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Diamondbacks 3, St. Louis 1: Happy Birthday, Skipper!

On his 58th birthday, I would dare to say that Torey Lovullo won this game for us.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So, yay. Good things happened tonight. First, we won the ballgame, ending our five-game losing streak. Second, Merrill Kelly made his return from the injured list and threw six innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Third, we actually scored some runs late. Fourth, the bullpen held. Fifth (or perhaps 4a), Kevin Ginkel pitched a shutdown bottom of the ninth, retiring St. Louis in order to notch his third save in three opportunities, suggesting to me at least that maybe we’ve found our closer. I’ve probably jinxed that last one right there by typing that, but if so, well, feel free to blame it on me.

Anyway, tonight’s matchup was Kelly in his first start since June 24, going against Cardinals’ lefty Steven Matz, who entered the day with a 4.85 ERA. Kelly is a very good pitcher when he’s healthy and well. Steven Matz, frankly, is not, at least not this year. And yet, as we’ve been becoming accustomed to again of late, this one very quickly turned into a pitchers’ duel, because our offense didn’t show up for work on time.

Kelly retired the top of St. Louis’s lineup on ten pitches to start the ballgame, which was great to see. His control was sharp, he didn’t seem rusty at all, it was a rare (these days) stress-free first inning of work from a Diamondbacks starter. Sadly, thanks to some impatient at-bats from the top of our lineup, Steven Matz wound up looking even better, retiring Marte, McCarthy and Gurriel in order with only eight pitches thrown. “Oh, dear,” I thought.

Kelly had some traffic in the second, thanks to a one-out single from Cardinals’ catcher Willson Contreras and then a two-out Nick Ahmed error on a hard-hit grounder that he clanged. No damage was done, but it did increase Kelly’s pitch count a little bit, which worried me some because I didn’t know if he was on a pitch limit, but in any event quicker innings are better. With two outs in the bottom of the second, Emmanuel Rivera lined a double into the left-field corner, but was left standing there when Nick Ahmed flied out to right on the first pitch he saw, because Nick Ahmed.

Merrill’s only blemish came in the third, as the St. Louis lineup turned over and he surrendered a one-out double to Cardinals’ DH and leadoff hitter Brendan Donovan, followed by a Paul Goldschmidt (Goldy! How could you?!?) single to right that advanced Donovan to third. Kelly then struck out Arenado after getting him to a full count, and Goldy took off toward second, like a pro, with the strikeout pitch. Gabby Moreno would have likely gunned him down for the third out of the inning, but sadly Moreno is on the IL and so, instead, Carson Kelly threw to second and Marte saw Donovan breaking for home plate, and threw high to Carson, who couldn’t apply the tag fast enough. A Contreras flyout to right ended the damage there, but the Redbirds were on the board first, albeit with no RBI recorded, which was kinda wacky and something you don’t see every day. 1-0 St. Louis.

And then things got vewy, very qwiet for quite some time. Merrill Kelly cruised through three more innings of work, ending his night with 86 pitches thrown and an admirable and reassuring pitching line of 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, and 5 K.

I am so glad he’s back.

Our offense, meanwhile, continued doing stuff that amounted to a whole lotta nothing. Christian Walker led off the bottom of the fourth with a double down the left field line, and Rivera drew a one-out walk, but both of them remained standing on those bases as the inning ended, thanks to Ahmed and Kelly doing what I increasingly expect them to do at the plate, which is not make positive contibutions. We sat down in order in the bottom of the fifth, wasted a two-out Evan Longoria single in the bottom of the sixth, and sat down in order again in the seventh.

Our bullpen was now involved, meanwhile, which has not boded well for us of late, but happily Luis Frias pitched a quick, clean top of the seventh. Miguel Castro, who I felt pretty good about early in the season but who now fills me with foreboding when he takes the ball in a close game, kinda like how I feel when Ahmed and Carson Kelly come to the plate, took the mound and promptly walked Goldy on five pitches to start the inning, struck out Nolan Arenado, and then walked best-name-in-baseball title holder Lars Nootbar, again on five pitches. Brent Strom made a timely mound visit that got Castro back into strike-throwing mode, so he struck out Contreras for the second out. Then, with a lefty bat coming up and Castro not inspiring faith, Torey Lovullo made the first of his good managerial choices of the night, yanking Castro and bringing in Kyle Nelson, who recorded the third out three pitches later.

