With a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth in Cincinnati, Diamondbacks’ closer J.J. Putz drilled outfielder Jonny Gomes, the first batter he saw, making for an interesting start to an always high-pressure situation.
Then, just like nothing ever happened, Putz proceeded to get two groundballs and a strikeout, stranding Gomes on second for his fourth save in as many opportunities.
And although Putz never even showed the slightest sign of panic, he’ll be the first one to tell you that Tuesday was a fine example of the invisible hysteria taking place inside his head during almost every save situation.
“Today was definitely a nerve-racking game,” Putz said. “Maybe I [just] do a good job of hiding it.”
More like persevering through it.
In his six appearances with the D-Backs this season, the seemingly unshakable Putz has been better than advertised, allowing only one earned run in seven innings (1.29 ERA) and racking up 9 Ks in the process.
Putz attributes his cool demeanor to two manageable things: knowing his role and executing.
Even though his occupation is one of the most stressful in all of sports, to hear Putz simplify it, you’d think he was describing something roughly as unnerving as parallel parking.
“Our job is to get three outs before they tie the game,” said the former Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award winner. “I’m just going out there and trying to be efficient.”
Simple enough. And Manager Kirk Girbon knows Putz understands the straightforwardness of his role.
“[Putz] knows how to close,” Gibson said. “He’s prepared and he’s done it in an [unusual] fashion.”
When Gibby says unusual, he is referring to Putz’s early success despite the lack of work he got in during spring. Putz was limited to only 1 1/3 spring innings due back spasms, which left some of the organization questioning his availability for opening day. So far though, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing for the 34-year-old right-hander.
Even though Putz’s initial dominance may be a bit out of the ordinary considering the circumstances, Gibby knows not to ask questions as Putz is bringing stability to a bullpen that was third-worst in the history of Major League Baseball last year with an ERA of 5.74.
Bullpen stability: a phrase that Gibson and D-back fans everywhere can get behind.