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D-backs win 8 of 9 as Merrill Kelly excels vs. Padres

Merrill Kelly #29 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a first inning pitch against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on September 03, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Archie Bradley needed 32 pitches to get through the ninth inning.

But he got through it.

Bradley allowed a run and had the bases loaded in a one-run game with two outs in the ninth, but he got a game-ending strikeout to secure the win.

The Diamondbacks scored early with two runs in the first inning, Merrill Kelly pitched a gem and Arizona bead the Padres 2-1 on Tuesday night at Chase Field to pick up their eight win in nine tries.

It all started with Kelly.

The 30-year-old entered the game having pitched only four innings in his last start. He was removed for a pinch-hitter on Thursday against the Dodgers, having allowed three earned runs. Kelly entered that game in need of a strong start to perhaps avoid relegation to the bullpen, and that outing was neither a display of dominance nor defeat.

Tuesday was more convincing.

In seven shutout innings, Kelly tossed nine strikeouts and allowed only three hits and two runs on 102 pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 26 batters he faced and had three 1-2-3 innings, two of which were the last two innings he pitched.

“I feel like most of the hitters and counts I was ahead of, rather than behind,” he said. “I think lately, with the struggles, I think that’s been part of the problem is not getting ahead of people. So I think tonight, that was one of the biggest differences.”

Kelly lowered his ERA a fifth of a run down to 4.69, picked up his tenth win of the season and, most impressively, mowed down a Padres lineup that saw Manny Machado go 0-for-4 with four swinging strikeouts.

“I think you’ve got to start tonight’s conversation with Merrill Kelly and just talk about how good his stuff was from the first pitch until the last one that he threw,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “He comes out and gives us seven quality innings, sets us up really nicely for the bullpen to come in and complete the job.

“I know things got a little hairy there, but quality backend guys make pitches when their backs are against the wall.”

Kelly, an ASU alum who signed with the D-backs this offseason after pitching professionally in Korea, became the fourth rookie pitcher in team history to threw seven shutout innings with nine or more strikeouts, joining Geraldo Guzman, Daniel Hudson and Brandon Webb.

He was already at 94 pitches when the sixth inning was over, but he went out for the seventh and threw an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 inning to move things along.

“Torey told me before that inning, go out there and treat that first hitter like it was my last,” Kelly said. “So that’s kind of the mentality that I had taken into that inning. I didn’t know if he was really going to let me go for the whole thing. Obviously it went quickly, so I think that was part of the reason why I was able to finish it.”

THE BATS

The D-backs got both of their only two runs in the first inning on Tuesday.

The first run was courtesy of a leadoff triple by Ketel Marte followed by an RBI single by Josh Rojas. Rojas, the rookie whom the D-backs acquired as part of the Zack Greinke trade with Houston in July, finished his evening 2-for-4 with an RBI and is now hitting .291 in 19 games with Arizona.

The second run was Rojas, who scored on a fielder’s choice by Jake Lamb.

It was all the D-backs would get, going scoreless in innings two through eight and seeing limited damage against Padres starter Ronald Bolanos, who was making his major league debut after being called up from Double-A. He went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to win these types of games,” Lovullo said. “You’ve got to grind out these 2-1 games and just find a way to get it done with your group on the mound. I thought offensively, we had a nice approach early, took advantage of some mistakes to scratch across two runs.”

It was a quiet night for the bats, a phenomenon that could’ve been costly had the lead not been held by Kelly, Kevin Ginkel, Andrew Chafin and Bradley on the Diamondbacks.

EXTRA BASES

— Luke Weaver (forearm) and Yoshihisa Hirano (elbow inflammation) will throw bullpen sessions on Wednesday. If all goes well with Weaver, he’s expected to throw another simulated game on Friday, Lovullo said.

“I think there’s a really strong possibility we’ll see [Weaver] before the year’s over,” Lovullo said. The Diamondbacks have 24 games left this season entering Wednesday.

— Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) will throw his first bullpen session on Friday. He had previously been throwing on flat ground.

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