Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in his ability to handle the ninth inning. He served up a two-run home run to the Reds’ Scooter Gennett, cutting the Phillies’ lead from 4-1 to 4-3 in the ninth inning on Opening Day. On Sunday against the Nationals, Gomez erased a 3-0 lead when he gave up a game-tying, three-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman.
Gomez’s struggles date back to last season. Between August 14 and the end of the regular season, Gomez appeared in 19 games, accrued 15 innings, and gave up 22 earned runs on 29 hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts. That’s a rather large 13.20 ERA for those keeping score.
Gomez doesn’t have the stuff often seen with closers. He struck out batters at a meager 15.8 percent clip last season, well below the 22.7 percent league average for relievers. His 7.4 walk rate was only marginally below nine percent league average as well, not nearly good enough to make up for the lack of whiffs. Gomez has a fastball that sits in the low-90’s, relying more on getting ground balls. But the two ground balls he induced for outs in the ninth inning Sunday were his first two of the season; he has yielded five fly balls and three line drives.
MLB.com’s Ben Harris reports that manager Pete Mackanin is “considering” demoting Gomez from the closer’s role. He’ll have a talk with the veteran to determine his next steps. It would not be surprising to see Joaquin Benoit or Hector Neris take over the ninth inning if not on Monday, then before the month is out.
Giants’ right-hander Mark Melancon is considering surgery for an undisclosed injury, the pitcher told reporters prior to Friday’s game against the Phillies. Melancon did not divulge the exact location of the injury, but revealed that it had been plaguing him off and on since the 2012 season and was a separate issue from the right pronator strain that kept him sidelined through much of July and August. Giants’ head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner called the injury day-to-day and has not revealed a timetable for the right-hander’s return, should surgery become necessary.
Melancon, 32, has struggled to replicate the sparkling pitching line he produced with the Pirates and Nationals in 2016. He’s toting a 3.80 ERA through 25 appearances with San Francisco, flanked by a 1.1 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 23 2/3 innings. His season has been significantly shortened after multiple trips to the disabled list for a right forearm strain, and while he looked to be in line to resume his closing duties this week, the Giants will likely play it safe with the veteran righty to keep him from compromising his health in 2018.
Although the injury doesn’t appear to be severe in nature, it’s clearly intensified over the last few months. Per MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Melancon said he’s “had discomfort every day this season,” though he hopes to continue pitching through the remainder of 2017. The Giants aren’t on the verge of contending by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid end to the 2017 season could help Melancon make some headway as he looks to reclaim his status as the team’s closer next spring.
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Just ask Javier Baez, who tracked down a sizzling 106-MPH ground ball from Jose Bautista on Friday afternoon. The defensive gem helped preserve the Cubs’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, paving the way for Wade Davis‘ 25th save of the season.
Baez also impressed at the plate, collecting an RBI single in the second inning before getting tagged out at home by Miguel Montero on a convoluted 9-6-3-6-2 putout. He returned in the eighth inning to pester Tim Mayza and cleared the left field hedge with a 409-foot, two-run blast for his 20th home run of the year. With the win, the Cubs improved to 64-57 and now hold a scant 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.