Lopez stays sharp in more specialized role

Lopez stays sharp in more specialized role

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's difficult for a reliever to maintain consistency when he doesn't face a lot of batters. Somehow, Javier Lopez has overcome this challenge.

Lopez has functioned more this season as a left-handed specialist than ever, making 70 appearances yet pitching only 36 innings and facing 153 batters. Lopez also made 70 appearances last year, but by contrast he worked 53 innings and faced 222 hitters. He faced one batter in seven of his last eight regular-season outings and 12 of his final 17.

The difference in activity didn't affect Lopez's performance. He allowed just two runs in his last 32 appearances.

"I focus on fastball command a little bit more than I have in the past because I know I need to get a strike early," Lopez said.

Lopez could be called upon quite frequently during the Division Series against the Reds, since their two biggest hitters, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, bat left-handed. Votto is hitless in five career at-bats against Lopez, while Bruce is 2-for-10.