Kelly, Walker, Kennedy Lead Diamondbacks to Father’s Day Win over Twins

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Diamondbacks 7, Twins 1

PHOENIX, Jun 19 — Merrill Kelly had a terrific start to go with two home runs from Christian Walker and a grand slam from rookie Buddy Kennedy as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Minnesota Twins, 7–1, Sunday afternoon.

The Twins scored first. Second baseman Luis Arraez led off the game with a double to left, advancing to third on a single by center fielder Byron Buxton. Shortstop Carlos Correa plated Arraez without netting an RBI, grounding into a 6-4-3 double play. Walker, the first baseman, tied the game up with a homer to left, his 17th of the season, in the bottom of the second.

Two more homers extended the Diamondbacks lead. The first came from Walker, who parked one 413 feet in the bottom of the fourth for his 18th dinger of the season. This was the third multi-homer game of Walker’s career. The other came from Pavin Smith, who entered the game on an 0-for-23 lull. A single by Smith in the bottom of the second snapped the hitless streak, and his leadoff homer in the bottom of the fifth made it a 2-for-2 game for Smith. Ultimately, he finished 2-for-4.

Grand Slam Gives Diamondbacks a Commanding Lead over the Twins

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This gave the Diamondbacks a 3–1 lead. They extended it in the bottom of the sixth. Consecutive singles by rookie center fielder Alek Thomas and third baseman Josh Rojas put runners on the corners for Walker. He struck out, bringing up left fielder David Peralta. After Rojas stole second, Peralta walked, loading the bases for second baseman Buddy Kennedy. The rookie, who was called up Friday and was playing in his third-ever major league game, worked the count to 3–0.

Except Kennedy thought it was 2–0, so he missed the take sign. He swung at the fourth pitch, a fastball, and ripped a 411-foot drive to left. That one swing gave him his first major league home run, first major league RBI, and first major league grand slam. It also gave his team a 7–1 lead. After he entered the dugout, the crowd chanted his name until he gave them a curtain call.

Kennedy’s father, Buddy Kennedy Sr., was in the stands as it happened. The elder Kennedy said with a smile that “you couldn’t have scripted it any better.” He added that the grand slam was “unbelievable. It was the best Father’s Day gift I could ever ask for.” He also said that he was surrounded by family, so when the younger Kennedy hit the grand slam, it was “total chaos.”

Brilliant Pitching

Meanwhile, Kelly piled up the outs. He pitched seven innings, allowing one earned run on five hits while striking out five and walking none. “I felt good,” Kelly said. “It was probably the best I’ve felt in a while, just as far as timing and the way the ball was coming out of my hand. I didn’t walk anybody today, so I think that probably at least tells me and probably tells you guys (the press) how I felt.” His increased control was “not really something I can put my finger on,” he added. “I think it’s just kind of a culmination of the last couple of weeks, trying to really hammer down on that and focus on filling up the zone and getting ahead of people. But as far as (mechanics), I probably wouldn’t be able to put a stamp on it.”

Joe Mantiply, Noe Ramirez, and Ian Kennedy combined to pitch a scoreless eighth and ninth, sealing the victory.

Postgame Reflections

“Today was a good day,” manager Torey Lovullo beamed after the game, “where we executed a very high level and a lot of different areas. It started with Merrill Kelly, seven unbelievable innings. I was actually thinking about sending him back out there for the eighth. A couple of tough batters in the seventh drove up his pitch count, but he was in total control and total command of this ballgame. It didn’t seem like he got away from him for the entire seven innings.

“Offensively, we built innings, and we had a huge grand slam by Buddy (Kennedy), a great moment for him and his family. I know they’re out there celebrating together right now. Those are special things in this game, especially on Father’s Day. I’m sure it’ll be something they never forget. But he built up the count, ended up getting a pitch he could get some extension on, and broke the game open. It was great moment. Christian Walker, two home runs; Pavin (Smith), a long home run. Those are the things that put us in a position to build that inning…. Really, really good effort all the way around by this ballclub.”

The Grand Slam

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Buddy Kennedy swung through a take sign, it was revealed after the game. However, it wasn’t an act of defiance — he simply thought it was 2–0 and not 3–0. Kennedy said after the game, “I’ve had bases loaded before in my career, but not with a crowd and the stadium and everything like that. So I did lose track. When I hit it and came in, I was like, ‘It was 2–0, right?’ No, it was 3–0. I was like (grimace and sheepish grunt). I take responsibility. That’s my fault. But yeah, it’s just a moment that got to me. Then after calming down, I took full responsibility for it.”

The curtain call was “something I’d never experienced, because I haven’t done it. But seeing it on TVs and when I went to baseball games when I was younger…. It’s something that is pretty cool, because that doesn’t happen often and doesn’t happen a lot.” He later added that “it was something I’ll always have in my pocket.” Kelly, who won on his very first Father’s Day as a father, added about the grand slam, “In the seventh inning, when I went back out, they showed Buddy’s dad on the Jumbotron. And it just so happened that my wife and my daughter were right behind him. So being able to go out for the seventh and looking up and seeing her was pretty cool.”

Looking Ahead

Kelly (6–4) earned the win, while Archer (1–3) took the loss. The Diamondbacks (32–36) will hit the road for a three-game series with the San Diego Padres, while the Twins (38–30) will head home for a six-game homestand, three each against the Cleveland Guardians and Colorado Rockies. Zach Davies (2–3, 3.78 ERA) and Yu Darvish (6–3, 3.35 ERA) will start for the Diamondbacks and Padres, respectively, on Monday evening. First pitch will be at 6:40 pm Arizona Time.

Main Photo Credits:

PHOENIX, Jun 19 — Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches to Alex Kirilloff (not pictured) of the Minnesota Twins in the top of the second inning at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks won, 7–1. (Photo by Evan Thompson)

Players/managers mentioned:

Merrill Kelly, Christian Walker, Buddy Kennedy, Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Pavin Smith, Alek Thomas, Josh Rojas, David Peralta, Joe Mantiply, Noe Ramirez, Ian Kennedy, Torey Lovullo, Zach Davies, Yu Darvish, Alex Kirilloff