PHOENIX — After an 11-inning bout the night before, the question as to what Arizona Diamondbacks team would show up Sunday afternoon loomed over Chase Field.
That question, however, was quickly answered by starting pitcher Merrill Kelly.
Behind the pitcher’s solid outing, the D-backs cruised to a 7-1 victory over New York, taking the three-game series win Sunday afternoon.
“I thought everything was built around what Merrill Kelly did today,” manager Torey Lovullo said after the game. “As I talked in pregame, he stood on the mound and started to establish his fastball.
“I felt his fastball presence from the dugout and I’m sure the hitters felt that as well. He was just on the attack and started mixing some secondary stuff.”
Going 7.2 innings, his second-longest outing of 2019, the pitcher allowed just one earned run on six hits and struck out a career-high 10 batters as he improved his record to 5-6 on the season.
It was a stellar performance from start to finish for Kelly as he allowed just two Mets in scoring position the entire afternoon. His only run allowed was off a solo home run in the second inning.
“I felt like it was going to be a special day as we got later into the game,” Kelly said after the win. “After the home run, [Wilson Ramos] got me on that, I knew it was going to be a long one just because I was able to bounce back and still throw strikes and still compete after that.”
The D-backs and their fans couldn’t have asked for much more from Kelly as the team’s bullpen had been taxed and injuries to the starting rotation have left little room for error for Arizona.
“Obviously it feels good, it was more of just the acknowledgment of how big today’s game was,” Kelly said when asked about the fans’ ovation as he exited the game in the eighth inning. “With us struggling lately and us getting that big win last night, going into today’s game I wanted to make sure I gave it all I had and got into the game late.
“So the ovation was more of that than anything else. I went out there and did my job when we needed a good start and that was the biggest positive for it.”
Helping the cause of the former ASU Sun Devil were the active bats of the D-backs, who used three multi-run innings to put away New York. It was a welcome sight to see for Arizona as scoring had been a crucial thing missing from Kelly’s last string of starts.
Entering play Sunday, Kelly sported just a 1-5 record in his last six starts. It wasn’t solely on the pitcher, however, as the offense failed to score more than four runs in all but one game over that span, a 7-0 win over the Giants on May 17.
It was the complete opposite Sunday afternoon as the offense found success off of opposing pitcher Steven Matz early on.
Moved up to the leadoff spot in the lineup, center fielder Ketel Marte put his name on the game on just the third pitch of the day, crushing a 482-foot bomb to left-center field.
The blast was Marte’s first career leadoff HR and tied Rangers OF Nomar Mazara for the longest homer in MLB this season. It was also the sixth farthest home run hit at Chase Field.
With the first-inning home run, Marte tied his career-high mark of 14 set in 2018.
Marte also tied third baseman Eduardo Escobar for first in homers among D-backs hitters.
The tie wouldn’t last long, however, as Escobar extended the lead just two batters later with a two-run moonshot to left field.
“It makes a huge difference,” Kelly said of the run support early on. “Going out there with a three-run lead gives my mental state the ability to give up that solo home run and say ‘so what?’”
The homer marks Escobar’s 15th HR of the season, a new team high.
“Between Merrill establishing his presence on the mound and scoring three runs the day game after a night game, I felt very good that the statement was made that we were ready to play,” Lovullo said of the two-sided effort.
After just a double was hit over the next three innings, the offense came around again in the fifth.
Using four straight singles to nickel and dime the Mets in the inning, Arizona tacked on two more runs behind Christian Walker and Ildemaro Vargas. Lovullo praised the patience of the inning after the game.
“Those are the innings that really please me,” Lovullo said of the sequence. “We don’t cash in early, but we don’t give up totally throughout the course of that entire inning and guys just start to get that line moving. And you can sense it. You feel it in the dugout.
“The crooked numbers are what you’re searching for in baseball. … We want to build innings, we want the right guys to step up and get the job done and they did that tonight.”
And almost like it started, the game was put out of reach two innings later thanks to a Marte two-run single, pushing the score to 7-1.
Marte finished the afternoon going 2-for-5, including his leadoff blast, with three RBI and a run scored.
“We picked up the baseball and played Diamondbacks baseball today, it was nice,” Lovullo said. “We know the Dodgers are marching in here, and we’re super excited about that.
“We’re playing much better baseball than we did last week and I think a lot of guys stepped up and helped establish a couple things. We’re okay, we’re playing baseball the way we want to and we’re ready for the next series.”
– Kelly’s worst foe Sunday may have been himself as the pitcher had a moment mid-game where he was nauseous. Lovullo went to check on Kelly but the pitcher stayed in to pitch.
The D-backs open up a three-game series against the Dodgers Monday at Chase Field. Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.