The Arizona Diamondbacks’ bullpen leads baseball in blown saves, accruing nine in the first month of the season — including Tuesday night’s heartbreaker — which is one in every three games they’ve played so far. They’re also near the top in innings pitched, with 254 — second in the National League, fourth in the majors — and ERA, with a 3.36, which is fourth in the NL and sixth overall.
In 27 games this season, the Diamondbacks’ bullpen has already had 17 save opportunities. And though they’ve completed less than half of those opportunities, the fact that they’ve been called upon so frequently is largely out of their control and surely working against them.
The more close games the Diamondbacks play in, the more difficult the bullpen decisions become for manager Kirk Gibson, who pointed out his dilemma prior to Wednesday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants.
“We haven’t been able to manage the bullpen like you’d like to,” Gibson explained. “In a tight game, you’ve got to continually match up. Guys are (warming) up more often and they’re getting in the games more often.
“What I’m trying to do is to manage the bullpen, get these guys freshened up a little bit from their first real tests of the year.”
Gibson went on to point out just how many tight games his team has been in this year. Just five of the team’s 27 contests have been decided by more than three runs — one being a four-run, 12-inning victory at Yankee Stadium. Moreover, the Diamondbacks have already been in six extra innings games this season, just one shy of the seven they saw all of last season.
According to Paul Goldschmidt, there’s an easy answer to the Diamondbacks’ bullpen conundrum: “We need to score more than just a few runs a game.”
While his statistics may be off (the Diamondbacks are currently scoring 4.26 runs per game, exactly the league average), his point is not.
“Our pitching staff really has picked up our offense,” the first baseman went on. “We haven’t really scored that many runs. We’ve been in a lot of 3-2, 2-1, 1-0 games and as a team, I think you’ve got to expect to score more runs. That’s a big part of (the bullpen’s struggles). As an offensive player, you’re always thinking it’s your responsibility.”
The Diamondbacks will look to salvage a series win against the Giants on Wednesday. Brandon McCarthy, who is winless with three losses and a 7.48 ERA so far this season, will face Tim Lincecum, who is 2-1 with a 3.64 ERA. Gibson wasn’t clear as to the availability of J.J. Putz or any of his other relievers when asked prior to the game.