Kelly Carves Rangers in Diamondbacks’ Game 2 Rout as Snakes Even Series

Merrill Kelly
Arizona Republic

One sleepless night after Game 1 was ripped from them in heartbreaking fashion, the Diamondbacks arose from the canvas in Arlington and swung back at the Rangers en route to a dominant 9–1 victory, evening the World Series at a game apiece as the series heads to Phoenix. Arizona’s effort was led by a masterful performance from Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School and Arizona State alum Merrill Kelly, who struck out nine across seven surgical innings en route to the win. The Diamondbacks maintained a modest lead until the final three frames, when the bottom third of their order, which combined to reach base eight times on the night, piled up six runs.

Kelly is a prodigal son of sorts, a former Rays draft pick who left affiliated ball in the U.S. for four seasons in Korea before returning to MLB and his hometown Diamondbacks in 2019. Ironically, the particulars of the postseason schedule and of Arizona’s run to the Fall Classic have prevented Kelly from making a (literal) home start during this postseason, but he looked right at home in Texas on Saturday evening as he carved up one of the season’s most potent offenses.

After three speedy and efficient innings from both Kelly and Rangers starter Jordan Montgomery, the Diamondbacks broke through in the top of the fourth. Burgeoning star catcher Gabriel Moreno yanked an elevated full-count sinker 413 feet to left-center for his fourth postseason home run. A Josh Jung web gem prevented Christian Walker from reaching base before Arizona strung together two more hits: a Tommy Pham double sliced down the right field line (his first of two extra-base hits in the game), and a flared Lourdes Gurriel Jr. single, driving in Pham.

If that had been all the Diamondbacks could muster, it still would have been enough for Kelly. The bearded righty had complete command of his entire arsenal for seven dominant innings. You name it and he had it in his bag; fastballs and cutters finished on the very edge of the plate, and his breaking balls and changeups garnered swings and misses. He only ran into anything resembling trouble in the bottom of the fifth, when Mitch Garver golfed out a well-located sinker to left field. Walker, one of baseball’s best defensive first baseman, made a nifty adjustment to a Jonah Heim grounder that bounced off of first base and nearly over his head, making a barehanded leaping grab and a shovel pass to a covering Kelly for the out.

That snag proved important, as it prevented the top of Texas’ order from coming to the plate with runners on base in that inning. After Heim’s near double, Nathaniel Lowe came close to a homer; seven of the last nine balls in play Kelly had given up had entered play going at least 94 mph. But after escaping this bit of fifth-inning traffic, he made swift work of the sixth, striking out the side (Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Evan Carter); he finished the inning having thrown just 74 pitches.

Arizona started to pour on insurance runs in the top of the seventh, beginning with Alek Thomas’ leadoff double. Evan Longoria followed with a single past Jung (a ball he probably should have fielded cleanly) to plate Thomas and chase Montgomery. The lefty had only thrown 75 pitches to that point, and a fatigued starter has arguably been better than the middle-inning underbelly of Texas’ bullpen for much of the season, but on Saturday, his stuff was down compared to his norms. His fastball averaged just 91.9 mph in Game 2, a tick and a half slower than his season average, and he didn’t strike out a single Diamondback in six innings of work.

Andrew Heaney entered to face switch-hitters Geraldo Perdomo (who successfully bunted Longoria to second base) and Ketel Marte (who grounded out), but against fellow lefty Corbin Carroll, he gave up a two-out single that drove in Longoria and made it 4–1. Arizona added tallies in the seventh, eighth, and ninth to seal the win.

If there’s good news for Texas, it’s that Bruce Bochy was able to avoid using his high-leverage arms; Heaney, Dane Dunning, Chris Stratton, and Martín Pérez pitched the final three innings. And with a day off for travel, the entire bullpen will be fully rested for Game 3.

Arizona got offensive contributions from virtually the entire lineup. Marte broke the all-time postseason hit streak record (passing Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeter) with his eighth-inning RBI single. Pham had four hits, including two doubles sliced down the right field line. The Snakes were able to manufacture runs using three successful sacrifice bunts and a stolen base that led to a run. Seven Diamondbacks reached base multiple times, including Emmanuel Rivera, who didn’t enter the game until the eighth inning.

Contrast that with the Rangers, who only mustered four hits as a group. The top of Texas’ lineup — the mighty middle infield duo of Semien and Seager, postseason demigod Adolis García, and dynamic rookie Carter — went a combined 2-for-14. Carter struck out twice against backfoot breaking balls, which Arizona has fed him late in counts during the first two games of the series — something the rookie hasn’t seen a ton of this October.

The teams now head to Phoenix for Games 3, 4 and 5. Texas will send future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer to the mound to start on Tuesday; he has struggled since returning from a shoulder injury. Arizona will counter with rookie Brandon Pfaadt, a highly-regarded prospect who turned a corner late in the year and pitched well against a stacked Phillies lineup in the NLCS.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Darren Schmidtmember
4 months ago

Snakes are alive. And we got ourselves a series. I’m not a fan of either team…I’m rooting for a great series. I think it will be cool for the fan base of whoever wins. However, I could not believe how quiet the Texas home crowd was in game 2. It wasn’t a blowout until the end but as a tv viewer it didn’t look or sound like a World Series home crowd throughout the night. Was it just me?

Xerostomia
4 months ago
Reply to  Darren Schmidt

It was 2-1 after 6 and then 4-1 after 7. Game got sideways after that, but as a Dbacks fan I was still afraid that 4-1 was not enough against that Rangers lineup and our tired bullpen.

The fact that they did not have to use Thompson, Ginkel, Sewald, Mantiply was huge.

Ivan_Grushenkomember
4 months ago
Reply to  Xerostomia

They’ll need them all in the Bullpen Game. These next 3 games will test the bullpen resilience

boomstick
4 months ago
Reply to  Darren Schmidt

Re: Crowd noise in Arlington. I was at game 1 and it was the loudest I’ve ever heard that place, including compared to Game 5 ALCS against Houston this year.

When I watch the replays at home I can barely hear it. The sound mix Fox is using completely deadens the place.
Example: When George W. Bush throws out the opening pitch, there was a string of USA! USA! chants from the Arlington crowd. When you watch the replay only a single USA! breaks through the mix.

Maybe none of it matters, the DBacks were impervious to the tenth man in Philly.