Bumgarner better, but D-backs fall in 10th

Left-hander shows improvement in 5-inning start; bullpen can't preserve late lead

September 4th, 2022

PHOENIX -- The D-backs lost a heartbreaker to the Brewers on Saturday night, falling, 8-6, in 10 innings at Chase Field.

Holding a 6-4 lead after seven, Arizona's bullpen allowed a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, where Tyrone Taylor's two-run homer proved to be the difference.

Here are three things to know about the game:

1. Madison Bumgarner took a step forward

While the D-backs' starting staff has been on a roll of late, the one member of the rotation who has been struggling is the veteran left-hander Bumgarner.

In his previous six starts entering Saturday, Bumgarner was 0-4 with an 8.63 ERA. He has worked tirelessly with pitching coach Brent Strom to try to figure out how to get back to the form he displayed in the first half, when he had a 3.83 ERA through his first 19 starts.

Although Bumgarner's line on Saturday wasn't his greatest -- five innings pitched, three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts -- it was still a sign that he and Strom might be on the right track.

Strom talked before the game about the biggest issue for Bumgarner being his command. Pitching coaches look at command and control as two different things. Control is throwing strikes and not walking hitters. Command is placing the ball where you want to.

While walks were not a big issue for Bumgarner over his previous six starts, getting the ball to the spot where he wanted it was.

"There's still a lot to do better, but it was pretty good tonight," Bumgarner said. "I felt like I did a lot better job of keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate today, so that was mostly -- not going to say the main concern, but that was something I was thinking about. Just making pitches. Even if I got behind, just keep making pitches."

2. It was a tough night for the bullpen

This year, Arizona relievers have a combined 32 losses, the most in the Majors. Lately, as the D-backs had won eight of 10 heading into Saturday, the bullpen had stabilized. But the unit ran into trouble again vs. Milwaukee.

Ian Kennedy, who took over the closer's role after Mark Melancon's struggles, came on to protect a 6-5 lead in the ninth. But the right-hander gave up a pinch-hit solo homer to Rowdy Tellez, which tied the game.

Then in the 10th, Joe Mantiply gave up a go-ahead two-run homer to Taylor, as the left-hander took his fifth loss of the season. Mantiply, the D-backs' lone All-Star this year, has allowed at least one run in three of his past five outings.

"Recently, I kind of feel like a liability a little bit," Mantiply said. "So it's tough to swallow, especially that one. That one hit the hardest all year. I feel like I've kind of gotten back to a good feeling [and] the ball feels good coming out of my hands. So I felt really good. But you know, not getting the job done sucks."

3. Another rookie is on the way

Following the game, manager Torey Lovullo announced that right-hander Ryne Nelson will be called up from Triple-A Reno on Sunday and added to the taxi squad.

The plan is to then add Nelson to the roster Monday and start him that night against the Padres at Petco Park. Nelson, who is Arizona's No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, allowed one unearned run over seven innings last time out on Tuesday against Las Vegas.

"He's been throwing the ball good," Lovullo said. "Throwing it really good. We just want to give him an opportunity to come up here and get some really good September baseball experience [against] some good baseball teams."

As a result, each of the D-backs' starters will get an extra day of rest this time through the rotation. That's important with the team currently in the midst of a stretch of 31 games in 31 days.