The Arizona Diamondbacks' bullpen was supposed to be one of the strengths of the team in the 2013 season. Instead, D-backs relievers have combined to blow nine saves in the first month of the campaign.
The latest missed opportunity to close out a game came Tuesday when Arizona took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning. Starter Trevor Cahill pitched a gem, going eight innings plus one batter in the ninth before manager Kirk Gibson opted to go to closer J.J. Putz with a runner on first and nobody out.
Putz gave up a two-run blast to Pablo Sandoval that gave the Giants the lead for good. After the game, Gibson was asked why he made the switch from Cahill to Putz in the ninth when his starter had thrown just 88 pitches.
"He (Cahill) threw three to the backstop and I didn't want him to get the loss so I took him out and went to our closer. It's a no-brainer," Gibson said. "It's a pretty good lineup you're facing there, we can't change their lineup. Sandoval is a very good hitter. You can't make mistakes like that and we did and he hit it out of the ballpark."
The D-backs bullpen has not only blown nine saves but also allowed eleven home runs. In fairness, Arizona relievers have worked 87.2 innings through the first month -- in the top ten in the Majors.
With the number of blown saves accumulating, Gibson was asked if he's already considering making a change to his bullpen lineup.
"Not right now, we just lost a game so we're not thinking about that right now. He (Putz) feels as bad as anybody," said the skipper. "I'm aware of the nine saves but given that, we've battled back pretty good, I actually thought we'd come back and win that game or at least tie it up and win it later."
Putz has four blown saves in April. He had five blown saves all of 2012 and four in 2011.
Gibson always defends and supports his players publicly. Some of that probably comes from being a former player himself. Tuesday night was no different when it came to Putz.
"I had confidence in my closer there and it didn't work out tonight."