The Arizona Diamondbacks have one of the better pitching staffs in baseball, and right-hander Merrill Kelly is one of the biggest reasons why they do.
Heading into Monday’s game, Arizona’s pitching staff had a 3.19 ERA going back to Aug. 17, the third lowest in that stretch behind the Baltimore Orioles (2.82) and Seattle Mariners (3.00). They also had the third fewest hits allowed (65) and third lowest WHIP (1.06).
Kelly is just 1-0 in five starts in August, with the Diamondbacks going 2-3 in those contests. But that is more on the offense as Kelly has a 2.08 ERA in August and has averaged six innings per appearance in the month.
One of those starts came against the Dodgers at home on Aug. 9 when he went six scoreless innings only to see the team drop a 2-0 decision.
In his most recent outing Thursday, Kelly allowed one hit and struck out a season-high 12 batters over seven scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately for him, Kelly left with a no-decision.
Of concern, though, is that Kelly left the outing with cramping in his right leg after throwing 86 pitches.
“I feel fine; it was a cramp just like it was a couple games ago,” Kelly said. “Got to get back to the drawing board on some electrolytes stuff, mess around with some different strategies and just try to figure it out. As of now, all good. I don’t anticipate any problems moving forward.”
In the series opener Monday, starter Zac Gallen had a lead on the Dodgers entering the sixth inning before giving up back-to-back home runs to Jason Heyward and rookie James Outman. Los Angeles went on to a 7-4 victory.
“It’s the lineup length that we envisioned,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said about getting a bevy of contributors Monday. “Hopefully it’s something that can carry over into (Tuesday).”
Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy also hit home runs as the Dodgers won despite the red-hot Mookie Betts going 0-for-4 to put an end to his 15-game hitting streak.
“We’ve got some really good players that are having career years, but this is what they do,” Heyward said about the Dodgers, who are 22-4 in August. “Surrounding that, just keep each other in line, have fun competing through the ups and downs, lean on each other … and we trust that.”
The Dodgers will counter Tuesday with veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw (11-4, 2.52), who continues to dazzle in his 16th season, even after spending time on the injured list with shoulder soreness.
Kershaw is at 107 1/3 innings in 2023 and has not been above 126 1/3 frames in any of the previous three regular seasons. But he is fresh after throwing just two innings against the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday, with the remainder of the game moved to Thursday because of rain.
After being sidelined for six weeks, Kershaw has not thrown more than 71 pitches in the three outings since he returned. He also hasn’t given up more than one run in any of those three starts.
Kershaw is 21-12 with a 2.75 ERA in 43 career appearances (all starts) against Arizona.
—Field Level Media
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