Fernando Rodney has kept his name in the AL Cy Young conversation
With seven strong innings in which he limited the Chicago White Sox to two runs and five hits on Sunday, David Price kept the Tampa Bay Rays alive for a wild card spot and seemingly seized control of the American League Cy Young Award. Or did he?
Though it was not a save situation, Rays closer Fernando Rodney tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts to seal Price’s 20th win. On Monday, Rodney surrendered two hits, but he shut down a potential game-altering rally by the Baltimore Orioles in the top of the ninth.
The Orioles trimmed a 5-1 deficit to 5-3 with two runs off Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth. Then Rodney entered with no outs and no runners on, and served up singles to Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. He settled down to strike out Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds before earning the save by retiring Endy Chavez on a grounder back to the pitcher.
Like Price did the previous day, Rodney helped keep Tampa Bay mathematically alive for the second wild card in the American League, dependent on the outcome of Oakland’s game against Texas late Monday night. Also, like Price, Rodney kept his name in the AL Cy Young conversation.
Rodney’s 47 saves in 49 chances are impressive, but what makes his season especially compelling is his 0.61 ERA. To be specific, his ERA is 0.605. The significance? It is the lowest ERA ever recorded for a reliever with at least 50 innings. Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley holds the all-time mark at 0.613 in 1990.
If Rodney keeps his ERA below Eckersley’s 1990 mark and sets the record, he would likely draw more votes away from Price, who is 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and a .226 batting average against, allowing 173 hits with 205 strikeouts in 211 innings. Price’s record would likely be even better if the Rays had a more potent lineup.
As for Rodney, the 35-year-old veteran of 10 Major League seasons is arguably having the most unexpected dominant season ever recorded by a closer. Before this season, the only time he had logged more than 14 saves was with Detroit in 2009, when he had 37 saves in 38 opportunities. That year, though, his WHIP was 1.47.
A lack of command has plagued Rodney for much of his Major League career. Last season, for example, he owned a 4.50 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP to accompany a respectable .224 batting average against as a set-up man for the Angels. When he throws the ball across the plate, Rodney often overmatches hitters as his career .233 opponent’s batting average suggests.
This season, he has a career-best 0.78 WHIP and .167 batting average against. He has 76 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 74.1 innings.
While Price is not likely to pitch against this season unless the Rays somehow squeeze into the playoffs, Rodney could have an impact on the club’s final two games of the year. The AL Cy Young, and post-season implications for the Rays and the Orioles, are at stake.