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Alex Young needs to give overtaxed D-backs bullpen relief for Giants series

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - AUGUST 02: Alex Young #49 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch in the first inning of the MLB game against the Washington Nationals at Chase Field on August 02, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

For two teams on the fringe of the National League Wildcard race, the four-game series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants could have implications on the remainder of the season.

The D-backs pitching rotation will have to be efficient, starting with rookie Alex Young on Thursday, for it to go in their favor.

Arizona has been in the mix of wildcard contenders throughout the year. The team has been consistently average this summer, not surpassing two games over or under .500 since June 16.

The Giants, who had a record of 34-46 on June 27, rattled off 18 wins in 22 games to break the .500 plateau and have been in the playoff running since.

The D-backs enter Thursday 3.5 games out of the second wildcard spot and the Giants one game behind them. They’ll face off four times from Thursday through Sunday.

This series comes at a precarious time for the D-backs pitching depth.

Over the last five games, no starting pitcher has gone deeper than five innings. The only two to get through five, Mike Leake and Merrill Kelly, gave up a combined 14 runs in the process.

Robbie Ray exited Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Rockies due to back spasms after pitching two innings. It was unclear how much time he would miss as of Thursday morning.

The bullpen had to cover the slack that game, going six-plus innings, but that wasn’t the only outing this series that the bullpen had to cover for the starters.

In those three games against the Rockies, the bullpen pitched 15 innings (16 if you want to include Bradley’s ninth inning Wednesday in which he did not record an out).

Young will get the ball with an important mission Thursday against the Giants: Go deep.

If the bullpen is forced to work several innings, that could impact production for the rest of this pivotal series.

Young has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his seven starts, going five to six innings per outing. In the other two starts, he allowed a combined eight runs over 7.1 innings.

Young’s pitch count has slowly ticked up since his July 7 start, when he was pulled after 71 pitches in the midst of a no-hitter. He threw 89 pitches in six innings on Aug. 2, but that progress was stymied Saturday when he gave up four runs in 3.1 innings and was pulled with 77 pitches.

If Young can pitch deeper, fewer pieces in the overtaxed bullpen would have to throw Thursday, which would allow them to have greater resources at their disposal as the series progresses.

And that’s all without addressing Archie Bradley’s blown save Wednesday.

Was Nolan Arenado’s two-run walk-off home run simply a perennial Silver Slugger going about his business? For all his struggles the last two years, Bradley had been dynamite over the 14 appearances prior to Wednesday, giving up just nine hits in 17.1 scoreless innings.

Or was this a regression to the mean? In May and June, Bradley allowed 20 earned runs in 23 games.

If his success isn’t sustainable, the D-backs have deeper issues.

But before any of that can be addressed, this time it’s the bullpen that needs some relief from Young.

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