A’s manager Bob Melvin revealed this morning that the closer battle is between left-hander Brian Fuentes and right-hander Grant Balfour.
Fuentes has far more closing experience, with 199 career saves and a league-high 48 saves for the Angels in 2009, but struggled when filling in for Andrew Bailey last season and famously quarreled with then-manager Bob Geren over his usage.
Balfour has more typical closer stuff and was excellent last season in a setup role, throwing 62 innings with a 2.47 ERA and 59/20 K/BB ratio, but the 33-year-old has never saved more than four games in a season.
Beyond the obvious on-field implications of choosing a closer there’s a decent chance the A’s will look to trade whichever reliever they allow to increase his perceived value by racking up saves.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.