Diamondbacks Top Padres to Win Eighth of their Past Eleven

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Diamondbacks 5, Padres 1

Catcher Carson Kelly continued his torrid offensive pace while Merrill Kelly allowed four hits and one run over six innings as the Arizona Diamondbacks downed the San Diego Padres, 5-1, Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The win gives the Diamondbacks (12-11) a winning record for the first time in 2021. It is their eighth win in the last 11 games. They are now in third place in the suddenly brutal NL West.

The scoring began in the bottom of the second off Padres starter Chris Paddack. Carson Kelly and shortstop Nick Ahmed reached on one-out and two-out singles, respectively. Center fielder Nick Heath followed with a long fly to left-center. It should have ended the inning, but Padres center fielder Trent Grisham dropped it. With there being two out, Kelly and Ahmed were both running the entire time. Both scored easily as the speedy Heath made it to third.

The Padres made the score 2-1 in the top of the sixth thanks to a leadoff double by shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. a fly to right by Grisham, and an RBI grounder to the hot corner by third baseman Manny Machado.

A Crooked Number, but at a High Cost

A quick response came in the bottom of the sixth. Right fielder Kole Calhoun singled before third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera struck out. A wild pitch advanced Calhoun to second, and he stole third when Paddack didn’t pay enough attention to him. However, the play was costly, as Calhoun injured his left hamstring on his last stride. “Right when I came up, I kind of grabbed (my leg),” he said after the game. “It felt like it was going to absolutely lock up on me, so I had to come out.” Calhoun will have an MRI Wednesday.

Josh Rojas ran for Calhoun and scored on a single by left fielder David Peralta. Carson Kelly followed with a towering two-run home run to left field, finishing off the scoring for the day. It was his sixth home run in his last 10 games.

Caleb Smith pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, capping it off by striking out catcher Victor Caratini. J.B. Bukauskas followed with a perfect eighth. Taylor Clarke closed the game with a scoreless ninth, with his only baserunner coming on a one-out walk.

Minimizing Distractions, Stepping Up Your Game

Merrill Kelly ran his record to 2-2 with his four-hit, two-walk, one-run effort. It was his first quality start of the season, and his Game Score was a season-high 63. It was the first time all season that his Game Score was above 50. “We try to get better every start,” Merrill said after the game. “Coming off the two games in Atlanta, watching Zac (Gallen) and Bum (Madison Bumgarner) do their thing, everybody — at least for me — needs to step up their game. That was my mentality today. Follow in their footsteps and keep this thing going.”

Some of Merrill’s success might have come from minimizing a distraction — his pants. Before the game, he grabbed his 2019 pants. They are baggier than his 2021 pants. “I felt a little more like myself — more comfortable, not as restricted.” He continued, “I like to feel like I’m wearing sweatpants out there.” Another aspect of his success Tuesday was that he avoided the “one bad inning” that had a tendency to plague him in his previous four starts of the season. “He had a good feel for everything tonight,” Carson said about his pitcher. “His sinker, cutter, and curveball were working well, giving him command on both sides of the plate.”

Lights-out Relief

As mentioned earlier, the three relievers combined to allow only one baserunner, a walk by Eric Hosmer in the ninth. “It goes back to the two games in Atlanta,” Carson said. “We didn’t have a relief pitcher come out (Sunday). It was another day for them to rest, combined with the off-day (Monday). They attacked that zone. They’re not afraid. Especially the young guys — they’re not afraid. That’s something you have to pitch with, that confidence…. They were attacking that zone and being aggressive.”

Caleb Smith, with his perfect seventh inning, continued the roll he has been on since moving to the ‘pen after his first start. As a reliever, he has allowed one earned run, six hits, and five walks over 11 2/3 innings. That translates to a microscopic 0.77 ERA and 0.943 WHIP. Manager Torey Lovullo has been both impressed and pleased with Smith’s performance. “He has done an unbelievable job since transitioning to the bullpen,” Lovullo observed after the game. “We expect that to continue, knowing that there is a lot of preparation and hard work that he’s putting in day by day. The common denominator is (both) the attack plan and that he’s landing his pitches. He’s able to control counts and make the right pitch at the right time to get a big swing and miss or weak contact.”

Up Next for Diamondbacks, Padres

Paddack (1-3) took the loss for the Padres (13-12), who find themselves in fourth place after a hot start. The two teams square off in the second game of their two-game set Wednesday night. Padres left-hander Ryan Weathers (1-0, 0.59 ERA) will face Diamondbacks right-hander Taylor Widener (1-0, 2.82 ERA). First pitch will be at 6:40 Arizona Time.

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Players/managers mentioned:
Carson Kelly, Merrill Kelly, Chris Paddack, Nick Ahmed, Nick Heath, Trent Grisham, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Kole Calhoun, Asdrubal Cabrera, Josh Rojas, David Peralta, Caleb Smith, Victor Caratini, J.B. Bukauskas, Taylor Clarke, Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner, Eric Hosmer, Torey Lovullo, Ryan Weathers, Taylor Widener