Wild times and heavenly kibosh

When I was in my last season of Little League, I was my team's closer. I would trot over from first base or third, dig in my plastic spikes, and get to work. My repertoire, though multiplicity-challenged, did feature a straight fastball and fledgling knuckleball that my coach found objectionable. His son, (my catcher) used to tattle on me when I threw it, even though it occasionally fluttered and busted some hitters. I guess the coach just wanted me throw strikes, because the scourge of my young career was the base on balls. I hit guys, too, and naturally, I blew some saves because I couldn't keep the ball in the strike zone. But I was always right back in there when the game was on the line.

So it goes with major league closers. While a few top closers blew saves this week that involved walks, each letdown was during a fairly atypical situation, and somewhat out of their control, so to speak. We all know how Francisco Rodríguez's record was blemished: a Derek Jeter single and stolen base, a pitching-around-turned-intentional walk of Mark Teixeira (you just know K-Rod wanted to go at him), and one slipshod, maladroit bungled popup from Luis Castillo. I've never seen that happen before and doubt I ever will again.

Just back from the DL, Joakim Soria came in with a runner on second to preserve Zack Greinke's 3-2 lead in the eighth and promptly gave up a double to Jhonny Peralta. The misplaced "h" apparently threw him off. Francisco Cordero's troubles started by walking Elijah "Put up yer" Dukes, but after he went 2-2 on Josh Willingham, the skies rained liquid kibosh. After a two-hour delay, he came back to pitch, walked Willingham, struck out Ronnie Belliard, then surrendered RBI singles to Josh Bard and pinch-hitter Alberto Gonzalez. Word is he then cursed the heavens and threatened to punch Zeus in the face.

The moral, if there is one, is even if closers can rely on their teammates, dumb luck, or their best stuff to get the job done, they're still going to blow a few ? especially if they put a guy or two on base. Heck, poor Soria didn't even give up an earned run, and he got the dreaded "BS" next to his name in the box score. How these guys rebound is what makes them viable closers ? even if they're an occasional victim of the baseball gods.

All statistics through June 10.

Frank Francisco, TEX 12-for-12 (100%), 19.2 IP, 20 Ks, 0.48 ERA, 0.81 WHIP Next in line: C.J. Wilson/Eddie Guardado Third in line: Darren O'Day

Chad Qualls, ARI 13-for-16 (81%), 25.2 IP, 26 Ks, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP Next in line: Tony Peña Third in line: Juan Gutierrez/Tom Gordon (DL)

Matt Lindstrom, FLA 12-for-14 (86%), 25.1 IP, 25 Ks, 5.68 ERA, 1.82 WHIP Next in line: Leo Nunez Third in line: Kiki Calero

Fernando Rodney, DET 12-for-12 (100%), 26 IP, 20 Ks, 4.50 ERA, 1.35 WHIP Next in line: Brandon Lyon/Joel Zumaya Third in line: Ryan Perry

Matt Capps, PIT 16-for-18 (89%), 21.2 IP, 14 Ks, 4.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP Next in line: John Grabow Third in line: Sean Burnett/Jesse Chavez

José Valverde, HOU 2-for-4 (50%), 9.1 IP, 14 Ks, 4.82 ERA, 1.07 WHIP Next in line: LaTroy Hawkins Third in line: Chris Sampson

Huston Street, COL 13-for-14 (93%), 27 IP, 32 Ks, 3.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP Next in line: Manny Corpas Third in line: Alan Embree

David Aardsma, SEA 11-for-12 (92%), 30.1 IP, 34 Ks, 1.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP Next in line: Mark Lowe Third in line: Miguel Batista

Ryan Madson, PHI 4-for-6 (67%), 13 HLDs, 33.1 IP, 37 Ks, 2.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP Next in line: J.C. Romero Third in line: Chad Durbin

Frank Francisco is ready to come off the DL, but I'm not ready to proclaim him "On Board" until he gets a few saves under his belt and shows the shoulder stiffness is behind him. He hasn't pitched since a June 3 save at Yankee Stadium. Chad Qualls pitched well on Sunday in a loss to the Astros, his former team. He's still feeling a twinge, but it sounds like he's dealing with it. Ryan Madson may soon be relegated to eighth-inning duties again, as Brad Lidge nears a return from the DL. Jose Valverde turned in a couple solid performances, including striking out the side his last time out on Sunday. It tough to reconcile Fernando Rodney's 4.50 ERA, paltry 1.82 K/BB ratio and humdrum 6.92 K/9 rate with 12-for-12 in save situations, especially considering the calamitous events of June 9, but that's baseball.

Scott Downs, TOR -- Foot -- Possible DL stint

Downs hurt his foot batting in the top of the 10th inning on Tuesday against the Phillies. He was helped off the field, and while initial X-rays were negative, pending results of a Wednesday MRI will probably mean a trip to the DL.

