It was a relatively quiet night for closers Monday, but there was some activity that owners were excited to see. Almost all the closer activity was in the American League, so lets start there.
Mariano Rivera notched his fourth save of the season Monday night in a 7-4 win over the Rangers. Rivera didn’t look like the 42-year old fading pitcher a lot of us expected. He had a 1-2-3 inning on 13 pitches against a tough Rangers unit on the road. Granted, he missed facing most of the Rangers big hitters, he still showed this night that he was still the best. Rivera blew his first save opportunity of the season and has since reeled off four straight. He has found his grove, throwing three straight perfect innings. From the small sampling that I’ve seem from Rivera this year, I see no reason that a fantasy manager shouldn’t have confidence in him as their #1 closer. Not only are the Yankees still a winning team, but Rivera is himself.
Over on the better half of that American League East rivalry, The Red Sox had a showdown with Matt Capps. Just note, when the Red Sox were losing 5-3 in the 8th inning. I gave this analysis to my wife while watching the game. I told her, “we got 6 outs to get two runs and at the very least Minnesota doesn’t have a closer. They have Matt Capps.” The end result was great for Red Sox fans, but not so great for the Matt Capps fan. You know, the guy that sits in the nose bleed seats with the, “Put a Capp on the Night” sign. Capps entered the game with a 5-5 tie and faced Cody Ross with two outs. He promptly gave up a bomb to right field. To be fair to Capps, he pitched well and the pitch that Ross hit was a good one, just unlucky. Still, Capps does not have the stuff to be a consistently good closer. As a fantasy owner, you will always worry when Capps takes the mound. So far Capps owners have been lucky and this was his first loss and he has yet to blow a save in four tries. What does that mean? Get ready Capps owners. The ride could get bumpy.
On the flip said of that matchup, Alfredo Aceves notched his third save of the season in five chances. He looked good, throwing 15 pitches (11 strikes) to get the three outs. He gave up one hit in the process. More important was the arrival of Daniel Bard into this game. The Red Sox starter pitched 2/3 on an inning in the eighth and got the win. While the Red Sox remain committed to Bard as a starter, the thought is there that he will be the closer before too long. If you can pick up Bard in your leagues, do it. He could very well shape up that bullpen and make the Red Sox a better team.
Since taking over the closer role for the BLue Jays Sunday, Francisco Cordero has saved two straight games. He had no problem disposing of the Royals 4-1 in a 16-pitch inning. Cordero has been hit hard this season, but since taking the closer role for the injured Sergio Santos he has been like his vintage self. If you picked up Cordero in any of your leagues, great job. In that game, Royals closer Jonathan Broxton gave up a run in an inning of work. SO far, he’s not looking that good this year. Keep an eye on that bullpen for changes later in May if things don’t get better.
Finally, John Axford came to life last night. He entered the game with a 6-5 and promptly struck ou the side, while giving up one lone hit. He threw 19 pitches, 11 for strikes and dominated the Astros hitters. Axford owners have been waiting for Axford to break out of his funk and hopefully this is the start of it. He has yet to pitch three appearances in a row without giving up a run and is sitting on a 6.35 ERA. I have no doubt in my mind that Axford will be just fine.