Kevin Towers' revamped Arizona bullpen is making the struggles of the 2010 relief corps seem like a distant memory.
Closer J.J. Putz converted his fifth consecutive save opportunity with a 1-2-3 ninth inning in the Diamondbacks' 3-1 victory at Cincinnati on Wednesday, capping the bullpen's 3 2/3 hitless innings to preserve a victory for starter Ian Kennedy.
Juan Gutierrez kept the tying run on second base after Joey Votto doubled home the only run off Kennedy with one out in the last of the sixth inning, and Sam Demel and David Hernandez added a scoreless inning apiece before Putz closed it out. The Reds' only baserunner against the bullpen was a walk, and all seven pitches Putz threw were strikes.
"'Guti' was rested, and his breaking ball has really come back. The rest of the guys were exceptional," manager Kirk Gibson said.
The D-backs' bullpen, which had a major-league-high 5.74 ERA and blew 24 save opportunities last season, has given up one earned run in its last 17 2/3 innings.
Hernandez has pitched an inning in each of the last four games, separated by an off day Monday, giving up an unearned run Tuesday. Putz has pitched in three straight games, going two innings Sunday before an off day the next day.
"We asked them to do it again, and they did it efficiently," Gibson said.
Left-handed specialist Joe Paterson has not given up a run in seven appearances this season, and right-hander Esmerling Vasquez has given up only one run in four appearances since being recalled from Class AAA Reno on April 13.
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