PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks offense struggled to make anything happen against the returning Clayton Kershaw on Sunday, dropping the final game of their four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0.
Merrill Kelly’s solid outing in his first start of the year didn’t translate to a quick start in this game. Despite getting Mookie Betts to fly out on a single pitch to kick off the game, Kelly proceeded to fall behind the remaining batters in the inning. After giving up a single to Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger sent one to the empty stands for a two-run homer, his first of the year.
Kelly would settle down after that, throwing a clean inning for the second. Ironically, the only batter to really pester him the rest of his outing was Betts, who doubled in the third inning and hit a solo shot that splashed down in the right field pool in the fifth to put Los Angeles up 3-0.
In related news, Betts did leave the game in the seventh inning with a sore middle finger on his left hand per the Dodgers. He was 2-for-3 with the home run, double and an RBI.
While it may have been Kershaw’s first start of the year, the 3-time Cy Young award winner seemed to be in mid-season form early on. Kershaw didn’t allow a baserunner in any form until the fourth inning when his perfect reign of terror was finally ended by a pair of singles from Starling Marte and Christian Walker that the D-backs failed to capitalize on.
The lefty was ahead of D-backs hitters for the majority of his outing and efficient when attacking the strike zone, limiting his pitch count and allowing for a longer outing than manager Torey Lovullo would have liked to see.
“Today it looked like it was in a really good spot for him,” said Lovullo on Kershaw and his velocity. “He was in command of the game. He did a nice job today.”
Kershaw’s day was 5.2 innings long, allowing three hits with six strikeouts, no runs and no walks. He made a struggling D-backs offense look non-existent. However, the Dodgers still didn’t take the chance of him facing Walker, who has four career home runs off of him, again in the sixth inning.
Nobody could get going against the Dodgers pitching staff. Even the consistently reliable Ketel Marte failed to reach base, going 0-of-4 with two strikeouts. This ends his 12-game streak of reaching base safely that dates back to last season.
On the other side of the mound, Kelly did have a solid quality start after the shaky first inning. The 30-year old right-hander went six innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits. He struck out four with no walks.
“Other than those two pitches, I think I battled pretty well,” said Kelly on his outing after the game. “You know obviously I gave up a little more hits than I would have liked to, but I was happy when I got out of those situations.”
“I think those two pitches really unfortunately kind of defined the game today, but other than that I was OK with it.”
While the lack of run support for Kelly and the rest of their pitching staff has been a factor in their losses, this is only the fourth game of the year where the D-backs pitching staff has allowed three runs of less. The other three games were wins.
“We’re working extremely hard for positive outcomes,” said Lovullo. “And this is a group that has proven to do it over the past several years, so that’s why I believe in them and that’s why I believe we’ll come out of it. But it’s not going to be by the snap of our fingers. It’s going to be through hard work and a belief we can get the job done.
“Like I said these are tough times. We are going to keep plowing and fighting together, and make something good happen as soon as possible.”
Kole Calhoun singled in the seventh and Starling Marte got hit by a pitch in the ninth, but that was all the offense could muster up even with Kershaw exiting the game.
The D-backs will look to turn things around against the Houston Astros on Tuesday after a much-needed day off. Madison Bumgarner, who is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts, will take the mound for the D-backs. He is 4-1 in his career against the Astros with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in six starts.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports.