ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Merrill Kelly, D-backs struggle to produce in loss to Phillies

Aug 5, 2019, 11:12 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillie...
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo knows how important the month of August is for teams on the cusp of making or missing the playoffs.

Simply put, it’s moving month, as the D-backs sat just 2.5 games out of the National League Wild Card before the start of play Monday.

So it’s only fitting the first teams Arizona has faced this August happen to be the two teams standing in the way of meaningful October baseball for the D-backs.

After taking the series win over the Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies mark the next opponent on the docket.

The D-backs struck first, but it was the Phillies that got the last laugh Monday night in the series opener, taking the 7-3 win over starting pitcher Merrill Kelly and Arizona.

“It was an uncharacteristic game for us,” Lovullo said after the loss. “We didn’t play the type of defense, make the plays that we’re used to seeing us make and it ended up costing us in a couple situations.”

After the first two batters reached base on a single and a walk (catcher’s interference), Phillies slugger Bryce Harper provided a hard first out for the D-backs, putting two runners into scoring position with just one out.

Kelly kept dealing, however, recording a strikeout and a flyout to end the inning.

The D-backs bats weren’t silent in the first inning either, as Ketel Marte kicked off the game with a triple just four pitches into his at-bat. The outfielder didn’t have to wait long at third base, scoring the team’s first run of the night off a David Peralta groundout.

But just as it looked like Arizona might turn it on in the first, Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez was able to retire the next two batters, effectively ending the inning.

The Phillies would not be down long, however, as Scott Kingery tied things up on the first pitch of the second inning with a solo shot to left field.

Philadelphia continued to go at Kelly, recording at least one run over the next three innings, while the D-backs were only able to add a single run thanks to an Escobar sac fly in the third.

“We built some innings offensively and just couldn’t get a big hit to put us over the top,” Lovullo said. “I felt like we did enough to scratch and claw a couple runs to put us in some good situations but that big blow was lacking.”

While the D-backs (583) sat 54 runs ahead of the Phillies (529) at the start of the day, it was Philadelphia who swung the bats well, scoring at least one run in all but three innings.

Monday’s loss provided yet another tough outing for Kelly, who has not recorded a win since June 12.

In the loss, Kelly went 6.0 innings (84 pitches/58 strikes), allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. He also walked one and struck out four.

“I thought Merrill threw the ball better than his line score indicated,” Lovullo said. “I think there was some advantage counts for him that he didn’t finish some hitters and he made those mistakes and ended up paying for it.

“But overall when you look at a quality start, with six innings and three earned runs, you gotta back him up a little bit and understand that he did his job. We just couldn’t score some runs offensively.”

Kelly has now lost six of the last nine games he’s started — which includes back-to-back seven-run outings — earning three no-decisions over that span.

“It’s frustrating,” Kelly said of his outing. “Obviously with each game going down the stretch meaning more and more, like I said it’s frustrating.

“The word that keeps coming to mind is frustrating. I haven’t been able to take the ball and put the team in the win column.”

The run support hasn’t been there for Kelly as only one loss out of the last six came with at least six runs scored by the D-backs. In the other five defeats, the offense accounted for no more than three runs in each.

Monday provided the latest opportunity to make a move in the NL Wild Card standings. And while the loss doesn’t knock out the D-backs, the pressure’s on for Arizona to capitalize this home series to maintain ground in a competitive postseason race.

“To be honest with you, I was feeling very good about how we could come out and execute and potentially play a really clean game and do it the right way, but we didn’t,” Lovullo said. “We had some moments and it definitely backed up on us.

“And when you’re looking at it with the time of the year and the teams that we’re playing, I was feeling pretty good about today. I think everybody was. But we’ve got to wash it off. We’ve got to shower off this day and come out tomorrow. Nothing we can do about it today, game’s over. Got to find a way to be ready for tomorrow.”

UP NEXT

The D-backs turn to recently acquired starter Mike Leake for a boost in the second game of the three-game series.

Leake (9-8) has won three of his last four starts before the D-backs traded for the righty, going 3-0 over that span.

He’ll face off against Phillies starter Jake Arrieta (8-8). Arrieta, who’s had an up-and-down 2019, has won three of his last five starts, recording a loss and a no-decision in the other two outings.

First pitch is slated for 6:40 p.m., with all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

BASE HITS

– Ahead of Monday’s contest, the D-backs designated pitcher Zack Godley for assignment. In addition, the team optioned Taylor Clarke. RHP Kevin Ginkel and LHP Robby Scott were brought up in place of the two.

“Right now with the depth that we have and the two new arms that we have in the organization, it just wasn’t going to happen here,” Lovullo said Monday.

“Maybe it works out for [Godley] somewhere else, I hope it does. It was a tough decision as we walked through it with conversation for several days.”

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