Torey really showed his managerial chops in the bottom of the eighth, though, Some gentleman named JoJo Romero was on the mound for the Cards, having pitched the seventh, and was greeted by a leadoff Ketel Marte triple that split the gap in left center and looked like it should have been a double, but Marte pushed and got away from it, sliding safely into third base ahead of the throw. Jake McCarthy singled three pitches later, grounding one back up the middle to drive in Marte and tie the game:

That chased JoJo Romero, and brought in righthander Chris Stratton, who got Gurriel to ground out to second, and then struck out Walker, who still doesn’t seem entirely right to me.

But this is where Lovullo’s boss game management really manifested itself. While Walker was striking out, Lovullo sent Corbin Carroll, who was on a scheduled off day, out into the on-deck circle. Stratton wasn’t pulled for a lefty reliever, so Torey called back Carroll (who was still eligible to pinch-hit because he hadn’t actually been announced) and sent Dominic Canzone to the plate instead. The speculation in the broadcast booth was that he was concerned that, with first base open, Carroll would just have been walked. Instead, Stratton pitched to Canzone, and wound up walking him on six pitches, which would have brought Rivera to the plate. But. With runners on first and second, Torey seemed to calculate that they wouldn’t walk Carroll now to load the bases, and sure enough, Stratton pitched to him. That turned out badly for Stratton, but very well for us, as Carroll rocketed the second triple of the inning high off the wall in pretty much straightaway center:

McCarthy scored. Canzone scored. Ahmed did Ahmed things, and struck out to leave Carroll standing on third, but whatever. We finally had a lead. 3-1 D-BACKS

And then, as noted above, Kevin Ginkel came out and saved it for us with no muss and no fuss whatsover. Ten pitches, three batters faced, three outs, done.

Happy birthday, Torey!

Win Probability Added, courtesy of FanGraphs

Life of the Party: Corbin Carroll (1 AB, 1 3B, 2 RBI, +34.7% WPA), Ketel Marte (4 AB, 2 H, 1 R, 1 3b, +23.5% WPA), Merrill Kelly (pitching line above, 19.9% WPA)
Party Poopers: Nick Ahmed (0-4, 1 K, -15.6% WPA), Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (0 for 4, 1 K, -13% WPA), Carson Kelly (0 for 3, 2 K, -12.1% WPA)
Birthday Boy: Torey Lovullo (58 years young, 55-47 team record in 2023)

Pretty well-attended Gameday Thread, especially for a Tuesday night and especially when the Diamondbacks haven’t exactly been an inspiring team to watch play baseball lately. There are 179 comments at time of writing, and while I see three comments that have gone Sedona Red, two are from me (one about the rain in Tucson tonight, one about Merrill Kelly looking good tonight) and are therefore ineligible, I am happy to award tonight’s CotG to KJKrug for her very early observation to that effect (I think she posted it after his ten-pitch first inning of work to start the ballgane):

If you can, please drop by for the getaway-day afternoon rubber match of this one, as Zac Gallen takes the mound and goes up against Cardinals’ righty and possible trade chip Jack Flaherty. First pitch is scheduled for 12:40pm AZ time as we go for the series win for what feels like the first time in awhile. Hope you can join us.

As a scheduling PSA, you will no longer see me recapping Tuesday games until the end of May 2024, as I am going to have 9th graders and such back in my classroom starting next week, so I will be back on either Friday or Saturday games going forward. I love recapping Tuesday games, and it’s been a pleasure this summer hanging out with you all on the Tuesday GDTs. See you on the weekends, I hope!

As always, thanks for reading, and as always, go Diamondbacks!