Nicasio recorded his second save Monday, striking out a pair of batters in a scoreless ninth inning against Detroit. The righthander was only pitching because closer Felipe Rivero was unavailable after throwing a season-high 41 pitches Sunday, but the outing showed what Nicasio can do. He's allowed only two earned runs in his last 20.2 innings, compiling a 21:5 K:BB since June 27.
Nicasio struck out one in a perfect inning to nail down his first save Thursday in Philadelphia. Nicasio turned in an excellent ninth-inning performance in this 6-3 win with Felipe Rivero unavailable after closing back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday. While he does have three blown saves, the righty's 2.54 ERA and 9.23 K/9 have him next in line for the closer role should Tony Watson's replacement start to falter.
Nicasio (1-3) allowed four runs without recording an out to blow his third save of the season during Friday's loss to the Cubs. After Tony Watson was removed from the closer role, Nicasio was expected to split ninth-inning duties with Felipe Rivero, so Friday's outing was discouraging. Still, Nicasio owns a rock-solid 2.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 9.2 K/9 for the season, so his body of work leading into Friday had been strong. It's probably best not to make any hasty roster decisions yet.
Nicasio will share the closer's role with Felipe Rivero moving forward, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Back-to-back blown saves ultimately led to Tony Watson's removal from the ninth inning job, allowing Nicasio and Rivero to move in to collect save opportunities. It seems like a full timeshare will be used going forward, although the 30-year-old right-hander's 1.35 ERA on the season and his six straight scoreless outings certainly make a strong case for him to be picked up whether he or Rivero wind up being used more frequently to close out games.
Manager Clint Hurdle mentioned Nicasio or Felipe Rivero as a potential replacement for Tony Watson if the team decides to switch closers, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Hurdle said that there would be no joint bullpen to close out games. "Most of the time, it's closer-by-committee if you don't have a closer," Hurdle said. "I think we've got two guys to look at, if Watson's not the closer, at least to consider." Rivero has put together one of the strongest relief campaigns in 2017 and is likely the front-runner, but Pittsburgh could continue to deploy him in the highest-leverage situations, leaving him out of the running for saves. Nicasio has one save in seven seasons, while Rivero has three saves in three years.
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