Record: 29-34. Pace: 75-87. Change on 2021: +9.
Last time Merrill Kelly faced these Reds, in Cincinnati, he held them to just one hit over six innings of scoreless ball. Safe to say that tonight's outing by Kelly was not up to the same standard overall. It had its moments, sure - yet was also a bit of a roller-coaster. As so many Arizona starters have of late, it began in bumpy fashion, Merrill struggling to locate his fastball in the first inning. The Reds made a lot of loud contact - the softest-hit ball in play was at a speed of 97.6 mph. Kelly was helped to post a zero by a double-play, though even that came off the bat at 107.2 mph, and he still had to strand a pair.
Kelly settled down admirably, retiring the Reds in order in the second on ten pitches, all of them strikes. He finished the frame with a K, then struck out the side in the third and fanned the leadoff man in the fourth, for a career-high five consecutive strikeouts. He appeared to be cruising through two outs in the fourth, then the Reds got on the board with a double and bloop RBI single. The fifth was the real problem though, as with one down, Merrill allowed a single, a walk and then a three-run homer to former Diamondback Brandon Drury, who is having a bit of a career renaissance with the Reds this season.
Under normal circumstances, that might have been close to the end for our starter. However, the D-backs had worked a bullpen game on Sunday in Philadelphia, leaving them with a shorter than usual relief corps. It may be why Merrill went out for the sixth, and allowed another run, which crossed home on an RBI single despite the bat of the hitter being shattered. Kelly ended up throwing 102 pitches in six innings, the most since his near-complete game against the Rockies on May 6. He scattered eight hits and two walks with seven strikeouts, and the five earned runs was only the second time in 13 starts this season Merrill had allowed more than three.
J.B. Wendelken took over for the seventh and looked a little wobbly. He walked two men in front of Joey Votto, but was clearly playing 4D-chess. Vittoria lined one off the bay at 102 mph, right to Christian Walker at first, who could then complete the easiest of inning ending double-plays, with a flip to second. Wendelken got the first two outs in the eighth as well, highlighted by a great play from Josh Rojas at 3B, on a 104 mph screamer. Kyle Nelson completed the eighth, and Ian Kennedy worked around a pair of walks to post a zero in the top of the ninth, albeit needing 25 pitches to do so. However, striking out Tommy Pham looking to end the inning, more or less made it all worthwhile.
Before getting to the offense, I want to speak a bit about home-plate umpire Jerry Meals’s strike-zone this evening, which was flat out terrible. Geraldo Perdomo was struck out, not once but twice on pitches that were out of the zone. But the above was perhaps the most egregious at-bat of the evening, with the victim being Rojas in the ninth inning. Both pitch #1 and #3 in the at-bat above were called strikes. Meals is the chief of this particular crew, which I would have said should mean he is the best umpire. But based on his performance calling balls and strikes tonight, they would have been better off with Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men back there, flipping a coin to decide the batter’s fate.
The Diamondbacks managed to waste a 4-1 lead in this game. They took the lead in the third inning with some two-out magic. Ketel Marte delivered the night’s hardest hit ball, a liner which almost hit the bullpen fence in left on the fly, which had a 112.9 mph exit velocity. Three pitches later, Walker delivered the night’s second hardest hit ball, this one having a bit more elevation, and traveling an estimated 446 feet for his fifteenth home-run of the season (below). It virtually went over the top of the foul pole, prompting the Reds to ask for an umpire review. I was quite impressed he managed to keep it fair, considering the pitch was well inside and off the plate (or “called strike three” according to Jerry Meals, I suspect).
There was a lot of solid contact tonight: according to Baseball Savant, sixteen balls in play came at 99 mph or faster, which seems like a lot. After Cincinnati got one run back in the top of the fourth, Arizona responded with two of their own in the bottom half. Carson Kelly got his batting average up into three digits, leading off with an infield single - one of six infield hits for the D-backs on the night. Alex Thomas then repeated the measure (though that play could easily have been scored as a Reds’ error), and Geraldo Perdomo then brought Kelly home with a single to right. The Reds outfield threw the ball in to nobody in particular, and Thomas took advantage, reaching third, allowing him to score on a Jordan Luplow sacrifice fly.
That was it as far as scoring went for the home team, though they had no shortage of potential chances after the Reds took the lead in the sixth. They had the tying run on base with one out in the seventh, and it reached third base in the eighth, after Thomas got another infield hit, stole second and took third as the catcher’s throw sailed into right field. However, Perdomo struck out for the third time tonight - the only time on a pitch IN the zone, and that was as close as the D-backs would come. A rather lengthy regulation game at 3:20, in front of a crowd announced at 13,735. Here’s what Torey Lovullo had to say after the game:
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Greg Schulte, +17.8%
Schulte Lite: J.B. Wendelken, +10.0%
Not at all Schulte: Merrill Kelly, -25.2%
Hardly Schulte: Rojas, -18.0%; McCarthyl, -10.3%
Which understandably ties in nicely to the comment of the thread. An easy choice tonight, on the day when the voice of the D-backs announced he would be stepping away from the booth for a bit. Hurry back, Greg. MrRBI17 says:
Second game in the series tomorrow night, also with a 6:40 pm start time. Zach Davies takes the mound for the Diamondbacks.