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Season's urgency moving up Lopez's usage

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WASHINGTON -- Javier Lopez was summoned from the Giants' bullpen to pitch before the seventh inning only once in his first 38 outings. By contrast, Lopez had appeared in the sixth inning or earlier seven times in his last 14 games entering Saturday.

The difference can be attributed to the calendar. The Giants' push to reach the postseason magnifies Lopez's role as a situational left-hander, since those situations become more critical.

Friday provided an example. Lopez, the first man out of the bullpen, inherited a 4-2 lead with one out and a runner on first base in the sixth inning. With the tying run at the plate, Lopez struck out Adam LaRoche and induced Ian Desmond's fielder's-choice grounder.

"I would say the appearances, not just for myself but for everybody in the 'pen, are probably more high-stress than what would be offered in April and May," Lopez said Saturday. "It's because we're playing a 35-game season."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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