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“Paul Sewald’s Struggles Highlight Diamondbacks’ Closer Dilemma”

Paul Sewald: The Diamondbacks’ Bullpen Anchor Faces New Challenges

Paul Sewald’s arrival in Arizona 11 months ago brought a much-needed stability to the Diamondbacks’ bullpen. His performance last fall was nothing short of spectacular, closing out six playoff victories and securing the team’s first World Series berth in 22 years. Just a week ago, Sewald boasted an impressive 0.54 ERA, solidifying his reputation as a reliable closer.

However, the cheers have recently turned to boos. On Monday night at Chase Field, Sewald walked off the mound to a chorus of disapproval after blowing a save for the third consecutive appearance. With two outs in the ninth inning, Sean Murphy of the Braves hit a game-tying, two-run home run off Sewald. The Diamondbacks eventually lost 5-4 in extra innings, missing a crucial opportunity to improve their record to above .500.

Sewald’s Recent Struggles

Sewald’s recent performances have been a stark contrast to his previous success. Over the past week, the Diamondbacks have a 0-3 record when Sewald pitches, compared to 4-0 when he does not. This is a statistic no closer wants to see.

The Game Against the Braves

For most of Monday night’s game, the Diamondbacks appeared to be in control, thanks largely to the stellar debut of 23-year-old right-hander Yilber Diaz. Entering the top of the ninth inning, the team held a 3-1 lead.

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Diaz delivered an impressive performance, allowing just one run over six innings. He became only the eighth pitcher in Diamondbacks history to achieve both marks in a debut. After surrendering a first-inning home run to Austin Riley, Diaz settled down, allowing only four more baserunners for the rest of his outing.

Diaz’s Impressive Debut

Diaz finished the game with five strikeouts and just one walk. Braves hitters struggled to make contact with his fastball, which he threw more than half the time, generating six swings-and-misses. He also induced two whiffs with his slider and one with his curveball.

Diaz’s debut performance comes on the heels of an impressive minor league stint, where he struck out 13 batters in six no-hit innings for Triple-A Reno. Starting the year as a fringe prospect in Double-A, Diaz added a slider during the offseason and improved his command significantly, avoiding a move to the bullpen and rising quickly through the minor leagues.

The Diamondbacks’ Rotation Woes

If Diaz can secure a spot in the rotation, it would be a significant boost for the Diamondbacks. The team is currently without Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez, both of whom are expected to be out until August. Among the team’s depth options, only Ryne Nelson has been somewhat effective, though he has also struggled at times.

Injured Pitchers’ Progress

Three injured Diamondbacks pitchers—Merrill Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jordan Montgomery—are set to make significant strides in their rehab on Tuesday. Each is scheduled to throw a 20-25 pitch bullpen session at Salt River Fields.

Montgomery, who went on the injured list a week ago with knee inflammation, is closest to returning and could be back shortly after the All-Star break. Kelly and Rodriguez, however, have been out for months and will need more time to build up their arm strength. Manager Torey Lovullo predicts they will require three to four bullpen sessions before advancing to simulated games and eventually minor league rehab assignments. Rodriguez appears slightly closer to returning than Kelly, with both expected to rejoin the team in August.

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Drey Jameson’s Recovery

Right-hander Drey Jameson is also working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Almost exactly 12 months after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, Jameson is throwing bullpen sessions at Salt River Fields. However, he is not expected to return this season. The Diamondbacks aim to have him fully prepared for the start of spring training next February.

Lovullo’s Comments

“Just continue to build up arm strength, work on delivery stuff, face some hitters, and be ready for a normal offseason,” Lovullo said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Upcoming Games and Expectations

Right-hander Brandon Pfaadt is scheduled to start on Thursday. He recently took a line drive off his ankle but is feeling better and is set to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday ahead of his start.

Matchups and Statistics

  • Braves at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m., Cox, Ch. 34
  • Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen (6-4, 3.06) vs. Braves LHP Chris Sale (11-3, 2.71)
  • In his latest outing against the Dodgers on July 4, Gallen allowed four hits and three runs through four innings, striking out four. This season, Gallen has a 3.06 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 19 walks in 67⅔ innings. His numbers this year are consistent with his past two seasons, where he finished in the top five in NL Cy Young voting. Sale, on the other hand, is having his best and healthiest season in a long time. Through 16 starts, he has logged 99⅔ innings with only 19 walks and 127 strikeouts. Sale faced the Diamondbacks in April, giving up two runs in 5⅓ innings in a no-decision. His slider has been particularly effective, holding opposing hitters to a .164 average and .233 slugging percentage, with a 41.8% whiff rate on swings.

  • Wednesday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m.

  • Diamondbacks RHP Slade Cecconi (2-6, 6.10) vs. Braves RHP Charlie Morton (5-5, 3.96)

  • Thursday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m.

  • Diamondbacks RHP Brandon Pfaadt (3-6, 4.19) vs Braves LHP Max Fried (7-4, 3.18)

  • Friday: At Chase Field, 6:40 p.m.

  • Diamondbacks RHP Ryne Nelson (6-6, 5.08) vs. Blue Jays RHP Yariel Rodriguez (1-3, 3.68)
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FAQs

What happened to Paul Sewald recently?

Paul Sewald has blown saves in his last three appearances, including allowing a game-tying two-run home run to Sean Murphy of the Braves.

How did Yilber Diaz perform in his debut?

Yilber Diaz had an impressive debut, allowing just one run over six innings with five strikeouts and one walk. He became the eighth pitcher in Diamondbacks history to achieve both marks in a debut.

What is the current status of injured pitchers Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez?

Both Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez are expected to return in August. They are currently in the process of building up arm strength and will need several bullpen sessions and simulated games before starting minor league rehab assignments.

Will Drey Jameson return this season?

Drey Jameson is not expected to return this season as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The goal is to have him ready for the start of spring training next February.

Who is scheduled to start for the Diamondbacks in the upcoming games?

  • Thursday: Brandon Pfaadt is scheduled to start against the Braves.
  • Friday: Ryne Nelson will start against the Blue Jays.

Conclusion

The Diamondbacks are navigating through a challenging phase with their bullpen and rotation. Paul Sewald’s recent struggles have added pressure, but the emergence of Yilber Diaz offers a glimmer of hope. The team eagerly awaits the return of key pitchers like Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez, while also planning for the future with promising talents like Drey Jameson. As the season progresses, the Diamondbacks will need to capitalize on these opportunities to turn their fortunes around.

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