Record: 71-67. Pace: 83-79. Change on 2022: +6.
It had been a rough last go through the rotation for Arizona’s starting pitchers. Over the past six games, their average game score was just 31.2, with 30 earned runs given up over 29 innings. Little wonder the team had gone 1-5, the win coming in the only decent start, by Zach Davies. To drive home the importance of good starts, this year, the D-backs were 32-6 when their starter posts a Game Score of 63 or better. Make it 33-6 now, Merrill Kelly throwing seven innings of one-run ball and tying a career high with a dozen strikeouts. That helped the team took care of business in the opener against the team with the worst record in the National League, and they improved to 9-2 against the Rockies this year.
Last time out, Kelly had been part of the problem, being shelled in Los Angeles, to the tune of seven runs on 12 hits and three walks in five innings. But from the start today, it was clearly a different Merrill, as he retired the side in order on only 10 pitches - and that with a couple of K's. Admittedly, he was clearly facing a far weaker line-up than the Dodgers. Colorado came in with the worst OPS+ in the majors this year, at only 83. But we are still discussing major-league hitters, and Kelly showed them who was boss, facing the minimum through four. The only baserunner he allowed was a walk, and that was quickly erased by a double-play.
The only point at which Kelly’s afternoon was other than smooth sailing came in the fifith. The no-hitter was ended by a one-out single, and another single put two men on. Kelly rebounded with a strikeout, but Colorado got on the board with a third hit in the inning. However, they ran themselves out of the inning. Although Lourdes Gurriel Jr’s throw home went into the infield, Gabriel Moreno was able to pounce and fired intelligently to third to get the runner trying to advance there. The Rockies were kept away from a possible crooked inning, and never got another runner into scoring position while Kelly was on the mound.
At ninety pitches, Kelly came out for the start of the eighth inning, but after one pitch, it appears he suffered a recurrence of the cramping issue which had interfered with him previously. He had to leave, being robbed of a chance to become only the third D-backs’ starter this year to record an out in the eighth. He was obviously annoyed, yelling into his glove as he left the game - no prizes for guessing the word - but it was still an excellent outing. He gave up four hits, all singles, and a walk, while striking out 12 (above). I feel he deserved 1⁄3 credit for the K charged to Kevin Ginkel after he replaced Kelly, since the reliever inherited an 0-1 count.
To the offense. Back in the day, going from 0-2 to a walk was known as "pulling a Goldschmidt." This year, we might want to call it "pulling a Perdomo," because he leads the team in this category. With one out on the third, he did it for the sixth time this season, eventually drawing a seven-pitch walk. He then scored the game's first run, as Corbin Carroll tripled into the right-field corner (above). It was Carroll's major-league leading ninth of the season. His next - surely likely before the end of the year - will move him into the top ten by a D-back for a season, and match Eduardo Escobar's tally from 2019. Carroll was left there, but Arizona had a 1-0 lead.
They were them able to build on it in the fourth, getting four consecutive hits to open the frame. Christian Walker got it started with a lucky little blooper, a 66.1 mph flare that still somehow had an expected batting average of .760. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. doubled down the left-field line, and Gabriel Moreno singled Walker home, making the score 2-0. Of all people, the previously largely useless Jace Peterson, who came in with a 47 OPS in 26 games for the Diamondbacks, then did something good. He doubled to the wall in right (below), and Moreno motored all the way around to follow Gurriel across home, for a 4-0 lead.
That was it for the offense. No, really. Peterson’s double with no outs in the fourth was the final base-runner mustered by the Diamondbacks all afternoon, as their last fifteen Arizona hitters of the day were retired in order. It’s a good job that tacos were not needed on the day, or it could have been a problem. Ginkel did his job in the eighth, but Paul Sewald had another lumpy outing in the ninth. Coming in with a three-run lead, he walked the first batter - that’s eight walks in 11.2 innings with Arizona - then with two outs, gave up an RBI double, which brought the tying run to the plate. He got the final out, for his ninth save. But in eleven save opportunities, he has yet to have a clean inning. I’m not convinced.
I guess the end result is what matters, and that kept the D-backs in possession of at least a share of the third wild-card spot. The Giants dropped back, as they lost to the Cubs, while the Marlins were off. But the Reds just polished off the Mariners (though Seattle also had the tying run at the plate in the ninth, in the shape of Julio Rodriguez) to keep effectively even with the Diamondbacks. All we can do is take care of our own business, especially against weaker opposition like the Rockies.
Click here for details, at Fangraphs.com
It's got electrolytes: Merrill Kelly, +29.9%
Hydro homie: Corbin Carroll, +12.2%
Cramps: Alek Thomas, -8.3%
I suspect a lot of people were otherwise engaged on this fine Labor Day holiday, the Gameday Thread ending up just shy of a hundred comments. Nothing turned red, but I invoke my executive power and give it to EphBoston:
There’s a case to be made for it. His ERA after this start is now down to 3.22, which is better than Cy Young “contender” Zac Gallen at 3.48. Kelly has thrown about thirty innings fewer, but the gap in overall value is probably less than you might think. Anyway, tomorrow sees another game against the Rockies, with Brandon Pfaadt starting for the D-backs. First pitch is at 6:40 pm, and another win would be a good thing.