Brad Lidge, PHI -- Sprained right knee -- Return imminent

Troy Percival, TB -- Right shoulder tendonitis -- Return uncertain

Mike González, ATL 8-for-11 (73%), 29 IP, 37 Ks, 2.48 ERA, 1.38 WHIP Rafael Soriano, ATL 5-for-6 (83%), 29.2 IP, 37 Ks, 1.52 ERA, 1.01 WHIP Next in line: Peter Moylan

Andrew Bailey, OAK 5-for-9 (56%), 41 IP, 48 Ks, 2.41 ERA, 1.00 WHIP Next in line: Brad Ziegler Third in line: Michael Wuertz

Mike MacDougal, WAS 0-for-0 (N/A%), 7 IP, 6 Ks, 1.29 ERA, 1.57 WHIP (NL Stats only) Next in line: Joe Beimel Third in line: Julian Tavarez

J.P. Howell, TB 3-for-8 (38%), 4 HLDs, 32.1 IP, 40 Ks, 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP Next in line: Dan Wheeler/Randy Choate Third in line: Grant Balfour/Joe Nelson

Jason Frasor, TOR 1-for-2 (50%), 3 HLDs, 23.2 IP, 19 Ks, 1.90 ERA, 0.76 WHIP Next in line: B.J. Ryan Third in line: Jesse Carlson/Brandon League

This week, I bit the bullet and listed the stats for both Mike González and Rafael Soriano. It's the most balanced and effective pairing I've ever seen, even if it's frustrating to some owners. They have nearly identical (and quite adequate) K/9 rates (11.57/11.53), and Bobby Cox is just playing the cards he's dealt in game situations. It's almost like having two talented running backs in the red zone -- down and distance may determine who runs it in. The Scott Downs injury means the Jays will have to choose among exiled closer B.J. Ryan, Brandon League, Jesse Carlson and Jason Frasor. While League (7 ER in his last 2 IP) and Carlson (8 ER in his last 4.2 IP) were next on the depth chart, they can't be trusted in the ninth. Ryan has pitched well this month, but he's not as impressive an option as Frasor, who's 2.54 FIP (fielding-independent pitching), 1.14 BB/9 and 79.6 LOB% are the best in the Toronto bullpen. He's my huckleberry.

Not surprisingly, Mike MacDougal hasn't nailed down a save since being named the Nats' closer, while the Rays' J.P. Howell has (against Washington, in fact). With Jason Isringhausen done for good (Tommy John surgery) and nobody else capable of assuming the reins, Howell appears to have the job until they make a deal or develop a prospect. Andrew Bailey blew another save on Tuesday, giving him four on the season, and three more than Brad Ziegler, the submarining sap he ousted. Hey, Bob Geren never said this was fair.

Mariano Rivera, NYY 15-for-16 (94%), 27.2 IP, 33 Ks, 3.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP Next in line: Brian Bruney Third in line: Phil Coke

Jonathan Papelbon, BOS 16-for-17 (94%), 28 IP, 30 Ks, 1.93 ERA, 1.32 WHIP Next in line: Takashi Saito Third in line: Hideki Okajima/Daniel Bard

Francisco Rodríguez, NYM 17-for-18 (94%), 32.1 IP, 351 Ks, 0.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP Next in line: Bobby Parnell Third in line: Pedro Feliciano

Jonathan Broxton, LAD 16-for-18 (89%), 33 IP, 53 Ks, 1.36 ERA, 0.70 WHIP Next in line: Cory Wade Third in line: Ramon Troncoso

Joe Nathan, MIN 15-for-17 (86%), 25.1 IP, 29 Ks, 1.78 ERA, 0.91 WHIP Next in line: Matt Guerrier Third in line: Jesse Crain

Heath Bell, SD 18-for-19 (95%), 27.1 IP, 32 Ks, 1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP Next in line: Cla Meredith/Greg Burke Third in line: Edward Mujica

Trevor Hoffman, MIL 16-for-16 (100%), 20 IP, 17 Ks, 0.45 ERA, 0.65 WHIP Next in line: Carlos Villanueva Third in line: Seth McClung/Todd Coffey

Joakim Soria, KC 7-for-8 (88%), 12.2 IP, 14 Ks, 2.13 ERA, 1.26 WHIP Next in line: Juan Cruz Third in line: Kyle Farnsworth

Francisco Cordero, CIN 15-for-16 (94%), 28 IP, 26 Ks, 1.93 ERA, 1.18 WHIP Next in line: David Weathers Third in line: Arthur Rhodes

Bobby Jenks, CWS 14-for-16 (93%), 22 IP, 19 Ks, 3.68 ERA, 1.23 WHIP Next in line: Matt Thornton Third in line: Octavio Dotel

Kerry Wood, CLE 8-for-10 (80%), 22.1 IP, 27 Ks, 4.84 ERA, 1.43 WHIP Next in line: Matt Herges Third in line: Jensen Lewis

Brian Wilson, SF 17-for-20 (85%), 29.2 IP, 33 Ks, 3.34 ERA, 1.31 WHIP Next in line: Jeremy Affeldt Third in line: Justin Miller/Merkin Valdez

Ryan Franklin, STL 15-for-16 (94%), 24.2 IP, 18 Ks, 1.09 ERA, 0.89 WHIP Next in line: Jason Motte Third in line: Kyle McClellan/Chris Pérez

Brian Fuentes, LAA 17-or-20 (85%), 21.1 IP, 22 Ks, 4.64 ERA, 1.45 WHIP Next in line: Jason Bulger/Justin Speier Third in line: Jose Arredondo (Minors)

Kevin Gregg, CHC 10-for-12 (83%), 28.1 IP, 30 Ks, 4.13 ERA, 1.45 WHIP Next in line: Carlos Mármol Third in line: Angel Guzman

George Sherrill, BAL 12-for-14 (86%), 24.2 IP, 23 Ks, 2.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP Next in line: Jim Johnson Third in line: Danys Báez

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