A couple of months ago I was talking with @BerniePleskoff about Merrill Kelly. (Bernie is a former pro scout with the Astros and Mariners, and current writer for Forbes and Rotowire.com). He was very impressed with Merrill, stating: “He’s a very underrated pitcher. He keeps his team in the game and gives them a chance to win almost every time”
That was certainly the case in this game. While the line will show Merrill gave up 4 runs, 3 earned in 6.1 IP, he pitched even better than that. But his defense failed him in the 2nd, and his manager and bullpen failed him in the 7th, leading to tonight’s 8-3 loss.
Homers in the middle innings by Kole Calhoun and Nick Ahmed had the D-backs in the game for a little while with the score tied at 3 through 6 innings. But there just wasn’t enough firepower coming from the D-backs bats before and after that.
T-1: Merrill Kelly recorded two quick outs to start the game. Singles up the middle by Justin Turner and Will Smith followed, but AJ Pollack struck out on 3 pitches to end the threat. Kelly needed just 13 pitches, 11 for strikes.
B-1: Umpire Rob Drake rang up Carson Kelly on a pitch from Mitch White that was way off the plate to start the game. Josh VanMeter stayed hot, pulling a “humpback line drive” down the right field line and hustled into 2nd base, just beating the throw. But he was stranded by Asdrubal Cabrera on a 6-3 groundout and a lineout to 2b by Kole Calhoun.
T-2: Cody Bellinger lead off with a dribbler to 2nd and VanMeter charged but threw wildly past Asdrubal Cabrera at first, and Bellinger was safe. It was ruled a hit, but it’s a play a good infielder makes. Matt Beaty lined a single to right, giving LA 1st and 2nd and Kelly was in trouble. Two outs later Chris Taylor lined a base hit to left scoring Bellinger for the Dodgers first run. Max Muncy then singled to right driving home Beaty. Kole Calhoun bobbled the ball allowing Taylor to get to third. He was charged with an error on the play. Carson Kelly then threw it into center field on a stolen base attempt by Muncy, allowing Taylor to score from 3rd. Somehow that was NOT scored an error but should have been. Merrill finally struck out Justin Turner but the Dodgers had a 3-0 lead, all three runs coming with two outs and aided by terrible defense.
B-2: D-backs went 3 up 3 down in the 2nd , with just 12 pitches.
T-3: Merrill worked around a leadoff single by Will Smith , retiring the next three to hold the score at 3-0 LA.
B-3: Yet another 12 pitch 3 up 3 down inning for White against the D-backs lineup.
T-4: Another scoreless inning for Merrill, allowing just a harmless two out single to Taylor.
B-4: A couple of lengthy at bats started the inning. VanMeter saw 8 pitches before striking out and then Cabrera walked on the 8th pitch of his at bat. Calhoun then drilled the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers, putting a 2 spot on the board for Arizona.
D-backs cut the lead to 1! pic.twitter.com/siGKGVOoTh— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) August 1, 2021
T-5: Kelly retired the side on only 6 pitches in the 5th as an aggressive Dodgers lineup kept hacking away.
B-5: Nick Ahmed lead off the 5th with his 3rd homer of the season to tie the game up at 3. He sure loves him some left-handed pitching. That was followed by a bloop single from Varsho into left, a sac bunt by Merrill, and an 8 pitch walk by Carson to give the D-backs 2 on with one out. Dave Roberts went to the pen again, bringing in another lefty Victor Gonzalez to face VanMeter. Josh bounced sharply to Muncy for the 4-6-3 double play.
T-6: Kelly worked around a one out walk by getting 3 fly outs to pitch his 4th straight scoreless inning.
B-6: Calhoun dunked a ball into left for a one out single, but Drew Ellis hit into a 5-4-3 double play. With a strikeout and a pop out in his previous two at bats, it’s not been as great a game as his debut last night.
T-7: Kelly issued a one out walk to Max Muncy, his second in two innings, and despite just 88 pitches under his belt, was pulled from the game by Torey Lovullo in favor of Stefan Crichton.
Unfortunately, Justin Turner lifted the 2nd pitch he saw high and deep into the Diamondbacks bullpen giving LA a 5-3 lead. Singles by Smith and Pollack chased Crichton. Torey went to the lefty Ryan Buchter to face Bellinger. Cody hit a ground ball up the middle that bounced off of Buchter’s leg for an infield single loading the bases for pinch hitter Albert Pujols. The Hall of Famer lined a single through the hole into left driving in the Dodgers 6th run on the 5th straight hit off the D-backs pen. A force out scored one more, making it 7-3 LA.
And that was the ball game. The Dodgers tacked on a run in the 9th. The D-backs went down meekly as the Dodgers bullpen recorded 3 up 3 down inof the 7th, 8th & 9th.
After the game Torey and Merrill were both asked about the 7th inning hook.
Torey said he didn’t want to say anything about the conversation with Merrill and that he pulled him because Merrill was about to face the middle of the order for the 4th time in the game and he wanted to see what the bullpen could do and evaluate Stefan and how he was throwing the ball. He said It wasn’t about the shape of the pitches, lost velocity or anything like that.
HOWEVER, Merrill admitted that he was feeling really gassed and he indicated that to Torey and he did not second guess Torey’s decision . Give the post game comments a listen for yourself, as it’s a little difficult to parse the whole situation.
Torey and Merrill Audio and LINK
Kole Calhoun + .176 WPA and Nick Ahmed +.131 lead the way with their homeruns.
The Stefan Crichton revival didn’t go so well: -.337 WPA. Drew Ellis 0-4, -.123
A quiet thread that got even quieter after the 7th.
COTD goes to Kilnborn for an oldy but goody