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T.J. McFarland’s latest struggles add more questions to D-backs bullpen

Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher T.J. McFarland throws during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, July 28, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

After a 15-3 Arizona Diamondbacks win against the San Diego Padres on June 8, reliever T.J. McFarland had allowed one earned run in 17.1 innings for a 0.52 ERA.

Since then, McFarland has pitched 26 innings, and in those innings, he’s given up 18 earned runs and his ERA for the season now sits at 3.95.

The Chicago Cubs, in particular, have given McFarland trouble as of late. They picked up six earned runs on him on Aug. 1 and in Friday’s 8-3 loss, McFarland was unable to keep a 5-3 deficit close for a possible late rally, allowing three earned runs in the eighth inning.

Those three runs made it 14 allowed in his past 10 appearances.

It’s a troubling development for Arizona, as one of the strengths of their team has been the bullpen.

The D-backs enter Saturday’s game against the Cubs second in the National Leauge in reliever ERA at 3.58. McFarland is second on the team in innings pitched without making a start, with his 43.1 innings pitched trailing only Archie Bradley’s 51.2.

Bradley has been the standout of the group. His 1.39 ERA is the third-best in the National League among relievers who have thrown at least 40 innings.

He’s going to need some help, however, and it’s a mixed group around him at the moment.

Along with McFarland, Jorge De La Rosa has eight earned runs in his 12.1 innings since the beginning of July. J.J. Hoover and Tom Wilhelmsen are not on the active roster while Jake Barrett has pitched well in place of them, sporting a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings.

With McFarland’s woes, outside of Bradley, the team will be relying on a former face brought in at the trade deadline and their closer.

David Hernandez will look to be the extra cushion of stability with Bradley at the top of the bullpen. He hasn’t allowed a baserunner in his 3.2 innings since being acquired by the D-backs on July 31.

Closer Fernando Rodney has had his highs and lows. He’s had three different stretches in the season where he had two terrible outings back-to-back. In those six appearances, Rodney was credited with 18 earned runs in four innings.

In his other 37 appearances over the course of 33.2 innings, however, Rodney has given up only one earned run and that was on Opening Day.

For the most part, Rodney has been tremendous, but Arizona can’t afford another costly stretch of Rodney blowing saves at this point in the season.

With the wild card lead growing shorter as the schedule gets more difficult in August, Arizona will need their bullpen to maintain their form of one of the best in the National League for their playoff hopes to stay alive.

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