Arizona Diamondbacks’ Carson Kelly (18) scores under the tag of Los Angeles Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, June 11, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks offense once again fell just short of the comeback at Chase Field as they were unable to rally in extra innings against Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels in a 6-5 loss on Friday night.
The D-backs losing streak has reached eight games — their second-longest of this season — and they are now 1-21 in their last 22.
Pavin Smith went 2-for-5 with a double in the loss and continues to lead all MLB rookies in hits with 63, doubles with 14 and extra-base hits with 22.
“He’s obviously a great competitor,” said Smith on facing Ohtani. “To be able to pitch and hit like he does. It’s funny because he’ll sit at like 94-95 and then you get a guy in scoring position and he’ll bring out the 99 to 100, so he definitely has more in the tank when he needs it.”
Eduardo Escobar was also 2-for-5 with the tying solo home run in the ninth that sent the game into extra innings.
“I think we did a good job of building some innings and having some opportunities to score some runs,” manager Torey Lovullo said on the team’s postgame Zoom media availability. “We couldn’t get that big knock. There was a lot of traffic out there today.”
The D-backs were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t think there’s anything to explain it,” said Smith. “We really just need that one big hit. It’s definitely frustrating. I think people are thinking about it, when guys are in scoring position they need to get it done, they need to be the guy, and I think it puts a lot of pressure on us. But I think we just gotta keep pushing and keep pushing through.”
The rest of the offense wasn’t as nearly effective against Ohtani. The double threat was dealing against the D-backs, using a 99 mph cutting fastball mixed with an 81 mph slider to absolutely baffle hitters.
Yet he still wasn’t untouchable as the D-backs were able to get some hits against the 23-year-old right-hander and put some runs on the board in a bizarre fifth inning that saw Ohtani balk twice, according to the officiating crew, which resulted in a run scored and Eduardo Escobar reaching on a wild pitch strikeout that would have ended the inning but instead scored Ketel Marte.
Once they got to the Angels’ bullpen, the D-backs were able to put some more conventional runs on the board and tie the game. With Carson Kelly and Nick Ahmed on, Christian Walker reached on an error while pinch-hitting in the sixth inning that scored a run. Josh Rojas then came through with an RBI single that briefly tied the game at four.
Ohtani pitched five innings before moving to right field. He allowed five hits and two earned runs with two balks, two walks, a hit batter and eight strikeouts.
The inevitable MVP candidate also did well at the dish against fellow starting pitcher Merrill Kelly and the D-backs pitching staff, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI. He was a big part of their seventh-inning rally that gave the Angels the lead for good.
Speaking of Kelly, he entered the game seeking his first win since April 27. Since that date, he has gone 0-4 with a 4.10 ERA.
He pitched well through the first two innings, not allowing any baserunners, but he got into trouble immediately to start the third.
Kelly surrendered a leadoff home run to Kurt Suzuki for the first run of the game. With two outs, he walked Justin Upton and gave up an RBI double to Ohtani, who then scored on an Anthony Rendon RBI single that put the Angels up 3-0.
He recovered nicely after that and didn’t allow a run for the remainder of his outing. He also recovered nicely from a line drive off the bat of Ohtani that hit him in his left pec. He stayed in the game to finish the inning.
“He got hit by the line drive. I thought he made a statement by staying in the baseball game and finishing that inning,” said Lovullo.
“He made a couple of mistakes, and I think that was the reason for that big inning, but overall, he was out there to compete and did a good job of keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to catch up.”
Kelly lasted fiving innings, allowing four hits and three earned runs. Sixty-two of his 88 pitches were for strikes, with six total strikeouts and two walks allowed.
“Thank God it hit me where it did,” said Kelly on the line drive that hit him. “If it was five inches to the right or five inches up, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you guys right now.”
Kelly was diagnosed with a left pec contusion after being looked at.
“Like I said, it was just a helpless feeling. I saw the ball coming the whole way and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said.
The Angels were able to load the bases with one out in the seventh inning and get the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Taylor Clarke, who did a tremendous job of not allowing the inning to blow up.
The D-backs were down to their final strike when Escobar hit a home run blast to tie the game at five and give them a chance in the 10th.
However, there was more bizarre baseball in the extra frame. After facing two batters with the ghost runner on, Lovullo attempted to pull his relief pitcher Ryan Buchter for Riley Smith. After a moment of confusion, home plate umpire Greg Gibson ended the discussion and Buchter had to come back to the mound.
Buchter hit two batters and balked in his relief appearance, and the Angels were able to bring home the winning run on a groundout.
“Sometimes you see that runner out there and you start to add up your runners,” said Lovullo on the confusion on the 10th. “I know the rule, I know that that runner at second base to start the inning does not count as a hitter, but for some reason I was allowing myself to count it that way so that one’s on me.”
The D-backs will try to end another lengthy losing streak in game two against the Angels. Pitcher Caleb Smith will make his fourth start of the season for Arizona opposite of Alex Cobb for Los Angeles. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 40 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Smith has a 2-2 record with 3.14 ERA this season, but he does have a 2.70 ERA with an opponent batting average of .171 in his last two starts.