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D-backs win 4th straight as offense explodes to beat Dodgers

Arizona Diamondbacks' Eduardo Escobar watches his three-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — It seemed as though Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly was pitching for his job on Thursday night. At the very least, his manager’s previous comments indicated that he was on thin ice — and that’s not what you want in late August in Phoenix.

Manager Torey Lovullo told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station earlier in the week that Kelly “has quickly approached my comfort threshold” and that he “needs to go out and throw a good baseball game.”

There’s subjectivity in the word “good,” and important context to be found in the fact that Kelly only going four innings on Thursday was mostly because the D-backs, down by a run, had two runners on base with Kelly’s spot up to bat. Lovullo elected to pinch-hit in the fourth inning (the pinch-hitter was Ildemaro Vargas, who hit a go-ahead RBI single).

So was Kelly “good” enough? On a night the Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers in an offensive outburst, 11-5, to get their fourth straight win, Kelly allowed only three runs and did what he needed to do to keep his team in the game against Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. He didn’t get the chance to either retire the next nine consecutive hitters or to get knocked out of the game on his own, or something in between.

“Merrill Kelly gave us four, what I thought, pretty good innings,” Lovullo said. “I thought there were some improvements from the last outing. He got out and was standing on his stuff, and I felt the fastball presence that I talk about often.

“But I thought it was time to maneuver into the bullpen. He was probably going to give us one more inning. I thought our opportunity there to go ahead and do something pretty special offensively outweighed us sending him back out there.”

Kelly’s official line: 4.0 innings, three earned runs, three hits, four walks (one intentional) and four strikeouts. He threw 78 pitches, tossing first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 18 hitters he faced.

He had two innings that were 1-2-3 innings, tossing four strikeouts combined in the second and fourth innings. In the first and third innings, however, he allowed a combined three doubles and three unintentional walks, along with all three of his earned runs on the night. He walked in a run in the third inning.

After Kelly, Matt Andriese pitched an inning and allowed one run, while Andrew Chafin pitched 1.1 innings and Taylor Clarke went the rest of the way, pitching 2.2 innings of what had been shutout ball until he allowed a two-out, ninth-inning home run to Justin Turner.

“I thought … it was a really nice effort by the bullpen, especially Taylor Clarke coming in and just pumping the strike zone full of strikes,” Lovullo said.

BATS CARRY D-BACKS TO BIG WIN

The offense was critical in Arizona getting a homestand-opening win to start a four-game series against the LA Dodgers, not to mention doing so against Ryu, who entered the game leading qualifying MLB starters in ERA (2.00).

Ryu went 4.2 innings, allowing seven runs on 10 hits, a walk and four strikeouts despite retiring the first seven hitters he faced to start the game.

The D-backs trailed 3-0 until the fourth inning, when they scored four runs and sent nine hitters to the plate. Then, they added three more runs in each of the next two frames.

“Come from behind wins are fun,” D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed said. “Especially against a good team like that. Their best pitcher on the mound, the best pitcher in the National League, we go down early like that and we fight and claw and figure out a way to score a lot of runs and beat them. That was a fun one.”

A two-run double by Wilmer Flores, another two-run double by Adam Jones and a game-breaking three-run home run in the sixth inning by Eduardo Escobar were the highlights of an offensive outburst by Arizona, which scored double-digit runs for the first time since Aug. 3.

Escobar’s homer was his 30th of the year, and he became one of four switch hitters all-time with 30 home runs, 20 doubles and 10 triples in a season, joining Ripper Collins (1934), Mickey Mantle (1955) and Jimmy Rollins (2007).

“When you’re getting mentioned in the same breath as Mickey Mantle, you know you’re doing something really darn good,” Lovullo said.

Escobar and Flores each had three RBIs. Jones and Ahmed each had two. Carson Kelly went 3-for-3. The D-backs, as a team, had 16 hits.

EXTRA BASES

–The Diamondbacks are currently 4.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race, trailing the Cubs, Phillies and Brewers. Of that group, the D-backs have the second-best run differential this season and are tied for the best record in their last 10 games (7-3).

–Ketel Marte, who left Tuesday’s game in San Francisco with a right hamstring cramp, was back in the lineup on Thursday and started in center field. He was later removed from the game for Jarrod Dyson, who took over after the D-backs went up 10-4.

INJURY UPDATES

–Pitcher Luke Weaver (flexor pronator strain, UCL sprain) will throw a 25-pitch, “very aggressive, all-pitch” bullpen on Friday at Chase Field.

“I feel great,” he said Thursday. “I feel just as strong if I’m headed into spring training, middle of the season, all those things. Things have been going really well. There haven’t been any setbacks. There’s only been full steam ahead, and I think with each new task, there’s been really good results.

“So I’m just going step-by-step, making sure that we continue that process and kind of listening each day to how it’s recovering, how it’s feeling, and just making sure I’m on the same page with our staff.”

If the bullpen session on Friday goes well, next step is a simulated game next week.

–Taijuan Walker (Tommy John), threw out to 120 feet on Wednesday and will throw a flatground bullpen on Friday.

–Yoshihisa Hirano (elbow inflammation) threw to 90 feet.

–David Peralta, whose season is over as he elected to have surgery on his shoulder, will have the procedure done on Friday in Cincinnati. Lovullo described the surgery as “a clean-up of the AC joint,” aiming to remove debris from Peralta’s shoulder. He is expected to be ready for spring training in 2020.

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