JULY 01: Pavin Smith #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated by manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Diamondbacks after hitting a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants during the fifth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on July 01, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
PHOENIX – Starting pitcher Merrill Kelly helped the Arizona Diamondbacks end yet another losing streak as he led the way both on the mound and at the plate in a 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at home on Thursday night.
Arizona also put to rest a four-game losing streak.
Kelly was responsible for the wins that ended both their franchise worst 17-game losing streak as well as the longest road losing streak in MLB history. The win also ended a nine-game losing streak to the Giants.
“We’re looking for stoppers in the rotation and he certainly is one of them,” Manager Torey Lovullo said on his starter’s outing. “That’s a credit to him. He’s been working his butt off. It’s not by accident that he’s having this type of year.
“Today started us off with him. He set that tone for us. He gave up some early runs and basically went on lockdown.”
Kelly remains the consistent stalwart of Lovullo’s staff this season, and he showed it once again against the Giants with a lengthy outing Arizona desperately needed.
However, it was a shaky start as it has been all year for the D-backs pitching staff. He gave up a solo home run to right fielder Mike Yastrzemski in the first inning that put Arizona in a hole before their first at-bat.
But Kelly rebounded nicely, shaking off the early mistake and aggressively attacking the strike zone against the opposing lineup.
He changed speeds and had batters off balance, striking out four swinging and three looking. Kelly had three clean innings and seemed to get tougher to hit the more the Giants saw of him.
His only other mistake of the outing was in the fourth inning when Brandon Crawford singled and was brought home by a two-run home run courtesy of former D-back Wilmer Flores.
Kelly called his outing solid after the game.
“Obviously the home run to Yastrzemski and the home run to [Flores] just missed my spot with both of those pitches, and they’re both good hitters and they did what good hitters are supposed to do with pitches over the middle of the plate,” Kelly said.
“But other than that, I was definitely satisfied with it.”
Kelly even came up big at the dish as well, going 1-for-1 with an RBI single in the second inning that scored Josh VanMeter and gave the D-backs a 2-1 lead. He also reached base on a throwing error in the fourth inning.
“Obviously it feels good. I got the monkey off the back this year,” Kelly said on the hit. “It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten a hit so it definitely felt good.”
The single by Kelly ended a 55-plate appearance hitless streak and is only the second hit of his career.
Kelly gave the D-backs every chance to win in his efficient outing. He went seven innings and surrendered three earned runs on seven hits. He struck out seven with no walks allowed.
“It was just a complete outing for him. Everything seemed to be working, and he could go to any pitch at any time and get what he needed out of that moment,” Lovullo added on Kelly.
“Our job at the end of the day is to win, and that’s my goal going into every game regardless if we are on a losing streak or a winning streak,” Kelly said on the streaks he has ended.
Offensively, the D-backs answered every Giants score and didn’t allow themselves to get into a significant deficit against pitcher Johnny Cueto.
Josh Reddick continues to drink from the fountain of youth, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, a double, and a run scored. He is hitting .354 in his last 10 games.
Arizona came out strong in the second inning, with Reddick getting on with a two-out double and scoring on an RBI double by VanMeter.
In the fourth inning, David Peralta almost took an in-the-park trip around the bases with a deep triple that appeared like he could have scored on. It didn’t matter in the end because Reddick brought him home a with two-run home run in the next at-bat.
The dinger ended a 122-at bat homerless drought for Reddick.
“He’s been doing a nice job for us, and when he gets hot he can barrel up anybody,” Lovullo said on Reddick. “I’ve seen these streaks before and it’s fun to watch.”
“[Reddick] just got great bat to ball skills, and he’s in a really good spot with some big hits,” Lovullo said. “That two-run home run reversed the score and put us back in the lead. So not only is he hitting the ball, but he’s getting some really big hits for us.
“But when Reddick gets hot, it’s basically get out of his way and just enjoy the ride.”
Pavin Smith got in on the big fly action with a solo shot to leadoff the fifth, his sixth of the year. He was 1-for-4.
The bullpen made things interesting once again in relief. Noe Ramirez walked the leadoff batter in the eighth inning, but he battled back with strikeouts to Buster Posey and Alex Dickerson and got out of the inning with no damage.
Then in the ninth, things got really exciting when Joakim Soria came in for the save. He walked the leadoff batter Flores and gave up a single to Steven Duggar with no outs.
But when things looked their bleakest, Soria got Donovan Solano to ground into the 5-4-3 double play and struck out pinch hitter Darin Ruf for the D-backs seventh save of the season.
Arizona’s seven saves are the fewest in MLB this season, with the league average being 20.
The D-backs have Zac Gallen on deck to start against Alex Wood for the Giants in game two of this four-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station.
Gallen is looking for his first win since flirting with a no-hitter in game one of the D-backs doubleheader against the Braves on April 25. He holds a 1-3 record this season with a 3.69 ERA, 46 strikeouts, and a 1.256 WHIP.