This week's bullpen report features a pair of clubs that have climbed back into their league's respective wild-card races due in large part to the stellar work of their relief staffs.
In the American League, the Houston Astros (41-37) have righted the ship after being the biggest disappointment in MLB the first two months of the season. Houston has gone 11-2 in their previous 13 games to move just a half-game out of the second wild-card slot. Meanwhile in the senior circuit, Don Mattingley's Miami Marlins (41-36) have rattled off four straight series wins to move a half-game in front of the Cardinals for the second wild card.
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You can't overplay the importance of the relief staff in today's MLB. The three worst bullpens the past seven days? How about the Rockies, Diamondbacks and A's. They were a combined 20 games under .500. entering Thursday's action.
Hottest Bullpens in MLB (6/21 through 6/28)
19 IP, 2.37 ERA, 2 HLD, 2 SV, 0 BSV
The recent offensive surge from SS Carlos Correa, who was last week's AL Player of the Week, and of recently-anointed leadoff hitter George Springer, has been the real catalyst for the Astros surge. But it would be all for naught if the bullpen hadn't held up its end of the bargain.
Houston's 3.17 bullpen ERA for the season is the fifth-lowest in MLB. Will Harris was promoted to the closer role in early June, and he's responded by converting all seven save opportunities while lowering his ERA to 0.80. Former closer Luke Gregerson has slid into the set-up role. Last week he made two scoreless appearances and earned the win in each.
The red-hot Astros will be at home for their next six games, with three against the White Sox followed by three against the Mariners.
15 2/3 IP, 2.87 ERA, 3 HLD, 3 SV, 1 BSV
Closer A.J. Ramos registered two more saves last week to give him 24 on the season, which is the second-most in MLB. It's more than just Ramos when it comes to the Marlins 'pen, however. David Phelps (2.36 ERA) and Kyle Barraclough (2.93 ERA) were each perfect in two appearances last week. They have now combined for 35 holds this season.
The young Marlins have come into their own this season under Mattingley. Bullpen usage was never a strength of "Donnie Baseball" during his tenure with the Dodgers, but he's done a good job so far this year managing the quality arms in the Marlins 'pen.
Next up for Miami is a seven-game road trip with four in Miami followed by a three-game set at the Mets.
Other hot MLB bullpens: Los Angeles Dodgers (20 IP, 3.60 ERA, 5 HLD, 3 SV, 0 BSV), Milwaukee Brewers (18 IP, 2.00 ERA, 6 HLD, 3 SV, 1 BSV)
Cold MLB Bullpens (6/21 through 6/28)
26 1/3 IP, 7.86 ERA, 7 HLD, 5 BSV, 2 SV
It was a nightmare week for the Diamondbacks relief staff, with the most recent letdown being closer Brad Zeigler giving up two runs in the ninth inning to blow a save against the Phillies on Tuesday.
The Diamondbacks are 22nd in bullpen ERA (4.36), and their save conversion rate of 67.8 percent (19 of 28) is 19th in MLB. The high expectations entering the season following a free-spending winter are quickly evaporating in the Arizona desert.
The Diamondbacks will be home for the next six games, with three against the Giants followed by three against the Padres.
26 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1 HLD, 1 SV, 3 BSV
Things were as bad for the Rockies bullpen as they were for the division-rival Diamondbacks last week. Colorado gave up as many runs as innings pitched and blew three more saves to give them 11 for the season.
Yes, Rockies closer Jake McGee has been on the DL since earlier this month, but despite his 15 saves he wasn't all that effective as McGee's 4.98 ERA would attest. Three different Rockies blew saves in his absence last week.
Colorado is certainly loaded with offensive firepower, but it's of little consequence when the bullpen gets consistently torched.
Next up for the Rockies is a six-game road trip with three against the Dodgers over the weekend followed by a trip to San Francisco for three games.
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