On Tuesday night, San Francisco Giants closer Santiago Casilla did his job in the bottom of the ninth to save a narrow yet necessary 3-2 victory against the Colorado Rockies.
For a closer, that’s expected. For Casilla this year, that’s uncharacteristic.
Casilla notched his seventh blown save of the season in the series finale against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, giving up a one-run lead in the ninth that forced extra innings and eventually slapped the Giants with their 30th of 32 disheartening losses in the second half. That wasn’t the first time Casilla soiled a win opportunity for a masterful Johnny Cueto, who pitched seven strong innings to maintain the Giants’ lead until Casilla took the mound.
With the way Casilla’s season has been going, it’s a wonder that manager Bruce Bochy still calls him from the bullpen even if the Giants are leading by 10. While the Giants still have 23 games remaining, Casilla has already tallied more earned runs (21) and a higher ERA (3.52) than he has in the last six seasons.
The stats don’t even paint the full picture of Casilla’s massive stumble this year. He’s only got four losses on the season, but has often been the catalyst of many more. A prime example occurred Wednesday night against Colorado where the Giants held a 5-3 lead heading into the ninth. That’s when Casilla gave up his seventh home run and an additional hit to follow, leaving teammates Josh Osich and Joe Nathan to try and clean up the mess.
The Giants lost that game 6-5, a game they seemed to have in the bag until Casilla took the hill.
Casilla’s failure becomes even more daunting as the Giants enter the make-or-break part of the season. Although the Dodgers are starting to pull away with a four and a half game lead in the NL West, every win still counts as the Cardinals and the Mets are threatening to knock San Francisco out of a very tight Wild Card race.
Considering the Giants have played in 30 games decided by one or two runs this half and continue to generate minimal offense, the closer’s role is more vital than ever right now if the Giants want their season to continue.
Casilla has made a convincing argument that he will only hinder the Giants going forward.
So what options does Bochy have? His best bet seems to be former closer Sergio Romo, who has recovered from an early-season elbow injury quite nicely. Romo has given up a third of the runs Casilla has, including just four home runs with 24 strikeouts over 23 innings pitched.
It’s true that Romo hasn’t played in as many games as Casilla, but Romo’s experience as a closer in both regular and postseason play could make him an appealing replacement if Casilla can’t turn things around. For a team that is desperate for a change pace, switching up the closer might be more impactful than one might think.
One thing is for sure: something has to change for San Francisco, or else they will watch the playoffs from their television screens at home.
What Bochy will do to resolve the closer situation is unclear. If the Giants want another title in 2016, however, they probably shouldn’t count on Santiago Casilla to play much of a role.
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