PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly’s 13-game hitting streak that started on July 4 and continued through the All-Star break came to an end on Tuesday night, but he did extend his on-base streak to 14 after going 0-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch in the D-backs’ 7-3 win over the San Francisco Giants.
It’s been a tale of two halves for the Diamondbacks’ right-handed hitter, but not the usual first and second half of a big-league season.
Instead, it’s been an oblique injury and his stint with the Triple-A Reno Aces from June 4-9 that has marked the midway point between two completely different versions of Kelly at the plate in 2022.
Prior to the left oblique strain that landed him on the injured list retroactive to May 5, the catcher was slashing .105/.150/.273 with six hits in his first 57 at-bats 20 games into the season.
But upon his return on June 11, Kelly has seen his slash line rise dramatically. Across his last 28 games (24 starts), Kelly has slashed .289/.347/.544 with an .891 OPS on 26 hits, including eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBIs in 90 at-bats.
“He is for sure getting the head out, so you know the barrel’s coming through, he’s making contact and in front of the plate,” Diamondbacks hitting coach Joe Mather said Tuesday.
“Whereas I felt like early in the year, the approach was more soft right center and it kind of got him to get a little pushy and miss under the ball a lot. … But it’s been almost approach based. So just a little bit more aggressive approach, mindset, impact the ball on a line somewhere — I’d say that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Over the course of his 13-game hitting streak that started following the calendar’s turn to July, the 28-year-old hit an astounding .422 in addition to a 1.214 OPS. Kelly also had 19 hits — including nine extra-base hits (six doubles, three homers) — to go along with nine RBIs in 48 at-bats in that span.
“He is a guy that’s a little bit more pull-side I would say since he’s been back and doing well, that’s benefiting him,” Mather said. “It fits his approach, it fits his swing and I think a lot of credit has to go to him because it was a tough start of the year.
“He got hurt then he had to sit on those numbers and they don’t change when you come back, it doesn’t go back to zero. So I’m most impressed with his mental side of the game, being able to turn it around without pressing too much. He’s been one of our best hitters since he’s been back.”
Remarkably, Kelly’s numbers when batting leadoff for the D-backs have been even more impressive — albeit in a rather small sample size, as manager Torey Lovullo only puts the catcher in the No. 1 hole with his righty-heavy lineup when facing a left-handed starter.
In five games (21 at-bats) when batting first, Kelly is slashing .429/.500/.714 with a 1.214 OPS on nine hits (three doubles, one dinger), two walks, one hit-by-pitch and four RBIs.
Against lefties this season, the catcher is slashing .266/.309/.469 with a .778 OPS on 17 hits (seven doubles, two homers), two walks and 11 RBIs in 64 at-bats.
Compare those metrics to his .181/.247/.313 slash line and .560 OPS in 83 at-bats against right-handed pitching, which features 15 hits and five extra-base hits (two doubles, three homers) to go along with seven RBIs and seven walks.
“Our lineup right now with him where (hitting eighth) in the lineup is really deep. They got lefties they’re gonna bring in eventually and he crushes lefties,” Mather said. “So when he’s been at the top facing the starters, he set the tone in a hurry.
“And then when he’s been at the bottom versus the righties, it just stretches it out and takes a lot of pressure off of (guys) who are kind of around him down there and puts a lot more pressure on the opposing staff, manager, pitchers.”