There is a certain level of comfort a team should have in their closer when he comes in to finish off a game. That has begun to wane in Cleveland as closer Emmanuel Clase gave up three runs in the bottom of the 9th in the Guardians' 6-5 loss to the Rays.
This was the ninth blown save in 40 chances this season. Clase’s 31 saves are tied for the American League with Baltimore’s Felix Bautista (third overall) and his nine-blown saves lead all of baseball. Nobody is expecting perfection, as that is unrealistic, but something a bit better than blowing a save nearly once in every four chances would be nice.
Clase is still a good closer, do not confuse this as a suggestion of the opposite. The issue when it comes to closers and/or relief pitchers is that they are incredibly volatile. It must also be noted that Clase's 55 appearances are tied for the second-most in all of baseball. Overuse could certainly be a factor coming in to play here.
Terry Francona has not been afraid to go to Clase this year and it may be having a negative impact as the season enters its later stages. Not having enough reliable arms at the back end of the bullpen has led to this development. James Karinchak was supposed to play a significant role this year but his struggles have led to him being demoted to Triple-A. It seems fairly obvious that when Tito has his back up against the wall in a late-game situation, he is going to call on Clase more often than not.
The truly frustrating part about this is that Clase did enter into a game where a bloop and a blast could have won it. In fact, a lineup without Jose Ramirez (currently serving his suspension for the fight against the White Sox) and the injured Josh Naylor, actually provided a few insurance runs to increase the lead to three. This was a fringe save based on the qualifications required for one to be classified as a true save opportunity.
Additionally, this deflating loss comes in tandem with a Twins win, which now sees the Guardians’ deficit in the American League Central division race increase to 4.5 games. This was an opportunity that this team could not afford to squander and yet it happened anyway. It is times like this which make any notion of still being in the mix for the postseason appear completely unrealistic.