D-backs’ blown save count hits nine in loss to Giants

PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks spent the offseason fortifying their bullpen, which has made its early struggles even more mystifying.

The D-backs suffered their major league-high ninth failed save conversion when closer J.J. Putz gave up a two-run home run to Pablo Sandoval for a 2-1 San Francisco victory at Chase Field on Tuesday.
Sandoval hit a split-finger pitch that stayed up in the strike zone, a pitch that Putz has had trouble throwing where he’s wanted this season. But it’s the same pitch he got Troy Tulowitzki with for the final out in victory over Colorado on Saturday, and set up Carlos Gonzalez for an out-of-the strike zone fastball for the final out against the Rockies on Sunday.

This time it stayed thigh-high.

“It just seems like every time I leave one of those up, it’s getting crushed right now. It’s very frustrating. The one that Pablo hit just didn’t come out of my hand,” Putz said.

Putz has five saves and four failed chances, and he has given up ninth-inning home runs to the Giants twice in the last eight days. The first was to Brandon Belt as a pinch-homer on April 23 to tie the game at 4. The D-backs rallied to win that one, 6-4.

This time Sergio Romo pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning for his 10th save, tied for the National League lead.

Putz was asked if his confidence was shaken.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

“That’s pretty much how the split is. If it doesn’t come out your hand right, that is pretty much what is going to happen.”

The bullpen woes have not been solely Putz’s. David Hernandez failed to convert save opportunities twice in San Francisco last week. The most effective reliever this season has been left-hander Matt Reynolds, who has not allowed a run in 13 innings and converted two saves in San Francisco, the first two late-inning save chances of his career.

But if role changes in the bullpen, even temporary, are to be considered, it will not be in the heat of a defeat, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

“Not right now. We just lost a game. I’m not thinking of that right now,” Gibson said.

“(Putz) feels as bad as anybody. I’m aware of the (nine blown) saves. Given that, we’ve battled back pretty good.”

Sandoval’s home run, his fourth of the season and the sixth in his career at Chase Field, trumped Trevor Cahill’s most efficient outing of the season, a game in which the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner was almost equally as effective. Cahill gave up three singles and threw only 82 pitches in eight shutout innings, striking out five. He left after Angel Pagan opened the ninth inning with a single to right field.

The D-backs led 1-0 on Josh Wilson’s first homer of the season in the eighth, and Gibson went to Putz, who had two saves and a victory in three appearances in the recent four-game series against Colorado. The fact that Cahill threw several pitches to the backstop while warming up for the ninth also played into the decision, Gibson said.

“I didn’t want (Cahill) to get the loss, so I took him out and went to our closer,” Gibson said.

“It’s a no-brainer. That’s a pretty good lineup you are facing there. You are in the middle of their lineup. You can’t change their lineup. And Sandoval is a pretty good hitter. You can’t make mistakes like that to him, and we did, and he hit it out of the ballpark. I had confidence in my closer. It didn’t work out tonight. In general, that’s the way it is going to play out. You have a closer, you are going to go to him.”

Cahill was the first player to give Putz a pat on the back as he returned to the D-backs’ dugout later in the ninth inning.

“He’s going to close it out more times than not,” Cahill said. “The same situation next time, I’ll give him the ball and I’m sure he’ll shut it down.”

Putz was the first player available after the game.

“It’s a shame that he (Cahill) didn’t get a better outcome. He pitched his tail off tonight,” Putz said.

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