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D-backs’ Merrill Kelly dominates in win over Padres

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly throws in the first inning during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, Aug 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Starting pitcher Merrill Kelly was outstanding once again in his fourth start of the season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Kole Calhoun led the way offensively to a 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on Friday night.

“I think the conversation starts and stops with Merrill Kelly,” manager Torey Lovullo said after the game.

“He did an unbelievable job of pitching into the seventh inning, he looked like he had several pitches working, he was changing speed and locations with that fastball, and it was a lot of fun to watch.”

Kelly, who came into the game with a 6-2 record and a 2.22 ERA in his last eight starts, continued to find a way to get crucial outs with opposing runners in scoring position and keep runs off the board despite having some abnormally unreliable defense behind him.

Third baseman Andy Young, who started in relief of Eduardo Escobar, didn’t make Kelly’s night any easier. The rookie had two errors in the game, one in the first inning and one in the third that led to a bases-loaded, one-out jam that Kelly was able to pitch his way out of.

Kelly’s control has been so good this season that his intentional walk of Manny Machado in the third inning was just his second walk of the season, snapping a streak of 82 batters faced without allowing a walk that dates back to July 28.

“Looking back on it, I think I threw a lot of good changeups today,” Kelly said after the game. “Couple swings and misses on it, but for the most part, not solid contact. So that’s probably the pitch that jumps out to me the most.”

Kelly was also all over the field defensively as well. The pitcher was involved in fielding four outs at first base with his teammate Christian Walker.

He credited his catcher Stephen Vogt for his success in this start.

“He was putting down pretty much exactly what I had in head the whole time, so I have to give a lot of credit to Vogter,” Kelly said.

Kelly allowed just three hits with no earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched. He struck out seven and walked two batters on 96 pitches in a quality start. He lowers his ERA on the season to 1.71.

Offensively, the D-backs struggled early at home yet again. The first hit of the game was a harmless single that came in the fourth inning off the bat of birthday boy David Peralta.

Rookie Daulton Varsho then made us all proud in the fifth inning when he bunted for a single against the shift.

Varsho was also able to get on base after a strikeout pitch got away from Padres catcher Francisco Mejia in the bottom of the eighth, on which he subsequently scored a run and started the team’s big eighth inning. He’s done an excellent job of taking advantage of opportunities and making veteran plays as a young player.

Padres starter Dinelson Lamet was lights out as well in this pitcher’s duel, keeping D-backs hitters off balance and aggressively attacking the strike zone. Lamet’s only mistake of the night was a 0-1 slider to Calhoun, who sent it to the empty stands in right field for the game’s first run.

This was Calhoun’s fifth home run of the season, going 2-4 with two RBI. He leads a team that is in desperate need of some additional power in their lineup. He struck again in the eighth inning with an RBI single that scored Varsho.

Lamet lasted six innings, allowing three hits of his own and the solo run with eight strikeouts and one walk. Once he left the game, Arizona was able to tack on four more runs in the eighth inning against the Padres bullpen and put the game out of reach.

The D-backs are now 6-3 in their last nine games and are finally starting to gain some ground in a tough NL West Division.

“It was just a really nice day offensively once we battled through Lemet, who has been on a great run,” added Lovullo. “But it couldn’t have been done without Merrill. He was fantastic.”

Prior to Friday’s game, Lovullo announced that Alex Young would start in place of the injured Madison Bumgarner in game two of this series. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Young has been one of the D-backs’ valuable relievers out of the bullpen this season after being a part of the starting rotation in 2019. In 9.2 innings of relief, Young is 1-0 this season with a 4.66 ERA, a 1.138 WHIP, and 10 strikeouts. In 15 career starts, the 26-year old lefty is 7-5 with a 3.86 ERA.

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