At this time last season, Pirates right-hander Jason Grilli was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball and on his way to a well-deserved All-Star Game selection. With Mark Melancon excelling in a setup role, Pittsburgh was effectively able to shorten games to seven innings.
That has not been the case this season, and not because of Melancon. He's been stellar. Grilli has battled both injury and ineffectiveness in the ninth inning, and on Thursday afternoon he served up a solo home run to Devin Mesoraco to blow the save. It was the fourth run he's allowed in his last 2 2/3 innings.
Following the game, manager Clint Hurdle told reporters the team will consider making a change at the closer's position because of Grilli's shakiness.
Hurdle on Grilli: "We'll make a decision that we feel is best for the ballclub"— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) June 19, 2014
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked about Grilli's status as closers. Says situation will be evaluated— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) June 19, 2014
Grilli, 37, has a 4.34 ERA and 5.83 FIP in 18 2/3 innings around an oblique injury this season. Last year he had a 2.70 ERA and a 1.97 FIP, so he was both keeping runs off the board and doing well in the strikeout, walk and homer departments.
Fortunately, the Pirates not only have Melancon ready to step in as closer, but lefty Tony Watson has been outstanding in a setup role. They won't miss a beat in the late innings and Grilli can get himself back on track in a low-leverage middle relief spot.
Pittsburgh rallied to win Thursday's game in extra innings in Russell Martin's walk-off walk.