PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly is having arguably the best stretch of his MLB career. Through a dozen starts entering No. 13 on Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, Kelly’s ERA sat at 3.32 and he had allowed more than three earned runs in just one of those outings.
But as D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said himself pregame, Kelly had a series of great months before this more sustained spurt to open 2022. The next step for Kelly is to remain extremely consistent with what’s working mechanically, something Lovullo was seeing this year more than ever. But that level of constant success didn’t carry over in Arizona’s 5-4 loss.
Kelly’s great stuff that he’s been throwing nearly all year would have been enough to put the D-backs in a great position to win on Monday. Arizona’s offense managed four runs through the first five innings via a two-run homer for Christian Walker and RBIs for Geraldo Perdomo and Jordan Luplow.
It was simply a very winnable game, and Lovullo afterward cited his own frustration in how the D-backs could have been better in several different areas.
“This should have been a game that we won,” Lovullo said.
Kelly didn’t have that great stuff all night. He gave up five earned runs on eight hits and two walks with seven strikeouts across six innings and 102 pitches.
The first inning was ominous, as the first three balls put in play off Kelly were hit over 100 mph despite no runs coming across, per Baseball Savant.
Kelly grinded through three scoreless innings before he gave up a run in each of the next three. The right-hander said it was more of “navigate and survive rather than attacking” because of how often he was getting behind hitters.
An RBI single for Reds second baseman Matt Reynolds in the fourth inning was followed by a fifth inning with a one-out single for catcher Chris Okey and four-pitch walk to center fielder Nick Senzel. That prompted a mound visit, and two pitches later, Reds designated hitter and former D-back Brandon Drury smashed a three-run dinger to left to tie the game at four. That’s a homer Lovullo correctly stated as the difference in the game.
Cincinnati third baseman Mike Moustakas singled to score Reynolds for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.
Some of that great stuff did come at times for Kelly. He struck out five straight hitters at one point.
Arizona was 2-for-7 at the plate with runners in scoring position through five innings and the eighth and final at-bat the D-backs would get under that category was the biggest of the game.
Perdomo was up with the D-backs’ Alek Thomas on first base with two outs in the eighth inning. Thomas went to steal second base and the throw down there was off and went into center field, allowing Thomas to reach third base in a 2-1 count.
The Arizona shortstop Perdomo, however, struck out. It was a failure to capitalize on a Cincinnati miscue, unlike the aforementioned RBIs for Perdomo and Luplow from the fourth inning that came after a bobble by Reynolds on a tough grounder to handle let two runners on with one out instead of two.
Walker crushed a rare Chase Field home run in the third inning, one that wrapped around the left-field foul pole to land in the middle deck seats near the former Friday’s Front Row. That was his 16th of the year, a number that leads the D-backs and has him as the only Arizona player in double digits.
One of the agitating parts of the loss for Lovullo was the amount of loud contact the D-backs had. Baseball Savant had down three outs for Arizona that were hit over 100 mph, including two that ended an inning with an Arizona runner on base, and the other was the first out of the ninth.