Diamondbacks keep stacking runs, Merrill Kelly sharp in season debut vs. Rockies

Mar 29, 2024, 11:07 PM | Updated: 11:14 pm

Joc Pederson...

Joc Pederson of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates in the dugout in a game against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field. (Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks had no letdown to their Opening Day fireworks, putting together another complete effort to beat the Colorado Rockies 7-3 Friday at Chase Field.

Arizona is off to the franchise’s hottest start through two games, outscoring the Rockies 23-4 with 32 hits. On both nights, all nine batters reached base with eight picking up hits.

Ketel Marte is the first Diamondbacks player with consecutive three-hit games to start a season. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has already driven in six runs. He started the scoring with a home run in the first inning on Friday, as he did on Thursday.

Merrill Kelly balanced the scoring with 6.2 innings and one earned run in his season debut, retiring 15 straight batters to finish his night.

All of this is with so much going on beyond the game. From Opening Day festivities Thursday to National League champions ring night on Friday and the jolt of adding another top-end caliber starter Jordan Montgomery to the mix, officially on Friday.

“Another emotional day with a ton of energy in our dugout and in the stadium,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “You’re always concerned to have a little bit of a letdown, but our guys came out in the first inning and were ready to perform. That seems to be the theme early on. And that’s very pleasing to me when your team walks out on the field and they’re ready to make statements from the first to the last pitch.”

The Rockies don’t have lofty outside expectations after 103 losses last year, but the D-backs did what they needed to take them out early.

Arizona jumped on top with back-to-back home runs in the first inning from Gurriel and Christian Walker. Gurriel’s was a moon shot that soared into the bullpen, while Walker’s was a frozen rope.

Rockies catcher Elias Diaz got one back with a solo shot off Kelly, but the D-backs created a couple scoring opportunities before breaking out a four-spot in the sixth inning.

It started similarly to the team record-setting 14-run outburst on Thursday. Joc Pederson — who had four hits all bounce off Colorado defenders’ gloves — reached base on a single, followed by Gabriel Moreno walk. Eugenio Suarez, who has four hits in two games, punched a sinker away into right field to score a run.

Then Alek Thomas didn’t simply pass the bat off but brought everyone home with a three-run homer to right field on a sinker up-and-in he turned on.

“Clutch, timely hitting, building the innings and then AT hits a big bomb that breaks the game open,” Lovullo said. “It’s pitching, defense and timely hitting with a little bit of slug and that’s a good remedy for a W.”

“It’s definitely contagious, you want to be a part of it,” Thomas said. “All the guys here having good at-bats and putting good swings on balls, it’s been pretty fun these past few days.”

Kelly, meanwhile, struck out eight hitters and faced no resistance after the second inning. He extended his streak of pitching five-plus innings to 30 straight games, second-longest active streak in MLB (Mitch Keller, 32).

He threw 14 sliders — a pitch he’s worked to develop to deepen his arsenal — to great impact as he used it to cap a pair of strikeouts.

Kelly called it his biggest takeaway of the night.

“That was obviously the first real live action, it’s hard to compare it to spring just because the adrenaline and the speed was a little bit different,” Kelly said.

“I was okay with the fastball command, some sinkers and some cutters I left on the other side of the plate that I was trying to get to the other side. But overall, the slider definitely jumped out as it’s shown itself as a useful pitch.”

Lovullo decided his day was done at 79 pitches, and Kelly received a rousing ovation. The manager said he was concerned with the up-downs this early and didn’t want to overextend him. Based on his workload at the end of spring training, Kelly took no issue there.

The defense behind him continued to be excellent, and Suarez has made quite a first impression at third base.

Friday was also the 2,000th regular season win in Diamondbacks history.

Saturday appears to be more routine for the squad as a whole, although Corbin Carroll will receive his 2023 Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year award pregame.

Tommy Henry will get his first regular season start since July 28 and matchup with Colorado’s Austin Gomber.

First pitch is at 5:10 p.m. on 98.7 and the Arizona Sports app. 

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