Three weeks removed from a potential wild-card game, the Diamondbacks do not have a set seventh-inning reliever. Nor do they have a sixth-inning guy or a dependable, late-inning matchup lefty.
At the moment, the Diamondbacks appear to have only two relievers they can count on – setup man Archie Bradley and closer Fernando Rodney. Though depending on one’s tolerance for Rodney’s occasional implosions, it could be argued they only have one.
It seems like an unusual position to be in for a team that many view as a dangerous postseason club. It’s an area in which Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo would like to see clarity before the calendar turns to October.
“We’re trying to get as much definition as we possibly can on some key guys, some key moments,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to give them some opportunities. If we’re trying to get to where we want to get to, we need to have some things locked down.”
On the whole, the group has performed well. The bullpen’s 3.87 ERA is the second-best in the National League. Many of the roles and faces have changed throughout the summer, but more often than not the Diamondbacks have been able to find ways to navigate through the late innings.
It’s been a different story lately. Since the start of August, the bullpen has a 4.96 ERA. Those struggles have been amplified by a pair of recent losses. On Saturday night, left-hander Andrew Chafin and Rodney combined to allow six ninth-inning runs in a loss to the San Diego Padres. Two nights later, right-hander Jake Barrett gave up three runs in the eighth in a loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Bradley is having perhaps as good a year as any reliever in baseball. He owns a 1.23 ERA, an impressive strikeout rate (10.1 per nine innings) and the mound presence and pure stuff that portends dominance.
Beyond that, though, the Diamondbacks’ bullpen is filled with questions. Rodney largely has been dependable, but when he’s bad, he’s really bad, leading to questions about whether Bradley should be the one closing games.