Back end of bullpen superb at holding leads

Back end of bullpen superb at holding leads

PHOENIX -- The struggles this season for the front end of the Reds bullpen have been well-documented. But when Cincinnati has a lead in the late innings and turns it over to the back end of the bullpen, the outcomes have been much more positive.

Sam LeCure, Jonathan Broxton and closer Aroldis Chapman have had little difficulty protecting leads once a game reaches the seventh inning. Entering Saturday, the club is 20-1 when leading after the seventh.

"It's been close to lockdown type of performances. They've been terrific," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I'm very happy with how they're all throwing the ball."

LeCure came in with a 1.23 ERA in 20 appearances with two of his 12 inherited runners having scored. Broxton had a 0.57 ERA with five saves in six chances over 16 appearances and Chapman owned a 2.00 ERA with six saves in seven chances in his eight games. All three worked one scoreless inning each during Friday's 6-4 victory over the D-backs.

Chapman has been particularly effective since his activation from the disabled list on May 11 after he was struck in the face by a line drive in Spring Training. The left-hander has long been tough on hitters with his triple-digit velocity but has integrated secondary pitches this season that have given them added difficulty.

Of Chapman's 13 pitches for the save in the ninth inning on Friday, Chapman threw two changeups and five sliders.

"I think he could be, with the addition of the changeup and the way he's throwing his slider, this could be as well as he's thrown the ball since I've been here," said Price, who joined the Reds as pitching coach before the 2010 season. "He has three pitches he's throwing for strikes. That changeup, even though it's 88-90 mph, is still a 10 mph speed differential. It's been a terrific pitch for him."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.