by Kyle Johansen
Lillibridge the new closer for the White Sox
Sergio Santos recorded his second save for the White Sox last night, securing a 3-2 victory over the Yankees. The two-out save is deceiving though, as Santos was bailed out with two game saving catches by Brent Lillibridge off the bats of Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Starter Gavin Floyd lasted into the ninth before being removed after an infield single to Jeter to open the frame. However, it was not Santos who was initially brought in to close out the game as Matt Thornton came on, giving up a sac bunt to Curtis Granderson before walking Mark Teixeira. After the walk, Santos was summoned to clean up the mess. After striking out Rodriguez to close the ninth inning on Monday, A-Rod had a different outcome in mind on Tuesday when crushed a 95-MPH fastball deep to right field. Lillibridge though was playing no doubles and was able to reach out on the run to the wall and secure the ball in the webbing of his glove. The next batter, Cano, also made great contact with a Santos slider, slicing a line drive to right that looked as if it would clearly fall for a base hit. Lillibridge, however, raced to the line and made a game determining diving catch to give Santos the save.
After the game when Ozzie Guillen was asked if he had decided on a closer he replied, “Lillibridge.”
While Santos made it dramatic, he is now 2-2 in save chances and is yet to give up a run in 11.2 innings. If for some reason he is un-owned in your league (amazingly only 33.6% ownership in ESPN leagues, what is going on here?), pick this man up! His WHIP may be shaky, but he has lowered his walk rate from last year and his pure stuff translates to a 10.80 K/9 this year after 9.75 in 2010. He may not get every save opportunity, but will be a valuable commodity to own for the rest of the season.
Lost in the excitement of the ninth is the impressive outing by Gavin Floyd who struck out 10 in 8+ IP. Floyd has always had the stuff to be an impact starter and it looks to be coming together for him in 2011 as he is currently posting a career high in strikeouts at 8.49 K/9 to go along with a career low in walks at 2.06 BB/9. That’s a combination you love to see.
- It’s taken all of April, but there are finally some signs of life coming out of the bat of Hanley Ramirez as he was 2-4 with 2 R scored against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers last night. After an opening day stolen base for Hanley, he had done a whole bunch of nothing in the opening weeks of the season and was benched on Monday night as a result. After a pinch hit single in the ninth inning Monday helped spark a comeback win, Ramirez now appears to be more relaxed at the plate after his performance on Tuesday. Ramirez is not out of the woods yet, however, as he is still looking for his first home run and is just 3 for 6 on stolen base attempts. It’s nice to see that he has been so aggressive on the bases, although his success rate has been on the decline the past couple of seasons. He does have 11 BB to 12 K on the year, so despite a lack of potency, his plate discipline is as strong as ever. At 27-years-old, I would love to buy low on Hanley if anyone’s selling.
- Andre Ethier set an MLB record for the longest hitting streak in April as he collected a hit in his 23rd consecutive game with a first inning double. While he has just 2 HR so far, he is sporting a .379/.454/.537/.991 line on the season.
- Clayton Kershaw meanwhile was disappointing, lasting just 5.1 innings while giving up 4 ER with a 5 to 2 K/BB. Kershaw has regressed a bit after a hot start to the season, with 5 HR allowed in his 6 starts. His HR/FB is currently at 12.2% and while this is a reasonable number, it is more than twice as high as it’s been the past two years and should correct itself.
- Retirement appears to be the last thing on Chipper Jones’ mind as he continues to hit like its 1999. OK, not quite, but he went 2 for 5 on the night with 2 RBI, 2 R and his 3rd HR of the season. He is currently batting .291.
- Brandon Phillips is enjoying his new role as the Reds cleanup hitter, as he went deep for the third time this season. Challenging Phillips for the honor of top rated 2B in fantasy is Rickie Weeks who went 2-4 against the Reds with a triple and his 6th HR of the year.
- Daniel Hudson pounded away at the strike zone against Philadelphia and despite being knocked around for 10 H and 3 ER in 6 innings, he also walked none while striking out 6 and was awarded with his first win of the season. On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a great start, but the command he showed is encouraging and this may be the last time he could be acquired at a discount.
- Zach Britton continues to dazzle, as he shut down the Red Sox allowing only 1 run in 6 innings. Britton should eventually slow down as his lack of strikeouts (2 K last night 5.40 K/9 on the year) catches up with him, but his 57% ground ball rate and solid control make him a strong matchups play moving forward. Kevin Gregg picked up his third save and does not seem in jeopardy of losing any save opportunities to Koji Uehara for the time being.
- Todd Helton hit 2 HR as the wind was howling out at Wrigley on Tuesday night. Alfonso Soriano (7) and Ty Wigginton (2) also left the yard as the Cubs dropped another game to the Rockies 4-3.
- Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos continue to power the Angels as Kendrick doubled twice and Bourjos tripled twice en route to an 8-3 victory over Brandon McCarthy and the Athletics. The other shoe finally dropped for McCarthy whose 7 ER in 5.1 IP increased his ERA to just 3.57 on the year.
- Cleveland continues to roll and is enjoying having Grady Sizemore back at the top of the lineup. Sizemore went 3-4 on the night with 2 R, 2 RBI, a double and already his 3rd HR of the year. While Sizemore’s speed is still a question (CS last night) his bat appears to be in midseason form.
- Matt LaPorta and Shin-Soo Choo also hit their 3rd HR of the year while 3B Jack Hanahan went deep twice and now has 4 HR for the season.