D-backs snap 4-game home skid behind an impressive Merrill Kelly
PHOENIX — After three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Merrill Kelly was awarded with a two-year contract extension this past offseason.
Through his first two starts, Kelly is returning the favor to his hometown team with a pair of consistent outings, highlighted by Arizona’s 3-2 extra-inning win over the visiting Houston Astros on Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly tossed 5.1 innings of three-hit baseball, walking a pair and striking out six. It’s another strong showing after he threw four scoreless innings in his season debut last Friday.
“I think it’s a combination of stuff,” Kelly said postgame when asked about his recent success. “Mentality, just going through the first couple of years and kind of getting my feet on the ground.
“The fourth year coming in, there’s a lot of comfortability, not only knowing the guys in the clubhouse but knowing the league as well. And just having confidence in myself to know that I can get guys in this league out.”
Despite his final line, Kelly’s afternoon got off to a rocky start with Astros leadoff man Jose Altuve recording a single two pitches into the matchup. Two pitches later, DH Michael Brantley hit a comebacker to Kelly, appearing to set up a double play.
Instead, Kelly was wide on his throw, pulling shortstop Geraldo Perdomo off second base and resulting in two safe Houston baserunners.
Luckily for Kelly, the fielding errors would come to an end in the frame as he got Alex Bregman to ground out into a double play before getting outfielder Kyle Tucker to groundout with his first offering of the at-bat.
From there, Kelly dug in, rattling off a three-strikeout second inning before a 1-2-3 third.
The momentum continued into the sixth inning until he was pulled with two one and one out in favor of reliever Kyler Nelson. Kelly tossed 79 total pitches before exiting, 48 of which were strikes.
“Merrill Kelly to me was fantastic,” manager Torey Lovullo said postgame. “It’s hard for me to go out there and get these guys between that 70-80 pitch range. I still feel like there’s some build-up we’re trying to get to with them and we’ll get there.
“They’re going to get through those moments and I think they’re going to build up their arm strength and stamina and be able to get through those moments. But Merrill did as much as he possibly could and handed it over to the bullpen. … It was a good win, we’re going to enjoy it, taste it. For a young team, it feels really nice right now.”
Despite Kelly’s outing and exiting with a 1-0, the hurler is still searching for his first win in 2022, recording his second no-decision in as many starts.
That’ll happen when runs and hits are coming at a premium like they have been for Arizona early on this season.
While the hits were few and far between, totaling six (a season high) through 10 innings, the D-backs had little trouble getting aboard behind nine walks.
But when the dust settled on a frame, more times than not D-backs baserunners were sent jogging back to the dugout. All told, Arizona left 17 runners on base.
“There’s about two or three punches that we have to throw at one time and we got to land them all before we start putting up some crooked numbers,” Lovullo said on the offense.
“But I think we’re delivering some body blows and we’re getting runners on base and eventually that’s going to come where someone’s going to slug at the right time. We’re going to score some runs in bunches.”
And even when Arizona actually did see runs cross the plate, it came on the Astros’ miscues.
Arizona’s first run of the day came after Houston starting pitcher Framber Valdez allowed a leadoff single and a pair of walks to outfielder Jake McCarthy and DH Cooper Hummel before Ketel Marte was hit by a pitch following a successful D-backs challenge.
The lead would stay in Arizona’s favor before a sacrifice fly from catcher Martin Maldonado in the seventh inning knotted things up at 1-1.
The score would stay all-same until the 10th frame.
With Noe Ramirez on the bump, the reliever proceeded to walk pinch hitter Jason Castro before striking out Altuve and intentionally walking Michael Brantley. A pitch later, Bregman broke the tie with a sacrifice fly.
Then came pinch hitter Seth Beer and some late-game heroics once again.
After a McCarthy sacrifice bunt moved over Arizona’s ghost runner to third, Beer came up big once again with a game-tying RBI single.
“I think for me it’s sticking with the approach, not trying to do too much,” Beer said. “In a situation like that, the biggest thing I needed to do was try to hit the ball hard.
“If the ball leaves the yard that’s great obviously but in that situation if you try to muscle it against a guy like (Ryan) Pressly, that’s when you get in trouble.”
A pair of walks later and the bases were loaded for Marte yet again with just one out.
But instead of getting hit, Marte did the hitting, putting a ball deep enough to bring a runner home before a fielding error by outfielder Chas McCormick locked up an Arizona victory.
A fielding error ends it!
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) April 13, 2022
– Hummel was on base more times than not on Wednesday, picking up four walks and a hit in the win.