D-backs’ Merrill Kelly outduels ace Logan Webb in sweep over Giants

Sep 20, 2023, 5:28 PM

Merrill Kelly...

Arizona Diamondbacks SP Merrill Kelly, Giants at Diamondbacks September 21, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

PHOENIX — One batter, one run.

Arizona Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly’s fifth pitch of Wednesday’s matchup with the San Francisco Giants was a lead-off home run by LaMonte Wade Jr. After Kelly allowed seven earned runs in his last outing at the New York Mets, the veteran righty did not let this one get away.

He sat down 18 of the next 20 batters in a 7-1 Diamondbacks (81-72) victory that clinched a two-game sweep and the season series over the Giants (76-76).

Kelly’s 6.2 innings of one-run baseball outdid Giants ace and Cy Young contender Logan Webb’s six innings and three earned runs.

The D-backs took a 3-1 lead in the third inning, and Kelly’s performance continued to buy his team time until the offense jumped on San Francisco’s bullpen with a four-spot in the seventh inning.

The win completed a 5-0 homestand against fellow National League Cy Young chasers, including three games against the Chicago Cubs. Arizona will enter its next game on Friday at the New York Yankees in the second wild card spot.

“It looked like he had a little trouble getting into rhythm, but once he did, he started to attack the zone and almost gave us seven seven innings,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It started with him, he gave us a chance to get that lead. And he protected that lead.”

Kelly said Wednesday felt like a late September game with his legs a bit heavy and slight velocity drop (0.5 mph down on fastball, 1.2 mph on cutter).

But he said he flushed the first-inning home run and battled even without his top command.

“After that first at-bat, you got to just move on from it. Same thing with the walks, I gotta move on from it and execute the next pitches because, like the last game, that’s kind of how things get out of control,” Kelly said.

“If I don’t lock it in and zone it in from those walks, that’s when things can go really wrong really fast. So I guess I just did a better job of doing that today.”

Kelly exited the game with two outs in the seventh inning at 104 pitches and runners on the corners. Lovullo turned to Ryan Thompson, who struck out second baseman Thairo Estrada to end the threat.

Kelly’s book closed at 6.2 innings, one earned run on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He retired 11 batters in a row at one points between the third and sixth innings.

A relief for Kelly, he did not exit the game with cramping like his past three home starts.

The Diamondbacks have not received the best recent results from their top two starters, highlighted by the Mets series when Kelly and Zac Gallen allowed 13 combined earned runs.

But the two pitched well enough without their best stuff to keep Arizona ahead in the sweep of the Giants. Gallen allowed four earned runs in five innings on Tuesday but stranded the bases loaded in the fifth to preserve the lead.

Webb, meanwhile, had given the D-backs fits this season with three seven-inning starts and a combined six earned runs. He entered Wednesday with a 2.62 career ERA against the D-backs and coming off 14 straight scoreless innings.

D-backs rookie Corbin Carroll — who became the ninth player in AL/NL history to reach 25 home runs and 50 steals on Wednesday — singled and stole second in the bottom of the first. He scored on an infield single by Christian Walker. The Giants scored in three innings during the series, and Arizona responded with runs all three times.

Carroll started a rally with a single in the third inning and stole second again, this time taking third base on an wild throw by Giants catcher Patrick Bailey. He scored on a Tommy Pham fielder’s choice. Walker singled and Alek Thomas scored him on a double to extend the lead.

Webb did not allow another run, but the D-backs put a lot of pressure pitches on him with runners on base every inning. Webb surpassed triple-digit pitches in the sixth, forcing the Giants to move to the bullpen.

“Found some hits, … we were just able to put some balls in play and find some holes and get some stuff done on the base paths,” Carroll said.

“He’s a tough at-bat, the arm angle, the movement of the pitches, the changeup really keeps you off balance,” Lovullo added. “I think we did a good job of not being too greedy. It was a quality star for him. He left it was 3-1. He threw the ball really well. We did just enough. I think Merrill matched him.”

The D-backs’ bullpen locked it down from in the eighth and ninth innings with Luis Frias and Kyle Nelson.

Arizona relievers have not allowed an earned run in four games.

The Diamondbacks will turn to Brandon Pfaadt on Friday against the New York Yankees, but their starters after him are to be announced.

They have the option with Thursday’s off day to move to a four-man rotation, which would give Gallen the start on Sunday. In that case, Arizona would have to choose between Zach Davies or Ryne Nelson on Saturday.

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