Maybe it’s a matter of getting adjusted to a new environment. Maybe it’s a matter of letting the new pieces blend with the old ones.
Either way, the Diamondbacks are trying to figure out what they have in their new bullpen additions amid a heated NL West race. And Tuesday presented another question mark the club will have to answer.
The Arizona bullpen, statistically one of the best in MLB this season, was unable to keep the score close on Tuesday as the Diamondbacks fell to the Philadelphia Phillies by a 5-2 score in the second game of a three-game series.
BOX SCORE: Phillies 5, Diamondbacks 2
Right-hander Zack Greinke grinded through seven innings of one-run ball after walking four of the first 10 batters he faced, but left-hander Jake Diekman, the first reliever summoned from the Diamondbacks bullpen, could not keep it a one-run game in the eighth.
Cesar Hernandez, the first batter Diekman faced, bunted a ball back to the mound and Diekman spiked the throw to first base and into right field.
“He bunted, I threw the ball down the line,” Diekman said after the game. “It’s never a good way to start the inning when you throw the ball down the line. My job there is to throw a scoreless inning and give our team a chance.”
Once the ball was picked up by Steven Souza Jr., Hernandez was headed for third base. Souza chucked a throw across the diamond that sailed over the head of Eduardo Escobar at third and into the stands. Hernandez was awarded home as Diekman and Souza were both charged with errors.
Diamondbacks reliever Jake Diekman talks about his throwing error in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Phillies.
Atreya Verma, The Republic | azcentral.com
Diekman then walked the next batter, Rhys Hoskins, before allowing a single to Nick Williams. The newly acquired left-hander then walked Carlos Santana to load the bases with no outs before Asdrubal Cabrera plated two runs with a double.
Before the inning was over, the slim, one-run deficit facing the Diamondbacks was suddenly a lopsided 5-0 score as play moved to the bottom of the eighth. It proved insurmountable to the offense.
“(We’re figuring out) how to use guys and making them feel comfortable, putting them in certain roles and certain situations where they’re going to have success,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “We want to do that to the best of our ability so we can maximize their situations. We know that they’re quality arms with proven track records of going and getting outs.
“I just think today was a situation where, after the bunt, there was a bit of a breakdown.”
Tuesday marked Diekman’s fourth appearance with the club after being acquired at the July 31 trade deadline. Over that span, Diekman has allowed four walks and three runs while recording just six outs.
The game was a stark contrast from Monday’s extra-inning affair, when the Diamondbacks bullpen recorded 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief before David Peralta sent everyone home with a walk-off home run in the 14th.
Entering play Tuesday, the Diamondbacks had the lowest bullpen ERA in the majors at 3.06 and the lowest since the trade deadline at 1.10. Their relief pitching has gotten them out of more jams than Lovullo can count, but it didn’t help the cause on Tuesday.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo talks about Zack Grienke’s performance and other struggles against the Phillies after Tuesday’s loss.
Atreya Verma, The Republic | azcentral.com
After Diekman allowed five baserunners and recorded just one out, right-hander Brad Ziegler, who was also acquired by the team on July 31, came in and allowed an RBI single before eventually clearing the inning.
“One thing, especially when you’re not familiar with the situation,” Ziegler, who pitched in Arizona from 2011-2016, said, “I think there’s an urgency to try to make everybody feel good about the trade right away and you try to do a little too much at that point.
“It’s easier said than done, but the best thing you can do is try to slow things down and remember what made you successful. What made you the pitcher they wanted to acquire? You have to try and do that same thing.”
The three bullpen pieces acquired by the Diamondbacks in July – Diekman, Ziegler and right-hander Matt Andriese – have an aggregate WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 2.54. Entering play Tuesday, the average WHIP in MLB was 1.31.
“I need to put them in the best situation possible, and I’m still trying to figure out that piece of the puzzle,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to get to it. The new guys are going to continue to get the baseball and get opportunities. I’m not going to run from them. We’re going to need them down the stretch.”
The breakdown loomed large just a half-inning later when the Diamondbacks finally got something going against Phillies left-hander Aaron Loup in the eighth.
Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a base hit and Peralta connected with a one-out single to put two men on with just one out. Paul Goldschmidt delivered an RBI double off the wall and A.J. Pollock brought home a second run when a ground ball got through the legs of Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco.
Still, the late-inning rally wasn’t enough for the Diamondbacks.
Ziegler, who is no stranger to joining an unfamiliar club as the calendar moves to August, offered some interesting perspective for players in situations such as Diekman’s.
“It’s tough because your life is kind of chaotic,” Ziegler said. “You’re trying to get all your stuff here to a new city and learn 40 new faces in a locker room and trying to pretend like everything’s normal on the mound. And sometimes it’s not.”