MLB Standings Watch: Boston Red Sox looking for a closer


The latest in a series of setbacks that have plagued the Boston Red Sox all season is that they will be without Koji Uehara for the rest of the season. While the team has been able to rely on an infusion of youth to cover for losses in the starting rotation, replacing their closer will be a more difficult task because this bullpen lacks any feasible options.

Take away Ryan Cook, who has pitched only a single inning since being called up on Tuesday, and the current members of the Red Sox bullpen each has an ERA of at least 4.50 since the All-Star break. Collectively those six relievers have posted a horrendous 5.33 ERA in the season’s second half, while accounting for 5 losses in the last 24 games.

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Tuesday night served as the latest example, as Junichi Tazawa blew his first save opportunity since Uehara was placed on the disabled list. The 29-year old had a stellar first half as Boston’s setup man, but has declined drastically since the break. He owns a brutal 11.25 ERA with a pair of losses so far in August, while opposing hitters are knocking him around to the tune of a .389 average.

Tazawa was expected to be a part of a committee that manager John Farrell could use in the 9th inning, which also includes Jean Machi. Who’s idea was it to thrust a guy into the closer role less than a month after his previous team designated him for assignment? Machi has surrendered 3 runs in 4.2 innings for a 5.79 ERA since joining the Red Sox, while allowing a .792 OPS to opposing hitters. Clearly he’s not the answer either.

So who is? Clearly nobody currently residing in the Red Sox bullpen can handle the role. Joe Kelly‘s name has been thrown out there as a potential option, but an unlikely one. He may be better served in a relief role after failing as a starter, but he recently told the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that he has no interest in being a closer, citing arm troubles in college when he last tried it as his reason for being hesitant.

The Red Sox have their work cut out for them rebuilding this bullpen over the offseason, but the rest of 2015 could be a struggle. The good news is that you don’t need a closer if you aren’t winning games, and wins have been hard to come by for a Red Sox team with the league’s worst record.

AL East Standings
(Division standings as of Wednesday morning)

(American League team building momentum) 

Toronto Blue Jays: It’s been a meteoric rise for the Jays over the past two weeks, which coincides with their acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki. Toronto has gone 12-1 with Tulo in the lineup, including a league-high 9 game winning streak.

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Toronto’s new shortstop is hitting only .224 with his new team, but his presence in the lineup has been a boon for the hitters behind him. Over the past week, Josh Donaldson is hitting .318/.444/.773, Jose Bautista has hit .320/.370/.840 and Edwin Encarnacion is slashing .375/.444/.938. That trio has combined for 9 home runs and 20 RBIs over the last 6 games.

Tulowitzki’s defense has been an upgrade up the middle for the Jays, which may have some effect on how Toronto’s pitching staff has suddenly morphed into the best in the league since the break, with a 2.36 ERA. Adding David Price to front the rotation may have had a little to do with that as well. He’s 2-0 and has allowed only 1 run in 15.0 innings through his first two starts since being traded north of the border.

Toronto’s scorching streak has pulled them within a mere half game of the New York Yankees in the division and into the top Wild Card spot. The playoffs appeared to be an uphill battle a few weeks ago, but now projects the Jays as having a 90.3 percent chance of playing in October.

(American League team that is struggling)

New York Yankees: Toronto’s rise has coincided with New York’s struggles, as the Yankees have dropped 4 straight, including a weekend series in which they were swept by the Jays in Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2003.

The Yankees vaunted offense has been scuffling, posting a collective .188 average over the past week and averaging a mere 3.5 runs over their last 6 games (compared to 4.8 runs per game this season). This slump may be short lived, but it has come at an inopportune time with the Blue Jays charging fast behind them.

New York may regret not being more active at the trade deadline. Their offense has been great overall this season, but they are relying on several aging veterans, which makes their depth a concern. They also did nothing to upgrade their shaky rotation aside from promoting top pitching prospect Luis Severino. The rookie has looked good so far, posting a 2.45 ERA in his first two starts, but the Yankees have lost both times he has taken the mound. Are they really relying on a 21-year old with limited minor league experience to save their pitching staff?

Despite that they still lead the division, New York’s 86.2 percent postseason probability now trails Toronto’s. However, Yankees fans will be relieved to learn that their odds of making the playoffs are still the third best in the league, even if it’s looking more likely to be as a Wild Card.

Playoff Outlook
(Division leaders and teams holding a Wild Card spot in the American League)

AL East: New York Yankees (61-50)
AL Central: Kansas City Royals (68-44)
AL West: Houston Astros (61-53)
Wild Card: Toronto Blue Jays (62-52)
Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels (59-53)