Let the bidding war for Kyle Barraclough begin!
The Tuesday night escapades began in Cleveland, where Trevor Bauer crushed the Reds with 12 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings. The Indians led 4-0, and Cody Allen came in for the final three outs.
He didn't get them. The Reds scored seven runs -- all with two outs -- to pull off a shocking 7-4 comeback victory. Joey Votto's three-run double provided the go-ahead runs:
That double didn't come off Allen. It came off Dan Otero, who entered with the 4-3 lead and the bases juiced. At the time, it seemed like a weird decision to bring in Otero instead of lefty Oliver Perez, given that Votto entered the game with a .961 OPS versus righties and .694 versus lefties. It was not just a weird decision. It was a colossal miscommunication between Terry Francona and pitching coach Carl Willis:
Why Dan Otero instead of Oliver Perez in the ninth? Terry Francona told Carl Willis to call for "OP" on the bullpen phone. Willis thought he said "OT." When Otero entered, Francona was surprised.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 11, 2018
Can't make this stuff up.
Indeed, Francona appeared to motion for a lefty when he went to take out Allen. Willis took the blame after the game. Francona took responsibility as well. Heck, Cody Allen blamed himself. And really, as big as the Otero-Perez gaffe was, the bigger problem is that anybody Francona summons from the bullpen these days isn't a good option.
The Indians have a 5.37 bullpen ERA, worst in the majors. Andrew Miller, when he returns from the DL for his knee problem sometime after the All-Star break, isn't going to fix this all by himself. That is why the Indians will be in on every significant reliever available at the trade deadline, whether it's Barraclough or Zach Britton or Joakim Soria or one of the Padres guys, or maybe they try to pry Raisel Iglesias from the Reds.
Look, the Indians will win the division no matter what they do with the bullpen, but theirs doesn't look like a bullpen that wins a World Series. The Cleveland bullpen won't have to carry the same load in the postseason as other teams, given that Francona can ride Bauer and Corey Kluber deeper into games, but the Indians are going to need more than a healthy Miller and Allen. They do have some flexibility in moving a starter such as Shane Bieber there in October, but it seems likely that they'll add a couple relievers at the deadline.
(Also, kudos here to the Reds, who continue to play well. They've won 33 of their past 57 games. As Buster Olney pointed out, that's a 93-win pace.)
The bullpen situation is a little more complicated for the Astros. They rank third in the majors with a 2.78 ERA, second in strikeout rate and first in lowest walk rate ... yet continue to blow leads. They led the A's 4-0 heading into the top of ninth. Ken Giles faced three batters, allowed three hits and was removed. Hector Rondon allowed two more hits, including a game-tying double. In the 11th, Collin McHugh -- who does have a 1.02 ERA -- gave up a go-ahead home run to Stephen Piscotty, only to be rescued when the Astros scored twice to win.
The walk-off play there provided one of the strangest endings we'll see all season:
We love weird walkoffs! pic.twitter.com/lCOksfntaf— Houston Astros (@astros) July 11, 2018
Called it. Said "@ABREG_1 is gonna tap it foul, its gonna spin back fair, catcher picks it up to tag Breg but hes gonna matrix it which then the ball is thrown at the ump, catchers gonna pick it up and rifle it to the back of Bregs head and the ball goes into RF. Tucker scores"— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) July 11, 2018
Anyway, the bullpen ERA is great. McHugh has been excellent, Chris Devenski (1.73) has been excellent, Rondon (1.62) has generally been excellent. Still, there are concerns here. The Astros entered the game 14th in the majors in bullpen Win Probability Added, so the glossy ERA and strikeout totals hide that the pen hasn't been particularly clutch. As with Cleveland, the Astros will move a starter to the pen in October -- Lance McCullers would be a nice weapon there -- so maybe they just roll with what they have and fly by the seat of their pants like they did last October.
Strong debut for De Los Santos: In matchup of starters making their big league debuts, the Phillies' Enyel De Los Santos outpitched the Mets' Drew Gagnon in a 7-3 victory. De Los Santos, acquired from the Padres in the offseason for Freddy Galvis, allowed one run over his first six innings before tiring in the seventh and giving up two more. Still, he showed why he had a sub-2.00 ERA in Triple-A, attacking hitters with a 92-95 mph sinking fastball and mixing in a curveball and changeup.
Enyel painting corners for his first major league strikeout. 🎨🖌️ pic.twitter.com/galmF2ncdg— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 10, 2018
De Los Santos was optioned back to Triple-A after the game, but he did pitch the Phillies into sole possession of first place in the NL East, the latest they've been in first since the final day of the 2011 season.
Hey, this bullpen thing is working: The Rays beat the Tigers 5-2 to improve to 47-44. Ryne Stanek started and went two innings, and four relievers followed him (with three of them also going at least two innings). Since the Rays first employed the "opener" strategy on May 19, they lead the majors with a 2.77 ERA. Check the before and after numbers:
Before May 19
After May 19
Manny Machado hurts future team: The Orioles beat the Yankees 6-5 as Machado slammed two home runs:
The Orioles are now 5-4 against the Yankees (and 1-9 against the Red Sox).