How spectacular has Merrill Kelly been lately? Outside of less than a handful of rough starts, May 22nd at San Diego and May 2nd at Tampa Bay come to mind most recently, he has been highly serviceable as a mid rotation arm in his first MLB season. In his last three starts including tonight, he has not pitched less than seven innings or given up more than one run. Kelly has been impressive since coming over in a free agent deal from the KBO this past offseason with no prior MLB experience.
Tonight’s game was played to the brisk pace of two hours and sixteen minutes being a result of only ten total base runners for both teams combined. I assumed I’d have enough time to enjoy happy hour with my coworkers and catch the replay in order to bring you an effective recap, but even the replay was halfway complete by the time I got home. Woe is me.
Philadelphia’s starter, Zach Eflin, struck out the side in the top of the first. Kelly counterpunched with an efficient twelve pitch bottom half. Eflin and Kelly were the stars of the show tonight with each starter allowing only a single hit through four innings. Arizona’s offense “erupted” abruptly in the top half of the fifth. Adam Jones, Eduardo Escobar, and Christian Walker hit three straight singles giving Arizona the 1-0 lead. Nick Ahmed immediately followed with a sacrifice fly driving the score 2-0.
That 2-0 lead was all Merrill Kelly needed to fend off the first place Phillies and finish the second series victory of this road trip. He allowed only three baserunners over 7 & 2⁄3 innings and struck out five. Kelly left with a healthy pitch count of 93, 67 of them going for strikes. Tonight’s start lowered his ERA on the season to 3.73, and he now carries a record of 7-6. His command was rock solid, and he had plenty of assistance on defense behind him when the ball was put into play.
Nick Ahmed deserves praise for a tremendous defensive stop in the gap to end the seventh.
Arizona now improves to 5-1 on this road trip and travels to face the Washington Nationals for four games before returning home. Arizona will rely heavily on strong performances going forward from Kelly, Zack Greinke, and Robbie Ray. Ineffectiveness from Zack Godley and injuries to Taijuan Walker, Luke Weaver, and now Jon Duplantier put a serious strain on the organizational depth. Tonight’s start from Kelly was exactly what Torey Lovullo needed from his staff.
Star of the night: Merrill Kelly: +49.3% pitching WPA, 7 2⁄3 innings, 3 hits, 5 K’s, 0 ER
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I could not agree more my friend. Pitcher’s duels are personally more entertaining for me to watch. They’re efficient, require methodical strategy, and are usually pretty stressful. Offensive slug fests produce brief emotional highs and are easier to recap, but I’ll take a speedy pitcher’s duel any day.