The Diamondbacks bullpen has been lights out since Sept. 1

Oct 6, 2023, 10:00 AM

Paul Sewald, Arizona Diamondbacks...

Paul Sewald, Orioles at Diamondbacks September 1, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ recent two-game sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card series proved two things: Their resilience wins ballgames, and so does their bullpen.

The bullpen allowed no runs over 9.1 innings in those two games. It proved pivotal in Game 1 when starter Brandon Pfaadt was relieved after 2.2 innings of duty.

In fact, it’s been evident that the bullpen has been a pivotal part of the “Answerbacks”‘ success since the start of September.

From Sept. 1 through Wednesday, the bullpen has pitched to a 2.31 ERA, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers (2.12) and the Brewers (2.16) for third-best in the league over that span. Up until Sept. 1, the D-backs’ bullpen had a 4.69 ERA for the season.

The bullpen has been so good recently that poor performances in September from season-mainstays Kyle Nelson (9.00 ERA/7.0 IP) and Scott McGough (7.11 ERA/6.1 IP) had them left off the NL Wild Card roster.

Strong performances from rookies Andrew Saalfrank, Bryce Jarvis and late-season call-ups Luis Frias (1.98 ERA/13.2 IP) and Ryan Thompson (0.75 ERA/12 IP) helped shape not just the playoff roster, but the roster for years to come.

It’s certainly a breath of fresh air when comparing this new-look bullpen to those of seasons past. From 2020-22, the bullpen averaged a 4.75 ERA.

For a starter, having a dominant bullpen in a cutthroat playoff race is essential.

“I think the bullpen has been our MVP the last month or so,” starting pitcher Zac Gallen told reporters after the team’s Game 2 victory. “I think it’s the part of our team that’s kept us in a lot of games. I mean, it’s not a secret that they had their struggles in the middle of the year. When you watch these teams that go deep in the postseason, the bullpen is usually the one that kind of prevails a lot. That’s what keeps you in games, so it’s been awesome to watch.

“It’s been awesome as a starter knowing, ‘Alright, get through six [and] seven, eight, nine is going to be a lockdown.’ Sure enough, tonight, they did their job again. It’s amazing.”

The Diamondbacks’ next test is the Dodgers in the NLDS, the same squad that bumped them from the playoffs in the 2017 NLDS. Like the D-backs, the Dodgers face adversity in their starting rotation and will look to their bullpen for support if things get ugly.

Game 1 is on Saturday with a 6:20 p.m. MST first pitch at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

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The Diamondbacks bullpen has been lights out since Sept. 1