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Merrill Kelly shines in home debut but D-backs can’t solve Red Sox bullpen

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

PHOENIX – Despite an outstanding performance by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly in his first start at Chase Field on Sunday, a lack of offense allowed the Boston Red Sox to avoid the sweep and escape with a 1-0 win in the series finale.

Kelly was incredibly efficient and effective with his strikes on the mound for Arizona. The 30-year old rookie threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes. He was ahead in the pitch count against every batter he faced in the game.

Kelly went eight innings, allowing only one earned run and four hits with nine strikeouts. He did not issue a walk.

“I try to limit the pitches as much as I can,” said Kelly on his performance. “The less pitches in an at bat for me the better.

“If I can throw one pitch and get one out, that’s great. So I try to get ahead and stay ahead, so today I was able to do that.”

He is just the fourth starter in franchise history to throw 70+ strikes in a game in less than 95 pitches. The other three are Brandon McCarthy, Curt Schilling, and Randy Johnson.

Per the team, his 14 innings pitched is the second most combined innings for a D-back in his first two Major League starts, trailing only Geraldo Guzman’s 16 innings pitched back in 2000.

“Kind of an unfortunate day for Kelly,” said manager Torey Lovullo after the loss. “He gives us exactly what we needed, kept them in check, made two or three mistakes, one of them was a solo home run that costs him the game.

“It’s not what you want out of those types of outings, but I think Merrill is going to continue to build on each outing and this hopefully will continue to push in the right direction. It’s just too bad we couldn’t get him any run support.”

The lone blemish on Kelly’s day was a solo home run by Mitch Moreland to lead off the seventh inning that Adam Jones almost caught in what would have been a spectacular play for the highlight reel.

Jones had already made an All-Star caliber play in the fifth inning when he robbed Blake Swihart of an extra base hit. However, this is his first game of the season where Jones did not get a hit for the D-backs.

The entire team was flat offensively against the five pitchers the Red Sox sent to the mound, with the only production coming from a John Ryan Murphy single in the third inning, a Christian Walker double in the fifth, and a David Peralta double in the ninth.

“I think we might have been a little thrown off by the bullpen day. Offensively, we’ve been swinging the bats extremely well. We do a really good job of prepping,” said Lovullo on the offense’s anemic day the plate and the usage of a pitching committee by the Red Sox. “There was just so much change that we just never really got an offensive rhythm, and I think that might have had a small part to do with it, that we saw so many arms coming out of their bullpen.

“I don’t think there were any duplicated at bats. Guys just never really got into a constant flow and couldn’t hand it off to the next guy in line.”

The D-backs are off on Monday and then welcome the Texas Rangers for a two-game series starting on Tuesday. Zack Greinke will get his third start of the season for Arizona and will face off against LHP Mike Minor for the Rangers. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 PM.

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