Bullpen Continues to Struggle

Going into this final home stand logical thinking would suggest the Diamondbacks may win two games out of the six. The Colorado Rockies entered the series as perhaps the hottest team in baseball or at least in the NL West.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are always tough for the Diamondbacks and have had success dating back to 2008 when the Dodgers knocked Arizona out of first place and ultimately out of the play-offs. Many point to that series in early September 2008 as the turning point where the Diamondbacks began their death roll to the bottom of the standings.

It somewhat comes as a surprise that after the midway point in this home stand the Diamondbacks have won three straight having swept the Rockies putting a serious dent in Colorado’s post season plans.

So if the team is winning, why am I feeling so poorly? Some of that may be the fact that I am coming to the realization that there are only three games remaining before the long dark off-season begins.

Chase Field will go dark after Sunday’s finale not to be open for baseball again until next March or April (depending on whether the Diamondbacks begin the season in Taiwan as is rumored or stay here and host a Spring Training series in late March before the season begins).

It’s not just the impending blackness of the off-season that has me bothered, it is also the way this past series went down especially last night’s game.

Starter Ian Kennedy looked strong as he began the game. He looked poised and confident on the mound as the game began. The Rockies had a game plan for dealing with Kennedy and they worked that plan to perfection.

Each at-bat seemed to stretch on forever. The Colorado hitters were patient against Kennedy making him throw strikes and fouling off pitches until they got one they could hit. As a result Kennedy’s pitch count rocketed through the open roof of Chase Field.

By the fourth inning Kennedy was already at 80 pitches and laboring. Given the fact he has already eclipsed the total inning count the Diamondbacks had anticipated for their young starter, manager Kirk Gibson had little choice but to pull him and turn the game over to the bullpen.

Since August 1st the Diamondbacks bullpen has been pitching better. That should have given the fans a positive mindset. Add to the fact that the Arizona offense was scoring in bunches at one point giving the team an 8-2 lead and this game should have been a lock. Unfortunately someone stole the keys to that lock.

Reliever DJ Carrasco set the stage for things to come when he came in for one inning of work and gave up a run bringing the Rockies to within a run at the time. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Esmerling Vasquez once again struggled walking the bases loaded additionally throwing a wild pitch before being lifted after just 0.2 innings. Blaine Boyer was brought in and with his first pitch gave up a grand slam to former Diamondback Carlos Gonzalez.

What was looking like a blow out by the Diamondbacks was suddenly a close game. Arizona would add two more runs in the seventh and eighth inning. These two runs became important as the bullpen continued their season long implosion.

After working a perfect eighth inning, Aaron Heilman came in the ninth and fell apart walking the first two men he faced putting the go-ahead run on base. In what seemed inconceivable earlier in the game, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson brought in Juan Gutierrez in a save situation.

Gutierrez retired the first hitter he faced although a run scored; the Diamondbacks were still in good shape. Instead of a simple save Gutierrez made it interesting giving up a single to Gonzalez scoring two more runs making it a one run lead.

It didn’t seem like anyone in the Diamondbacks bullpen was capable of getting three consecutive hitters out. Finally the fans were spared from the insanity when Melvin Mora struck out on a curve ball, the eighth pitch of the at-bat with the tying run on second.

This should not been difficult. Instead the Diamondbacks were forced to use seven pitchers in this game. This may have an impact on the next three games with the Dodgers as fewer relievers will be available. Given last night’s game that might not be a bad thing.

2 Comments

  1. It was interesting to hear Sutton and Grace comment on bringing in Bowyer to face Gonzales with the bases loaded when the score was 8 – 2. They couldn’t understand why Gibson didn’t bring in a lefty to face him. As soon as Gonzales hit the ball, Grace goes “Oh No” and you knew it was gone. It’s a good thing that Stephen Drew homered the next inning and that one more run was tacked on, otherwise we’d be discussing another bullpen blow.

    • What was even more perplexing was that the Diamondbacks had Mike Hampton up on three occasions last night warming up but never used him. I have to believe Hampton would have fared better than Boyer in the seventh against CarGo.

      By the way, every time I see Carlos Gonzalez play I cringe. His inclusion in the Dan Haren trade in 2008 was the worst possible scenario. To now have him in Denver to torment the Diamondbacks is going to be a real struggle for me for years.

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