Chad Qualls has replaced Brandon Lyon as the Diamondbacks' closer down the stretch, and the early returns look good. Qualls worked a perfect ninth inning Monday to save the game for starter Doug Davis and winning pitcher Tony Pena. All three outs came on the ground.
Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin made the decision Saturday, after Lyon gave up two runs on four hits in the ninth inning against Cincinnati on Friday and had to be bailed out by Qualls, who retired the final batter to save a 3-2 victory.
Lyon has converted 26 of his 31 save opportunities in his first season replacing Jose Valverde, who was traded to Houston in a four-player deal that included Qualls last winter, but Lyon has given up 14 earned runs in his last 10 2/3 innings.
The D-backs have lost 17 games this season in which they led after seven innings after losing only six games in those situations last year.
Lyon, who gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss at San Francisco on Wednesday, is 2-5 with a 5.13 ERA this season. He made 24 consecutive scoreless appearances in a streak that ended in mid-June but has an 11.57 ERA after the All-Star break.
"He totally understood," Melvin said. "All he wants to do is help this team win. In that respect, he took it like a pro. He's about as accountable a guy as I've ever had in the bullpen."
Qualls, 4-8 with a 3.06 ERA, has converted three of his 11 save opportunities, although most of his blown saves came when he lost leads in the seventh or eighth innings. He has been scored on only once in his last 19 appearances.
"I'm glad I've got the opportunity. I think I've earned it," Qualls said. "Now I have a chance to throw in the ninth. I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing."
Qualls understands the importance of his new role.
"From here on out, it's like the World Series every game. That's the way I look at it. We can't give Los Angeles any ground. We have to put pressure on them and keep the pressure on them."
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