PHOENIX (AP) — Merrill Kelly was a little-known journeyman when he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019 after four seasons toiling on the mound in South Korea.
These days, he’s arguably the most important part of the team’s rotation.
Kelly came within one out of his first complete game, Daulton Varsho and David Peralta homered in the eighth inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Colorado Rockies 4—1 on Friday night.
Kelly (3-1) has been one of the best pitchers in the big leagues this season with a 1.23 ERA through six starts. The right-hander got some added security during spring training when he signed an $18 million, two-year deal that will keep him under contract with the D-backs through 2024.
“I just think it’s a mentality,” Kelly said. “I’m more comfortable in this locker room, I’m more comfortable on that mound, I know I can compete with anybody and everybody. There’s no getting my feet wet anymore.”
The score was tied at 1 in the eighth when Varsho hit a high 98 mph fastball from Carlos Estévez over the right-field wall for his sixth homer of the year.
Two batters later, Peralta added a two-run drive that pushed the Diamondbacks ahead 4-1.
Arizona has won four straight games, jumping above .500 for the first time since opening day with a 14-13 mark.
The timely homers helped Kelly earn the win. He needed 106 pitches to navigate 8.2 innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks while striking out eight.
“Once again, it was Merrill’s day,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “He went out there and was dealing. On a day where there was still a little bit of fatigue in the bullpen, he gave everybody a rest.”
Kelly gave up back-to-back singles with two outs in the ninth and was pulled from his 70th major league start.
Lovullo brought in Mark Melancon, who walked Sam Hilliard to load the bases. José Iglesias followed with a liner that deflected off Melancon’s left thigh, but he was able to recover and get the out at first.
The Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the first when C.J. Cron’s double landed on the left-field line, scoring Connor Joe. The Diamondbacks made it 1-1 in the second on Seth Beer’s sacrifice fly.
Colorado got another quality outing from righty Chad Kuhl, who gave up one run over six innings and lowered his ERA to 1.82. He struck out five, walked two and permitted three hits.
D-backs infielder Josh Rojas was in the lineup for the first time this season and finished with a single and a walk in four plate appearances.
The Diamondbacks will send RHP Zach Davies (1-1, 4.24) to the mound to face the Rockies, who will counter with LHP Kyle Freeland (1-3, 4.85) on Saturday night.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.