No matter how good a ball team is, a bad bullpen can spoil the party quicker than your parents catching the early flight home from Florida.
Those late-inning collapses especially sting when you're wagering on a good team priced as lofty favorites on the MLB moneylines. Here are three contending teams having their solid efforts - and backers’ bankrolls - wiped out by unreliable relievers:
Detroit Tigers (42-32, -5.89 units)
Starter ERA: 3.58 (sixth in MLB)
Bullpen ERA: 3.99 (21st in MLB)
The Tigers glaring weakness is their bullpen. That statement was punctuated when the club dropped closer Jose Valverde last week after three blown saves and 5.59 ERA out of the pen. Detroit is leaning on Joaquin Benoit to become the new closer while potential pen additions iron out issues in Triple-A Toledo. Lefty Phil Coke has his days but is 0-4 with an ERA north of 6.00.
Cincinnati Reds (45-32, +3.77 units)
Starter ERA: 3.23 (second in MLB)
Bullpen ERA: 3.95 (19th in MLB)
Cincinnati’s relievers came through for bettors as -145 favorites at Arizona Monday night which was almost enough to erase a 5-3 loss to the Pirates last Thursday, in which reliever Alfredo Simon coughed up three runs in the seventh. The Reds have watched leads dissolve in the final innings over the past two weeks, with the bullpen tallying 10 blown saves on the year. Injuries to key relievers and the downfall of closer Aroldis Chapman, who has blown three of those saves, are the main culprits.
Boston Red Sox (45-33, +5.05)
Starter ERA: 3.80 (10th in MLB)
Bullpen ERA: 4.12 (24th in MLB)
The chess match between the Red Sox and Yankees in the American League East could come down to bullpens. New York’s relievers have blown an MLB-low three saves so far while Boston’s bullpen has given 11 wins away in the final inning. The BoSox took recent losses to Detroit and Tampa Bay after their backups crumbled, forcing manager John Farrell, notorious for over-managing his bullpen, to strip Andrew Bailey of the closer role in place of southpaw Andrew Miller, who promptly blew a save in his first outing as closer.