Record: 4-4. Five-inning record: 4-4
The early signs at Salt River Fields were not promising this afternoon, as the visitors jumped out to a 3-0 advantage against Merrill Kelly. But Arizona stormed back, taking the lead on a two-run home-run off the bat off Stephen Vogt, and the bullpen made it stand up, with six innings of one-run ball.
It didn't take long for the Cubs to take the lead, Wilson Contreras homering off Kelly's fifth pitch of the game, though it has to be said, it wasn’t a bad pitch. But when Anthony Rizzo followed suit, going deep with a two-run blast in the third, certain parties were proclaiming the end of the season (and, no, using the sarcasm font is not a free pass...). For a while, it seemed the most memorable thing about this afternoon's game would be the avian pitch invasion. While we've had bees on the field before, this time it was a goose which chose to graze in center field, to the obvious discomfort of the Cubs defender. He must have heard that thing about them being able to break a man's arm with their wing. Or is that swans?
My Big Book of Birds tells me this was, specifically, a Canada Goose. It appears they are present locally in increasing numbers, and have become "a bit of an urban pest.” While most are migratory, there are some permanent residents, descended from a flock imported in the seventies, because somebody thought they'd look cool on the artificial lake at Turf Paradise racetrack. Shame we weren't playing the Cardinals or the Orioles, hohoho.
What we said about Marte...yeah Eduardo too!— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) March 7, 2021
This triple ties it up! pic.twitter.com/qCBX1GM9fa
Anyway, in the bottom of the third inning, the Diamondbacks offense finally showed up. Ketel Marte got the team on the board with an RBI single, and Eduardo Escobar tied things up with the triple above. Although that inning was mercy-ruled before he could score and give the D-backs the lead, there was no escape for the Cubs in the fourth. Vogt lined a pitch over the fence in right field (below), scoring both himself and Asdrubal Cabrera, who had walked. Arizona had a 5-3 lead, and they held it the rest of the way.
Merrill Kelly got through his three innings, but allowed three runs on four hits, two of them leaving the park. He walked one and struck out a pair. We got our first look at Joakim Soria this afternoon, as he and Chris Devenski each pitched scoreless innings. Josh Green allowed a run over two frames, to make it interesting. But Kevin Ginkel and Humberto Castellanos brought it home, though the former started his inning going HBP, walk. Josh Rojas and Marte each had a pair of hits, the latter adding a walk, and Stuart Fairchild had a walk and a hit for the Diamondbacks.
After the game, Kelly was asked how he felt. “Not the best, wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be. Kinda felt like I needed to force the ball to the plate a little bit more than usual. I didn’t feel like I had the same amount of life on the ball today. Just kind of one of those days, just a little bit off. I guess 'springy' is a good word, it just didn’t feel as lively coming out. Just felt like I had to put a little more effort into it." The one pitch he was happy with today was the curveball, with which he got some swing and miss and outs on.
However, Merrill said he doesn’t think about the thoracic outlet surgery at all when he’s pitching, and there is no pain or discomfort, which is obviously good news. There was also some interesting Q&A about his relationship with recently promoted Mike Fitzgerald, and advice he gave to Matt Moore about going overseas to Asia to pitch. The full audio is below, along with postgame comments from Soria.
Merrill Kelly audio [or link]
Joakim Soria audio [or link]
The rollcall tool gets its first workout, with present in the GDT being: AzDbackfanInDc, DBacksEurope, Jack Sommers, Jim McLennan, Justin27, Makakilo, Michael McDermott, MrMrrbi, NikT77, edbigghead and kilnborn. Tomorrow, the team makes the short journey to Scottsdale to take on the San Francisco Giants. Caleb Smith is the starter, but I believe there’s no local broadcast available for that, so we’ll be going straight to the recap there.