Hirano was able to pick up his second save of the season in Friday's 4-2 win over the Astros. He allowed a single and a walk in a scoreless inning of work. After blowing a save Wednesday, Hirano was given another chance to handle the ninth inning and he managed to keep the Astros off the board. It appears that he may have a grip on the closer duties in Arizona for now, but the situation is still worth watching. Hirano has a 2.12 ERA with 55 strikeouts over 63.2 innings so far in 2018.
Hirano (4-3) blew the save and took the loss Wednesday, allowing two runs on two hits while recording one out against the Rockies. Hirano was called upon for a save opportunity for a second consecutive night, but he allowed a leadoff single and then a walkoff home run to take the defeat. Given that the 34-year-old got the nod both Tuesday and Wednesday it appears he is manager Torey Lovullo's preferred option to handle ninth-inning duties, though the leash just got shorter.
Hirano collected the save Tuesday, firing a perfect inning with two strikeouts in a win over the Rockies. With Brad Boxberger relieved of his closing duties, manager Torey Lovullo indicated he'd manage the ninth inning on a matchup basis and it was Hirano who earned his first save. Jake Diekman was called upon to start the ninth inning, but after allowing a pair of runners to reach, Hirano came on to shut the door without allowing either inherited runner to score. The 34-year-old has a stellar 1.88 ERA and has gone 11 straight outings without allowing an earned run, so while Lovullo may not use a traditional closer down the stretch, Hirano looks like the top option.
Hirano could see usage in save situations after Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo announced Monday that Brad Boxberger would be removed from the closer's role, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports. "It's going to be done by matchup and trying to get through the situation the best that we can based on the hitters that are coming up and based on who's available in the bullpen," Lovullo said of the team's closing picture. "We've got to get there first, and once we get there you're probably going to see a variety of guys finishing the game for us." While Lovullo avoided naming any candidates to replace Boxberger at the back end of the bullpen, Hirano seems to have the best case for filling the vacancy. Though Archie Bradley has primarily acted as the club's top setup option this season and trails only Boxberger with three saves, he hasn't been dependable in the second half with a 8.20 ERA, 1.66 WHIP and 3.9 BB/9 across 21 appearances. Hirano, meanwhile, has prior closing experience from his days in Japan and has been a steady performer throughout his rookie campaign, submitting a 1.91 ERA and avoiding the home-run issues that have more frequently plagued Bradley and Boxberger. The 34-year-old thus looks like Arizona's most reliable choice against lineups that skew right-handed heavy, with southpaws Andrew Chafin and Jake Diekman perhaps seeing more ninth-inning work versus lefties if Lovullo sticks to the matchups-based plan he teased.
Hirano worked around a pair of base hits to turn in a scoreless eighth inning Thursday in the Diamondbacks' 3-1 win over the Dodgers. The clean frame lowered Hirano's ERA to 2.09 and netted him his 30th hold of the season, placing him second league-wide in that category behind only his teammate, Archie Bradley (31). Hirano's transition from Nippon Professional Baseball to the MLB has gone about as seamlessly as possible, with the 34-year-old establishing himself as one of the league's top setup men right away and not showing any signs of slippage in the second half.