Shawn Tolleson says he's going through a rough patch
In the band-of-brothers, cover-thy-teammate’s-posterior world of a Major League Baseball clubhouse, you won’t find anybody throwing the bullpen closer under the team bus.
The Texas Rangers didn’t do it to Joe Nathan. They didn’t do it to Mitch Williams. And you won’t hear them heaping any blame on Shawn Tolleson.
Tolleson himself has plenty of contrition.
"Getting three outs with a three-run lead should be easier than that," the Rangers closer said Saturday night after his third blown save.
"Colby [Lewis] pitched a great game and put our team in position to win, and I kinda gave that up, so it stinks."
Stinks is the proper word. Nothing fouls the air in front of a capacity home crowd (47,115) like giving up two home runs and a three-run lead in the top of the ninth.
"I’m kinda in a rough patch right now," Tolleson said.
He’s right. Tolleson had three blown saves in 2015 and Saturday’s equaled that number. Opponents are batting .323 against him, and he’s surrendered four home runs in 14 innings.
But here’s the problem: Going back to last August 22, when Tolleson’s heretofore sparkling season began to dim, he’s given up seven homers in 31 innings and has a 5.52 earned run average.
Part of the fender damage has to be because of the hard-hitting Toronto Blue Jays. Going back to last October, they’ve seen Tolleson five times in 40 games.
2 Ninth-inning homers that Tolleson has allowed to Justin Smoak in past 12 days
He has pitched well for the most part this season, but his command has not been consistent.
The Rangers’ doorbell, meanwhile, isn’t ringing with sure-fire options. The bullpen, as a whole, has been disappointing – slightly in most cases, frequently in others. What was supposed to be a team strength has become a nightly crapshoot.
A closer-by-committee strategy might work. Manager Jeff Banister’s team climbed back into the pennant race last season by riding the bullpen’s hot hand.
For now, though, Tolleson’s "rough patch" doesn’t constitute an implosion. The Blue Jays have six blown saves. The division-leading Mariners just recorded their eighth.