RHP Brian Bruney lost his confidence, and he knows right where he misplaced it, too. In Wrigley Field. On July 27. In the ninth inning, to be exact.
That's when Bruney blew a save situation against the Cubs, walking two of the first three batters he faced, and then allowing two base hits, which would deny Arizona the chance of sweeping a four-game set in Chicago.
Bruney hadn't been the same pitcher since. He battled location problems, was pitching away from contact, and just never felt right. It showed. Bruney kept walking batters, hitting them, giving up boatloads of runs, and finally, it came to a head during a recent game in Cincinnati.
He allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning Friday during a 17-3 loss. After the game, he was optioned to Triple-A Tucson. Bruney, however, was ready to go.
"If I'm the manager, I send me down, too," he said, referring to Diamondbacks skipper Bob Melvin.
That's how bad it was. Bruney's ERA had risen to 7.60, the highest on the staff, and his walk totals -- 34 in 45 innings -- were climbing out of control. It wasn't one pitch. It was simply falling behind in too many counts and then being lost on the mound.
Bruney said he didn't throw any pitches with any conviction.
"Everybody stuck with me and had faith in me, but I think I kind of lost it in myself," said Bruney, 23, who recorded 12 saves for Arizona this season while then-closer Brandon Lyon was on the disabled list. "I just haven't been pitching with the attitude I need to.
"I need to go down and get my confidence back and come back and help this team, if I pitch well enough."
As long as he starts recording outs, Bruney will be back.
"He's got some pitches he can throw when he's ahead that he can make outs with and actually make them look foolish," Melvin said. "But he had a tough time throwing breaking balls for strikes, especially in some off counts, and he got a lot more predictable. He's got good stuff. He's going to pitch in the big leagues again."
--RHP Javier Vazquez hadn't been himself lately, and he was hoping that a few extra side sessions in the bullpen will help rectify some problems he was experiencing with his mechanics and his won-lost record.
The work apparently paid off. Vazquez, who had lost eight of his past 12 starts, including three in a row, pitched eight strong innings Saturday to defeat Cincinnati 6-2 in the 250th start of his career.
"He's been rushing a little bit and when he gets out there a little quick with his pitches, the ball is going to come up in the zone," manager Bob Melvin said beforehand. "You're pressing a little bit then, so there's maybe a byproduct of that. But he's been working on some stuff in the bullpen to keep himself back a little better."
Vazquez's command was virtually pristine for a long stretch earlier this season, as he went seven starts and faced 221 consecutive batters without allowing a walk, establishing a Diamondbacks record. He's averaged 1.9 walks per every nine innings, which is actually a little high for him.
"Usually, command is never an issue for him," Melvin said.
But hitters have been feasting upon Vazquez lately, and he's already allowed 25 home runs.
"He's frustrated with himself because he's accountable. He takes it seriously," Melvin said. "He's a guy that wants to pick up his team up whatever the situation may be. He's a guy we count on and even though he's struggled the past couple times, every time he goes out there, I feel very good and I feel like we're going to win a ballgame."
--When the season started, the closest thing the Diamondbacks had to a veteran in the bullpen was Mike Koplove, who had two years and 144 days of major league service under his belt.
But after a rocky season in which the right-hander's ERA had swelled to 5.09 after 44 appearances, upper management decided it had seen enough and outrighted Koplove to Triple-A Tucson, thus knocking him off the 40-man roster.
That didn't sit particularly well with Koplove, 28, who had been asked to bounce around in multiple relief roles this season because of injuries and inconsistencies elsewhere in the 'pen. Manager Bob Melvin said Koplove never complained to him, but a day after clearing waivers, Koplove said, "It's very disappointing, and the way everything has happened makes me a little angry."
In fairness to Melvin, this seemed to be a move made without his full consent.
"I do not for a minute want to say anything negative about Koppy," Melvin said. "Obviously the results haven't been there for him like they have in the past, but my feeling is he'll find it again."
Koplove, who began the year as Arizona's setup man, was the most upset about coming back from a demotion to Tucson earlier this summer and then not being used for a week. His role then became that of a long reliever and mop-up man.
"I don't think he didn't not take to it," Melvin said. "I think for a guy like him that's used to knowing his role that it was tougher. Early on he was my eighth-inning guy, then there was some struggles so we moved him out of it and then now kind of finding his niche probably was more difficult than he's had to deal with at the big-league level in the past.
--RHP Brian Bruney was optioned to Triple-A Tucson on Friday following Arizona's 17-3 loss to Cincinnati, in which Bruney allowed six earned runs in just two thirds of an inning. RH reliever Brandon Medders was recalled from Tucson to take Bruney's spot in the bullpen.
"If I'm the manager, I send me down, too," Bruney said, referring to skipper Bob Melvin. "'Bo-Mel' has stuck by me all year. Same goes for everybody in here. I think everybody knows that people struggle at times and people stuck by me and had faith in me. But I think I lost it myself and just haven't been pitching with the attitude I need to."
Before leaving the team and departing for Tucson, Bruney boldly proclaimed the Diamondbacks will slip ahead of the San Diego Padres and win the National League West Division title.
"This team is going to win the West," Bruney said, "and we just all need to realize that and then we're going to take off. ... Hopefully, if I go down and throw well, I'll come back and help the team."
--RHP Russ Ortiz allowed six earned runs off seven hits while walking five batters in just 2 2/3 innings Friday in taking the loss during a 17-3 rout by the Reds. Ortiz has now allowed 11 earned runs and 15 hits in two starts since coming off the disabled list with a rib injury.
--1B Tony Clark had a bad contusion on his right shin a day after getting hit by a Jason Isringhausen pitch Thursday in St. Louis, but he was available for pinch-hit duty Friday and was back in the lineup Saturday, when he hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the eighth inning.
--Manager Bob Melvin after Arizona's 17-3 loss to the Reds on Friday: "I would say it's the low point of the year right now. We've done these games, maybe not to this extent, but we've found a way to come off the mat every time."
--RHP Claudio Vargas has won three straight starts, four of his past five, and is 7-2 since June 15. He beat the Cardinals on Thursday for the first time in six career games.
--1B Conor Jackson had five errors in his first six starts after his promotion from Triple-A Tucson. "In his defense," manager Bob Melvin said, "he has not gotten an easy ball yet."
--The Diamondbacks are the only National League club to boast five players with at least 18 homers this season: Troy Glaus, Tony Clark, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green and Chad Tracy.
BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Home runs, out of 22 overall, 1B Tony Clark has hit in the seventh inning or beyond in games this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If I'm the manager, I send me down, too." --RHP Brian Bruney, whose ERA had swelled to a team-worst 7.60, upon being optioned to Triple-A Tucson immediately after allowing six runs in two-thirds of an inning during a 17-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday.
The 2005 season is not over, but the post season dreams of the Diamondbacks have turned into an…