PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen blew another late lead to the San Francisco Giants in a losing effort. The Dbacks offense showed up Wednesday night, and Arizona carried a two run lead into the eighth inning.
Fastballer David Hernandez got the call in the inning to spell Matt Reynolds, who pitched a perfect inning one frame prior. Hernandez walked two Giants hitters, including seventh place hitter, Gregor Blanco, who saw three no-brainer balls before Hernandez even challenged the strike zone, putting the relatively weak bat on base for free. Left handed hitter Brandon Belt then strode to the plate with two on and two outs. Belt has crushed the Diamondbacks in the season so far, to the tune of three home runs and nine RBI's. Belt was given a weak slider over the middle of the plate that he dispatched into the right field seats for a three run home run to give the Giants a one run lead.
Kirk Gibson gave Heath Bell the ball in the top of the ninth to try and hold the San Francisco lead to one. Bell walked two batters in the inning and gave up a long double to Pablo Sandoval that scored a run and was followed up by a Buster Posey sac fly. Bell was pulled after recording only two outs and Tony Sipp came on and quickly recorded the final out.
The Diamondbacks reliever situation could have been considered a situation for some time now already in the young season. It appears now that it can be promoted to a full-blown issue, one that could keep the Diamondbacks, who are playing fantastic baseball, out of the playoff hunt by August. The late inning relievers have combined to blow 10 saves in the first month of the season. Obviously, the Diamondbacks are not going to blow 60 saves this season, but considering their knack for being in very close games, the opportunities will be there. JJ Puts has blown nearly as many as he has saved and needs to be demoted. Arizona will get zero value for him at this point, and he will be put to best use as a middle inning reliever as he has not shown that he has the makeup of a closer. Heath Bell, who had been coming along nicely, is right back to where he was last season and at this point is not an option in a tight game. David Hernandez has the stuff to be a dominant closer, but he has not shown that he is mentally tough enough to take on the role. He issued two very critical and soft, easy-won walks in the worst situation he could have, and showed no fight the remainder of the inning.
As crazy as it may have seemed a month ago, the Diamondbacks best option to close out ball games at this point looks to be Matt Reynolds. He has gone 2-2 in his save opportunities, and is not prone to checking out mentally. Brad Ziegler could be the setup man the Dbacks are looking for, as hitters seem to have to take a couple innings to adjust to his delivery, though he can give up the long ball now and then.
Josh Collmenter and Tony Sipp have shown that they can be veritable middle inning relievers, and Diamondback fans can only hope that Gibson has courage enough to blow up his preseason reliever map and start fresh, given the results of the month of April.
Arizona has Thursday off, a day that a team (the bullpen) should gather amongst themselves and really find out where their hearts and minds have gone this early in the season, but given the competitiveness of the job and the fact that younger guys are waiting right behind the current late inning guys salivating at the thought to get the job, the bullpen will likely spend the day as individuals.
WP: George Kontos (2-1, 4.02)
LP: David Hernandez (1-2, 4.61)
S: Sergio Romo (11, 1.98)
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