Record: 43-53. Pace: 73-89. Change on 2021: +15.
Merrill Kelly took a perfect game into the sixth inning at Chase Field tonight, which is kinda impressive, considering he had never even made it through three perfect innings in his MLB career previously. He ended up tossing eight shutout innings on three hits - and two of those were bunts, as he completely flummoxed the Giants for the third time this month.
Through five innings, there were hardly any difficult plays behind Kelly. Of the first 12 Giants, there was just one ball in play at 95+ mph. The fifth inning did see Brandon Belt belt one at almost 100 mph, but the high launch angle turned it into a can of corn. The final out was the only real bit of defense needed, Josh Rojas making a nice grab on a line-drive to end the inning. The perfect game came to an end with the first batter of the sixth inning. Luis Gonzalez - and, yes, I had to explain to Mrs. SnakePit that he is no relation to OUR Luis Gonzalez - doubled the ball just fair down the first-base line.
It didn't faze Merrill. Perdomo made a nice play on a ball in the hole, for the first out, keeping the runner at second. Pinch-hitter Mike Wazowski Yastrzemski lined to Rojas who flipped the ball quickly to Perdomo, catching Gonzalez napping for an inning-ending double-play. So he had still faced the minimum through six. The leadoff Giants hitter in the seventh dropped down a two-strike bunt; that this was the preferred option for San Francisco tells you how much trouble they had with Kelly. The runner didn't get to move off first, though Belt launched one to the warning track in right-center for the final out.
Kelly got through the eighth, despite surrendering his third hit of the night, another bunt. He picked the runner off first, for the second TOOTBLAN of the night by Luis Gonzalez. No, the OTHER one... That was the end of Kelly's night, having delivered one of the best performances by any Diamondback this season. He went 8 shutout innings, on those three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He became the 11th Arizona pitcher to be perfect through five - the last was Luke Weaver on April 11th last year. Curt Schilling did it three times, Randy Johnson twice, with Robbie Ray, Trevor Cahill, Doug Davis and Miguel Batista the others to perform the feat.
Keynan Middleton took over, and had a bit of a roller-coaster outing. He hit the first batter faced, then got a ground-ball double-play. However, on throwing his next pitch, it seems he turned his ankle. Middleton came up lame, and had to leave the game. Noe Ramirez took over for the 27th out, to complete Arizona fourth shutout of the season, and their first since a 7-0 victory over Cincinnati on June 8. Particularly of note, with the two double-plays and the pickoff, the Giants sent only 28 men to the plate. That’s the fewest in a nine-inning outing by our staff in just over 4 years, since Zack Greinke took a no-hitter into the eighth against the Pirates on May 11, 2017, as Arizona also faced one batter over the minimum.
The offense initially struggled to get much done against Giants' starter Jakob Junis. They had chances to score, just couldn't convert. Josh Rojas led off with a single, then stole second and third with one out. However, the contact play was on, and when Ketel Marte hit a hard grounder to former D-back Wilmer Flores, Rojas was very easily out at home. Arizona had two on with one out in the second, then Carson Kelly hit into a double-play. Two more were stranded in scoring position in fourth, when Daulton Varsho struck out. I will confess to wondering if it was going to be one of THOSE nights, where all these wasted opportunities would come back to hurt the D-backs. Turns out I need not have been concerned.
It helped that Junis was making his first start back off the injured list, so was lifted after 56 pitches. That was with one out in the fifth, and Jake McCarthy on second. Arizona then enjoyed their first look at the San Francisco bullpen, the next three batters all reaching. Perdomo gave the Diamondbacks the lead with an RBI double, Rojas walked and Alek Thomas added an RBI single, making it 2-0 to Arizona after five innings. Another crooked number followed in the sixth, the D-backs scoring three more. Kelly doubled home a pair with a shot to the wall in left-center, then scored on a Rojas single. That brought us tacos, with Arizona now 5-0 up.
Christian Walker finished off the scoring in the bottom of the eighth, with a two-run single: all tonight’s runs can be seen in the reel above. The D-backs may have won by seven runs, but it feels like they left a lot of runs on the table, going 5-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Rojas, David Peralta and McCarthy each reached base three times, on two hits and a walk, while Carson Kelly had a pair of hits. He has a 13-game hitting streak going, which is tied (with, of all people, Kelly Stinnett in 1998) for the second longest by a Diamondbacks catcher. It trails just an 18-game streak by Miguel Montero in 2011. Ketel Marte has the season’s longest streak for Arizona, at 16 games.
Here, via Jack, is the post-game audio from manager Torey Lovullo, plus tonight’s battery of Kelly + Kelly. It seems that Merrill was fairly gassed after eight innings, and while it might have been fun to let him get his first career complete game, Torey mentioned Kelly’s struggles in his next three appearances, after he threw 106 pitches in coming one out short of a complete start on May 6.
Click for details at Fangraphs.com
Mars Attacks: Merrill Kelly, +38.2%
War of the Worlds: McCarthy, +11.2%; Rojas, +10.7%; Perdomo, +10.0%
Mars Needs Women: Ketel Marte, -11.7%
Yes, that proved to be quite a satisfactory experience all round. It probably deserved more than 162 comments in the Gameday Thread, but you never know what you’re going to get from the 2022 version of Diamondbacks’ baseball! Comment of the night to Jack:
Yeah, as recapper, I’m kinda glad there was a last-minute decision to swap Kelly and Tyler Gilbert in the rotation! Tomorrow, it will be Gilbert taking the mound, with a 6:40 pm first pitch, as the D-backs seek to win the series. I hope Dano enjoys his recapping experience as much as I did mine!