Diamondbacks 5, Brewers 0
PHOENIX, Sep. 1 — Merrill Kelly scattered four hits across seven scoreless innings, striking out seven while walking none, and Caleb Smith pitched two perfect innings of relief, striking out four of six, as the Arizona Diamondbacks blanked the Milwaukee Brewers, 5–0, Thursday night. In the victory, the tandem of Kelly and Smith only allowed one runner to even reach second base. The Diamondbacks smacked 10 hits, eight off Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff, to give Kelly all the run support he needed. Seven of the nine Diamondbacks hitters had at least one hit, with Josh Rojas, Christian Walker, and Geraldo Perdomo notching two hits each. The victory gave the Diamondbacks sole possession of third place in the National League West, something that has not happened in September since 2019, when they were in second.
Woodruff struggled early, and the Diamondbacks capitalized. After second baseman Ketel Marte ripped a two-out double down the right-field line, Walker — the first baseman — stepped to the plate. On 0–1, Woodruff hung a curveball right down the middle, and Walker made him pay. Walker belted his 31st home run of the season, a 406-foot drive to the left-field bleachers. One inning later, center fielder Alek Thomas began another two-out rally with a sharp double to the left-field corner. Perdomo — the shortstop — plated him with a single to left and advanced himself to scoring position with a stolen base. Rojas — the third baseman — reached on a Baltimore chop, putting runners on the corners with two out. Designated hitter Jake McCarthy loaded the bases upon being hit by a pitch before Marte struck out looking, ending the inning.
Diamondbacks Take Commanding Lead over Brewers
The Diamondbacks added to their 3–0 lead in the sixth. Consecutive singles to left by rookie left fielder Corbin Carroll and catcher Carson Kelly — with Carroll going first-to-third on the latter — brought up Thomas. He popped foul to the third baseman, bringing up Perdomo, who laid down a squeeze. Brewers first baseman Keston Hiura made a fine scoop and throw to nail Carroll at the plate by a slim margin. Rojas, however, kept the runners from being stranded. He launched a deep fly ball to right-center, barely missing a home run as it clanged off the facing of the picnic area. The resultant double scored both Kelly and Perdomo, giving the Diamondbacks a 5–0 lead.
With the way Kelly and Smith pitched, however, it may as well have been a 15–0 lead. After third baseman Jace Peterson singled with one out in the top of the fifth, he was the last Brewer to reach base all night. Kelly and Smith combined to retire all 14 remaining batters. Nine came via strikeout, including the last batter of the game, designated hitter Rowdy Tellez.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo praised Kelly for his “seven strong innings.” He considered sending Kelly out for another outing, but he “didn’t want to send him back out there and let him throw too many pitches. We’ve got to be mindful of where we are in the season. And I felt very good about the guys coming in and backing him. But he was challenging hitters and getting back into counts with secondary stuff.”
Being in third place this late in the season for the first time in years, according to Lovullo, feels, “Good. Real good. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Third place is better than last place, that’s for damn sure. I’ll tell you that much. It’s been very lean. I’ve been saying it a few times. We got gutted last year, and I’m proud of what these guys have done. We’ve got to keep piling it on.”
Later, he added, “I take the mindset that we’re never satisfied. We’ve got to go out there and keep growing and learning as a young team. And we’ve got to make sure that we’re not satisfied. We’re never satisfied.”
Kelly said he wished he could “bottle the feeling I get from innings three and on” and move that feeling to the first three innings. “It’ll probably make the first part of the game a little bit easier for me,” he said. Kelly threw a scoreless first inning despite throwing more balls than strikes in that frame despite feeling “ugly” and like he didn’t have a rhythm.
Kelly felt his changeup was working best. “I had a really good feel for it. The location of it was good, and the movement of it was good.” He added that his changeup is “much improved” over previous years. It was his go-to pitch while he pitched in the Korean league. After arriving with the Diamondbacks, he went away from it for the first two years. But he adjusted his grip, and it has worked wonders for him in 2022. Kelly said he throws it with a circle grip, giving it similar “action” and speed to his sinker. “But it’s a little bit slower,” he said, and it “gets (opponents) off of it.”
Although the team wants to be higher than third place, Kelly said that being there “is an improvement.” He added, “Based on what we did last year, the expectations coming into this year, for us to see that third-place slot…. For the young guys in this clubhouse to see that if we play the way that we’re playing right now we can be a good team. If we finish the year — this last month, we bear down and keep playing the way that we’re playing, it’ll leave a good taste in everybody’s mouth for coming back next year and moving forward.”
Kelly (12–5) earned the win, while Woodruff (9–4) took the loss. The Diamondbacks (62–68) and Brewers (69–61) face off again Friday in the second game of their four-game set. Zach Davies (2–4, 3.82 ERA) and Eric Lauer (10–5, 3.58 ERA) will start for the Diamondbacks and Brewers, respectively, in a righty-lefty matchup. First pitch will be at 6:40 Arizona Time.
Main Photo Credits:
PHOENIX, Sep. 1 — Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly takes signs from catcher Carson Kelly (not pictured) in the top of the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks won, 5–0. (Photo by Evan Thompson)
Merrill Kelly, Caleb Smith, Brandon Woodruff, Josh Rojas, Christian Walker, Geraldo Perdomo, Ketel Marte, Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, Corbin Carroll, Carson Kelly, Keston Hiura, Jace Peterson, Rowdy Tellez, Torey Lovullo, Zach Davies, Eric Lauer