Bullpen trend conjures concern
CLARK SPENCER , mailto:email@example.com
ATLANTA - For so long they were so trusted.
Now the Marlins bullpen is reeling from a string of dismal showings that have figured prominently in three of the past five losses.
"Not good," said closer Braden Looper, who has been lambasted in his past two relief appearances, both of them save situations that went up in flames.
Said setup man Ugueth Urbina, who played a part in Saturday's near-disaster when he served up a two-run homer to Atlanta's Gary Sheffield: "You can't expect to do good every day. That's normal. That's part of the game."
The relievers have been abominable of late, allowing 20 earned runs over 21 2/3 innings.
While none of the bullpen's members has been immune from the stretch of shaky outings, Looper has come under the spotlight with back-to-back busts.
Pitching for the seventh time in nine days, he failed to protect a 5-4 lead Sept. 14 against the Braves by giving up five runs in the ninth and losing the game.
On Saturday at Turner Field, Looper unraveled again by failing to protect a 5-3 lead in the ninth and giving up two runs to allow the game to go into extra innings.
McKeon hedged around questions about whether he would replace Looper with Urbina as the closer, saying only that he would base his decisions on each late-game situation.
"I trust them," McKeon said Sunday. "You've got to stay with them."
But McKeon has no other choice.