D-backs fall in extras to Giants despite terrific Merrill Kelly outing
PHOENIX — A rough year for the now 34-76 Arizona Diamondbacks continued on Thursday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants.
The D-backs had a 4-0 lead after eight splendid innings were thrown by starter Merrill Kelly. They took just enough advantage of two shaky innings from Giants starter Alex Wood to get those four runs.
But in the bottom of the ninth inning, Arizona’s bullpen melted down, and San Francisco capitalized off that to a 5-4 win in 10 innings. Per MLB Stats, it was the first time in nearly 30 years the Giants made up a four-run deficit in the ninth inning to win.
D-backs manager Torey Lovullo brought in the recently called up Taylor Clarke to close up shop for that ninth inning. Kelly was at 102 pitches, so there’s an argument he could have finished the game, but Lovullo cited Kelly’s recent surgery in November and what the right-hander has been through getting past that injury.
Clarke proceeded to give up a double, single and another double for one run before getting pulled for closer Tyler Clippard.
With runners on second and third and no outs, Clippard got ahead 0-2 to Donovan Solano before hitting him with his next pitch.
After the Giants’ Brandon Belt singled to score one run and move everyone else up a base, Clippard appeared to stabilize the situation by striking out Buster Posey and getting Wilmer Flores to fly out to short right field.
But leadoff hitter Lamonte Wade Jr. would force a full count on Clippard before drilling a two-RBI double to right that tied the game. Steven Duggar crossed home plate for that tying run, the pinch-runner for Solano.
In the 10th inning, left-hander Tyler Gilbert allowed a double to his first batter, the Giants’ recently acquired Kris Bryant. That scored the runner that started on second and would prove to be the difference.
Kelly got a matchup with a team that clearly had a read on him to swing early in the count. Kelly made that easier for himself by throwing strikes in those situations and it added up to a great afternoon.
“I think that’s kind of a trend I’m starting to pick up,” Kelly said of scouting reports potentially changing for him in the last few starts.
“As long as I’m executing, I don’t mind it because I get quick outs,” he added.
Kelly threw a dozen pitches or less in five of his eight innings. His final line landed at three hits, two walks and zero runs allowed in 8.0 innings, striking out four. Kelly only let two runners on base in the same inning once and had a perfect 1-2-3 in four of those innings.
“It was an unbelievable outing,” Lovullo said of Kelly. “Eight scoreless, gets through the order for that fourth time and set us up for a really good opportunity to win this ball game.”
The right-hander’s ability to pitch later into games in the second half of the season has been a promising sign. After throwing at least seven innings in only one of his first 14 starts, Kelly has now done so in four of his last nine outings.
Wood threw 29 pitches in the first inning and another 26 in the third. Arizona got four runs off that, a pair in each of those innings. Three came via Pavin Smith, who had a two-RBI single in his first at-bat and another knock that brought home a run in his next.
The 30-year-old Wood has had a solid 2021, entering play with a 3.83 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but Thursday’s outing saw only the fifth time in his 19 starts that Wood has walked at least three batters.
Smith is now up to 35 RBI on the season, putting him third on the active roster.
The D-backs take their last trip to San Diego of the season, facing the Padres in a three-game series that begins on Friday at 7:10 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Caleb Smith is set to take the bump for Arizona in the series opener. In his last five outings, Smith has allowed 26 earned runs over 21.1 innings.