Merrill Kelly gives ace performance, Corbin Carroll’s late HR lifts D-backs over Reds
Aug 24, 2023, 11:30 PM | Updated: Aug 25, 2023, 2:23 pm
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said his head was ready to explode Thursday night, but his club overcame base running miscues and a late deficit to beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 at Chase Field.
The Diamondbacks scored one run with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the seventh after a base running snafu cost them opportunities to extend what was a 1-0 lead.
Starter Merrill Kelly, who had thrown seven shutout innings with a season-high 12 strikeouts, came out for the eighth but exited without throwing another pitch due to cramping.
Reliever Kyle Nelson’s first batter, Nick Senzel, tied the game with a home run. Cincinnati took the lead soon after, 2-1, after Miguel Castro let in an inherited runner.
Arizona had nine hits to Cincinnati’s three yet faced an avoidable defeat against a fellow National League Wild Card contending team.
Corbin Carroll — who had not homered in over a month — sent a two-run shot over the wall in right field to regain the lead, another feather in the rookie’s cap of late-game heroics at Chase Field that includes two walk-offs.
Closer Paul Sewald slammed the door in the ninth, and the Diamondbacks won their fifth consecutive game to jump back into the third wild card spot.
Lovullo said after the game that despite the mistakes, he was proud of how the D-backs stayed locked in and responded.
“We had a chance to shut down get frustrated and we didn’t,” Lovullo said. “We kind of staggered around the ring a little bit and got back on our feet and won a baseball game.”
No concern for Merrill Kelly
Kelly said he started to feel his hamstring cramp in the seventh inning, but he didn’t think it was debilitating enough to exit. He let Lovullo know, and Nelson began to warm up. He only was at 86 pitches when he walked off with the athletic trainer.
This was the second time this month Kelly exited a game with cramps.
“Obviously frustrating with how that game was going. Definitely wanted to go at least out there for the eighth or get through the eighth and see what happened for the ninth,” Kelly said. “I feel fine, cramped just like a couple games ago. Have to get back to the drawing board on some electrolytes stuff, mess around with some different strategies and just try to figure it out.”
Lovullo said there is very minimal concern over this latest issue and expects Kelly to make his next start.
As for Kelly’s dominance on the mound, the veteran tied his career high in strikeouts with little signs he was slowing down. He punched out five of his last six batters, striking out the side in order during the seventh inning.
Cincinnati produced only one hit over the first seven innings, and Kelly retired 15 batters in a row.
Merrill Kelly's 2Ks in the 3rd pic.twitter.com/K1HzgAYOhk
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 25, 2023
Kelly said he felt his location was about as good as any point during his Diamondbacks tenure. He started nine of his 22 batters 0-2 and six others 1-2.
“I think if I’m locating and throwing all the pitches, it’s gonna be a tough go for the offense who’s ever facing me,” Kelly said. “Trying to keep them off timing and off the fastball, and I think the location has a big thing to do with that.”
“I feel like he had quality secondary stuff, specifically his changeup,” Lovullo added. “It was swing and miss, he felt like a remote control with it. He could just dial it anytime, throw it wherever he wanted to.”
Kelly threw 36 changeups, the Reds swung at 17 and missed 10 times. They only put two in play, and Kelly finished half his strikeouts with the pitch. He also produced four whiffs on his slider, a pitch he said he’s worked to improve and has become more confident in.
His ERA dipped to 2.97, best on the team among starting pitchers.
Corbin Carroll to the rescue
Carroll said he looked for something elevated and got a middle-middle curveball from Reds lefty and former Diamondback Alex Young on a 2-2 count.
The last time Carroll had homered was in Cincinnati on July 23. He hit below the Mendoza Line over his next 19 games but has turned a corner of late.
Corbin Carroll comes in clutch! pic.twitter.com/JaAV8RCFDz
— MLB (@MLB) August 25, 2023
The rookie picked up two hits on Thursday batting from the seven hole against Reds southpaw starter Brandon Williamson, who threw six shutout innings.
Carroll has four multi-hit games over his last five contests.
“I’m happy with where I’m at, at the plate mentally right now,” Carroll said.
What happened on the bases?
Back-to-back singles by Gabriel Moreno and Ketel Marte loaded the bases in the seventh for pinch hitter Jace Peterson.
Peterson laced what appeared to be a multi-run double to right field.
One run scored, but Moreno was held up at third base after taking steps back to second with right fielder Will Benson in pursuit of the ball. Marte rounded second but retreated, and Peterson raced around first base.
Peterson had to make his way back, and had he been tagged out the D-backs would have had two runners in scoring position with one out. But Moreno darted for home plate in the chaos and was thrown out easily. It was a 9-4-3-2 putout.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 25, 2023
Tommy Pham was next and blasted a deep fly ball out to right field, but the sacrifice fly opportunity was done for.
“You can dissect it 1,000 different ways, everybody has responsibilities on that play,” Lovullo said. “The easy target is to say the third base coach (Tony Perezchica) made a mistake. … He does a really nice job over there, he’s easy target, but I think there was some just fundamental miscues by where we were standing in proximity to the bases, tagging up, not tagging up. We got to figure that out.”
Lovullo said he had only looked at the replay once to that point and would go back to review it in depth.
“We just got to be a little bit more situationally aware,” Lovullo added. “It went from potentially a game where it would have been 2, 3, maybe 4-0 coming off of that field and it was 1-0.”
The seventh-inning blunder wasn’t the first out Arizona ran into on the base paths on Thursday.
Carroll was thrown out at home after taking off on a chopper to third base in the fifth inning with one out and runners on the corners.
The Diamondbacks have 33 comeback wins this season, 12 when trailing in the eighth inning or later, which leads MLB.
Lovullo gave credit to veteran third baseman Evan Longoria at the mound while he changed pitchers in the eighth inning.
The manager recounted Longoria saying, “We’re gonna win this game boys, we’re winning this game, book it.”
Lovullo said that made him feel more at ease after joking he blacked out following the base running mistake.
“I want to bridge over to how focused our guys got when they needed to to win a game despite some really frustrating times,” Lovullo said. “This team was extremely frustrated. Every coach every player, the trainers, everybody was frustrated after that play. We regrouped to win the game.”
Friday’s probable pitching matchup is D-backs rookie Brandon Pfaadt vs. Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene.
Pfaadt allowed three runs in six innings against the Reds at Great American Ballpark in July and has a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.
First pitch is at 6:40 p.m. on 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.