UPDATE: Welp, the uncertainty didn’t last long. Balfour is out as Rays’ closer. Joe Maddon said he would use the old “closer by committee” thing.
9:16 AM: Grant Balfour has been pretty atrocious this season. He has a 6.46 ERA, a 1.65 WHIP, and 21/20 K/BB ratio in 23 and two-thirds innings. Yesterday he came in to a 0-0 game in the ninth inning and surrendered five runs on four hits and walked two. Yet, he remains the Rays’ closer. For now. From Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:
Grant Balfour didn’t really have any answers after his latest ninth-inning collapse, turning a scoreless game — with two outs, nobody on and two strikes on a .167 hitter — into a 5-0 mess of a loss Sunday.
“He’s our closer as of today,” Maddon replied . . . “Even if I was going to change anything, I wouldn’t tell you guys anyhow.”
The Rays’ season is sort of lost already, so maybe who is closing the games doesn’t matter. But in the meantime, Jake McGee or Juan Carlos Oviedo may be getting some time in the ninth inning soon.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor appeared to luck out when a replay review was upheld in the 14th inning, ruling Odor safe at second base. Odor had beaten out an infield single to put the go-ahead run on base in a 4-4 game, then scampered to second base on Chris Jimenez’s single to right field.
Odor rounded the second base bag a little too hard and had to retreat quickly as Jose Bautista fired a laser to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. To the naked eye, Odor appeared to barely get back in safely, but replays showed Odor’s foot coming off of the bag following initial contact as Tulowitzki applied the tag. The initial safe call was upheld as there ostensibly wasn’t overwhelming evidence upon which to base a decision to overturn.
The call would immediately prove important, as Odor came in to score the go-ahead run when Hanser Albert ripped a single to center field. The Rangers took a 5-4 lead in the game and would tack on one more before the frame was over, helping them move to a 2-0 AL Division Series lead over the Blue Jays.
After going 0-for-6 with two strikeouts on Friday, Josh Hamilton is hitless, as well as walkless, in his last 27 postseason at-bats dating back to the 2012 wild card game. And it’s not like he’s making good outs. He’s swinging at everything, and he went his first eight ALDS at-bats without hitting a ball out of the infield.
At this point, it’s worth wondering whether the Rangers should be playing Hamilton at all. He hit two homers in an 11-10 loss to the Angels last Saturday, but those were his only two homers since he came off the DL when rosters expanded last month. He’s 7-for-38 (.184) with one additional extra-base hit, four RBI and a 16/1 K/BB ratio during that span.
The Rangers also realize that Hamilton is not their best defensive left fielder, which is why he’s typically pulled in favor of Will Venable when the team has a lead.
Of course, the Rangers are up 2-0 on the Blue Jays. There’s certainly no sense of urgency for making a switch and putting Hamilton on the bench. If he turns in another 0-for as part of a Game 3 loss, that would begin to change. The Rangers have alternatives. They used Mike Napoli in left field at times late in the regular season, and while that’s a clear defensive downgrade even from Hamilton, they could go that route next time they face a lefty. Venable and Drew Stubbs would offer more defense, probably at the expense of offense. Venable has had solid seasons in the past, but he was hit just .182/.325/.227 in 66 at-bats after arriving from the Padres this summer, and he wasn’t great early on, either. Stubbs hasn’t started a game since Sept. 23 and was just 2-for-21 with the Rangers after being picked up for the final month.
For now Hamilton seems like a given to start Game 3. And if he picks up a couple of hits, any talk of him being benched will go away for a spell. Still, the Rangers need to at least stick him behind Rougned Odor in the bottom half of their lineup. Odor looks like one of the Rangers’ best players right now, yet he never got to hit with a man on base Friday batting behind Hamilton. Hamilton hit with six men on base.
Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil suffered “a pretty significant tear” in his left calf during his team’s loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.
Cecil allowed the Rangers to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning on Mike Napoli‘s RBI single. The lefty promptly picked Napoli off of first base, engaging the Rangers’ slugger in a rundown, but suffered the calf tear in the process. The Blue Jays can expect to be without Cecil for the remainder of the post-season, whether that lasts just one more game or longer.
Cecil, 29, got off to a shaky start during the regular season but finished strong, ultimately compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 70/13 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings. He allowed only two runs — both unearned — in 37 appearances between June 24 and the end of the regular season.
The Blue Jays suffered an injury scare in Game 1 as Josh Donaldson took a knee to the helmet trying to break up a double play. He was removed from the game for precautionary purposes but returned for Game 2, during which he belted a solo home run. Outfielder Jose Bautista also exited Game 1 early with a right hamstring cramp, but was able to make Friday’s start.