Aren't relievers suppose to provide, you know, relief?
Bullpens throughout the majors have been blowing leads and losing games for their respective teams at a remarkable pace through the first four days of the 2012 MLB season.
These aren't unproven relievers suffering late-inning meltdowns, either. Proven veteran closers, some of them among the best in the majors, have been roughed up when their teams counted on them to shut the opposition down.
These pitchers should rebound quickly. Shaking off a rough outing is part of the closer's job. But when so many blown saves occur in a short time, it's impossible to ignore.
Before we survey the carnage, let's applaud the New York Mets' Frank Francisco, who has three saves for the season. Five other closers, including J.J. Putz of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays' Fernando Rodney, have two saves. Not all closers are blowing it out there.
But let's begin with the two pitchers that the Boston Red Sox hoped would save games in the absence of injured closer Andrew Bailey.
Aceves came in to save a 10-7 ninth-inning lead over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. But he wasn't fooling any Tigers hitters with his stuff. Aceves gave up singles to the first two batters he faced. He then grooved a first-pitch fastball to Miguel Cabrera that was launched into the left-field stands for a game-tying, three-run homer.
Three days earlier in the Red Sox's season opener, Aceves gave up a RBI single in the ninth to Austin Jackson that resulted in a 3-2 walk-off win for the Tigers.
The Red Sox blew not one save, but two in Sunday's game. After Boston took a 12-10 lead in the 11th inning, Melancon got the call to close it out. From there, he gave up two straight singles, allowed the lead runner to third base on a wild pitch and let the Tigers cut the lead to one on a sacrifice fly by Delmon Young.
Yet Melancon still had a lead with two outs in the inning. He even had Alex Avila down two strikes. But Melancon hung a curveball over the middle of the plate that the Tigers' catcher drove out for a game-winning, two-run homer.
On Friday, the New York Yankees held a 6-5 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth inning. Rivera took the mound to close out the game, as he has almost 900 times in his 18-year career, racking up a record 603 saves.
It took two batters for the Rays to show that Rivera was vulnerable. After a leadoff single by Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist drove him in with a triple that tied the score at 6-6. Evan Longoria and Luke Scott were intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a double play. The Yankees even brought in a fifth infielder to help make the play.
But after striking out Sean Rodriguez, Rivera left a cut fastball out over the plate to Carlos Pena. Pena drove it deep to left field and off the edge of the wall to drive in the game-winning run.
Valverde was bound to blow a save eventually. After converting all 49 of his save opportunities in 2011, and compiling 51 consecutive saves overall, Valverde had a chance to save the Tigers' first win of the season in Thursday's opener.
Holding a 2-0 lead, he gave up two singles to begin the ninth inning. A David Ortiz sacrifice fly cut the Tigers' lead to one, but after striking out Kevin Youkilis, Valverde still had a shot at ending the game. But Ryan Sweeney hit a RBI triple to tie the score, 2-2, and Valverde's save streak ended.
Thanks to Melancon and Aceves, of course, the Tigers still won the ballgame so they're probably not too concerned about Valverde. Might as well get that blown save out of the way early in the season.
Facing the Washington Nationals on Thursday, Wood held a narrow 1-0 lead for the Chicago Cubs. He proceeded to give it up right away, walking his first two batters to load the bases. Wood then threw his first two pitches to Jayson Werth for strikes, but followed that up with four straight balls to walk in the tying run.
On Saturday, Wood was at least able to record two outs. But with a two-run lead, he gave up three straight hits, including a home run to Danny Espinosa. Manager Dale Sveum took Wood out before he could blow another game. Unfortunately for the Cubs, their next reliever did it instead.
Marmol took over for Wood and poured gasoline on the fire already started. He walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a single and a double, allowing three runs to score. That gave the Nats a 6-4 lead. Oh, he then walked another batter.
Two days earlier, Marmol entered with the Cubs and Nats tied, 1-1. He got the first two batters of the inning out, but then served up a double to Chad Tracy. Ian Desmond singled in the next at-bat, giving the Nats a 2-1 lead and an eventual win.
In the Cleveland Indians' season opener on Thursday, Perez had a three-run lead when he took the mound in the ninth inning.
But three of the first four batters he faced reached base, allowing one run to score. Two more came in to tie the game, 4-4, when Perez served up a double to Edwin Encarnacion. Perez got the next batter out, giving him a chance to escape the inning. But he then walked Eric Thames, and Manny Acta pulled him from the game.
However, Perez did redeem himself with two subsequent scoreless appearances. That included a save in the Tribe's 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Bell hadn't gotten a save opportunity in the Miami Marlins' first three games of the season. But when one finally came around on Sunday, the Marlins' new $27 million closer blew it.
Protecting a one-run lead over the Cincinnati Reds, Bell gave up a home run to Jay Bruce, the first batter he faced. With the game tied, Bell went on to lose the game entirely. He allowed three consecutive singles. The last one, by pinch-hitter Scott Rolen, drove in the game-winning run and gave the Reds a series win.