Sergio Romo has been one of the best, most dominant relievers in baseball while setting up Brian Wilson for the past four seasons, but with Wilson headed for elbow surgery it was Santiago Casilla, not Romo, who got the call in the ninth inning last night.
Casilla did the job, saving a 4-2 win over the Phillies, and afterward manager Bruce Bochy made it clear that Casilla would be “first in line” for saves. He also left open the possibility of using multiple relievers, including Romo, in the ninth inning, but Bochy also turned to Casilla for save chances when Wilson was sidelined last year.
Romo is the best reliever in the Giants’ bullpen–sporting a 2.29 ERA and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings for his career–but Casilla is also plenty good and it’s possible that the Giants can get more value out of keeping Romo in a setup role where he can put out fires and shut down teams in a variety of situations instead of being limited to ninth innings with leads of 1-3 runs.
The Athletics are tied for first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. They took the first of a three-game series against the Astros on Friday with a wild (and controversial) overturned replay call in the ninth and Matt Olson‘s decisive walk-off home run in the 10th — the first of his career to date — then returned on Saturday and bested the Astros 7-1 to take first place.
Saturday’s win was less of a nail-biter than Friday’s had been, but its rewards were just as sweet. Trevor Cahill led the A’s through the first seven innings of one-hit, seven-strikeout ball, backed by seven runs on five RBI doubles from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley. All told, the four players struck eight doubles to tie the franchise single-game record.
The Astros, meanwhile, were stymied by both Cahill and the A’s bullpen through the first eight innings of the game. Following Cahill’s seven shutout innings, Jeurys Familia took the ball in the eighth and blanked the Astros to preserve the seven-run lead. Yusmeiro Petit wasn’t quite so lucky: with one out in the top of the ninth, he pitched to a full count against Tony Kemp, then saw his 90.1-MPH fastball returned to right field for a home run. That was the first and last time the Astros crossed home plate, however, as Kyle Tucker popped out to third base and Alex Bregman cemented the loss with a fly ball to right.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Astros had not been out of first place since June 13, when they played second fiddle to the now third-place Mariners. They’ll share first-place honors with the Athletics until Sunday’s finale; it’ll take a series sweep for Oakland to take the lead in the division, but they’ve already delivered incredible results over the last two weeks (and it’s worth noting, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart pointed out, that Houston has now lost seven of their last eight games). The A’s climbed out of the no. 3 spot at the start of August and have steadily progressed toward first place ever since, driven by two separate four-win streaks and their two decisive wins this weekend. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also notes that the club has not been in first place in a non-April month since August 25, 2014 — the last year they qualified for the playoffs.