Closing Time: Trevor Rosenthal finally takes over

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/7345/" data-ylk="slk:Yadier Molina">Yadier Molina</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9240/" data-ylk="slk:Trevor Rosenthal">Trevor Rosenthal</a> are doing a lot more smiling these days (AP)
Yadier Molina and Trevor Rosenthal are doing a lot more smiling these days (AP)

Not everyone believes the Cardinals are in the thick of the NL Central race. They currently stand 4.5 games back of the Cubs, and two games back of the Brewers. Heck, St. Louis is still a game under .500.

But if you want a smoother ride in the ninth, maybe the Cardinals can provide that. After a season of messing around with different options to close games out, Trevor Rosenthal has finally taken over for good.

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Rosenthal has saves in his last three appearances, including Wednesday’s door slam on the Brewers. And we’re not just talking about those cheap walk-in-the-park saves here. Each of Rosenthal’s last three saves have come in one-run games, and two of the handshakes came after eighth-inning entrances. Add it all up and we’re looking at 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K. End of discussion, everyone else to the front of the bus. Rosenthal is the sheriff in town.

Rosenthal still has a 3.32 ERA on the year, which is more bad luck than anything else. His strikeout rate is 14.54/9, his walks are down to a manageable 3.53/9, and he’s even been more gopher friendly this year. FIP suggests a 1.83 ERA, SIERA suggests a 2.40 mark. It’s just a shame Mike Matheny took so long to get to the inevitable.

Rosenthal has crept over the 50 percent ownership tag in Yahoo, so I grant you, he’s yesterday’s news in the most competitive leagues. But there’s still some time to jump on if you play in a shallower, more casual format. August does funny things to fantasy owners — they go on vacations, they get into golf-cart accidents, they run out of wireless signal in the wilderness. No matter what you might think of Matheny — baseball scribe Joe Sheehan ranked him dead last in his skipper ranks earlier this summer — he’s finally figured out the ninth inning.

• Can a breakout season exist even if the batter is barely over the Mendoza Line? Joey Gallo is forcing us to ask unfamiliar questions.

Everyone knows about Gallo’s power, and it’s been on full display this week. He homered three times in the last two days, giving him 28 on the year — second among all third-base eligible players. He’s thrown in six stolen bases this year. Alas, Gallo is batting a scant .202, and he’s striking out 38.4 percent of the time.

Let’s focus on good stuff for a minute — Gallo qualifies at three Yahoo positions (first, third, outfield) and he’s finally settled into a full-time gig. On the flip side, he usually slots eighth or ninth, costing him some of the Arlington undertow. His slash is much more palatable in the second half (255/.340/.723, seven homers). There’s nothing jagged about his lefty/right and home/road splits. Mash it all up, and I think we should push Gallo over the 50-percent graduation tag.

• Although Michael Taylor is DL-eligible in Yahoo leagues, it’s curious how he’s been kicked to the curb in so many pools. He’s owned in just 28 percent of the Y, despite a .278-40-12-35-10 line. Power-speed combos are difficult to find in 2017, and Taylor’s kept a reasonable batting average despite his ongoing contact issues (a strikeout clip of 31.2 percent).

In any event, I want as much real estate in that Washington lineup as I can get. Taylor (oblique) started a rehab assignment earlier this week, making him an appealing short-term stash for anyone who needs outfield or stolen-base help.

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