triples off the top of the fence. He then gives up a single and walks two guys. But then the next batter pops up, and the one after that hits into a double play.

What does the reliever get out of it?

Why, a save.  Whee!

Granted, it's an extreme example. Granted, getting those last three outs is more of a challenge than, say, three outs in the bottom of the fourth.

But, sheesh.

There is a reason that Mariano Rivera had 652 saves in his career. There is a reason that Francisco Rodriguez had 62 in a single year. There is a reason that Eric Gagne once saved 84 straight games from 2002-2004.

It's simple, right.

Well, could someone please explain it the bullpen of the Tampa Bay Rays.

If you're looking for reasons to explain the team's hot start and mediocre fade, that will pretty much do it. After their starters, the Rays simply can't get anyone out. Jose Alvarado had four saves by April 7, but he's had just one since May 26. There was a reason he was on the bench during the Rays' final two one-run victories. Since May 17, Alvarado is 0-3 with a 12.54 ERA over 12 appearances. His ERA has soared from 1.04 to 5.06.

And how about Diego Castillo? He had five saves by May 28. He's had once since then. Of course, Castillo has been hurt since June 23. But in his last two days, he lost two games and gave up six earned runs. In those two games, his ERA swelled from 2.48 to 3.93. He's 1-6 on the season. He's given up 10 runs in his last nine outings.

Emilio Pagan has been better than either lately, but he's blown five saves. He's had two since April 27.

In other words, if saving games is so automatic, why are the Rays do desperately bad at it. Did they put too much trust in Alvarado? In Castillo? Do they play the matchup game too often?

Hey, there are other reasons. The Rays' hitting fades in and out. They don't run the bases well. They lose too often at home, too often to the Yankees, too often in one-run games.

But if you could wave a wand and make one part of the Rays better, it would be the bullpen.

Something needs saving. The game, and the season.


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