PHOENIX - Merrill Kelly can’t explain his success against the San Francisco Giants this season.
"I guess you’d probably have to ask them on what they see," Kelly said after the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Giants 5-2 on Sept. 24, snapping San Francisco’s five-game winning streak.
"Maybe I just execute better that game, but they’re good hitters. But that’s when it becomes fun, when we know each other. Who’s going to execute better? I enjoy it. It makes it more fun."
Kelly (13-7) went seven innings and permitted just four hits and two runs to drop his season ERA to 3.13. He struck out six and walked one.
He is 3-0 against the Giants this season with a 1.53 ERA in five starts. It’s possible he could pitch against them again next weekend when the teams meet in San Francisco.
Kelly matched his career high in victories from his rookie season of 2019, and he already owns career bests in strikeouts (168) and innings (189 2/3).
Next stop is 200 innings, a goal of Kelly’s since he was a 30-year-old rookie in 2019. Manager Torey Lovullo indicated Kelly will get two more starts before the season ends Oct. 5.
"I feel like the way bullpens are, the way pitch counts and starting pitchers are handled, not as many guys get to it," Kelly said. "It’s a pretty big milestone."
Lovullo has been impressed with Kelly’s growth even as the pitcher got a late start in the big leagues. He was in Tampa Bay’s system beginning in 2010 and later pitched four seasons in Korea.
"He came in as a 30-year-old rookie, was wide-eyed," Lovullo said. "He was just trying to find his way. Each year he’s felt more comfortable with the execution of pitches. It’s just the consistency, the durability that he’s given us every fifth day."
Reyes Moronta pitched the ninth for his second save. He struck out two.
The Giants broke their scoring drought against Kelly in the fourth on Brian Vosler’s two-out RBI single, but the Diamondbacks answered with five in their half of the inning.
Pavin Smith led off with Arizona’s first hit against Alex Cobb (6-7). Daulton Varsho and Christian Walker followed with singles to tie it.
An out later, Josh Rojas walked to load the bases. Alek Thomas hit a bouncer to first, but Wilmer Flores failed to step on the bag for an out and his throw home was too late to get the sliding Varsho to give the Diamondbacks the lead.
Carson Kelly then hit a sacrifice fly to center and when Austin Slater’s throw home was high and up the line, the trailing runners moved up — as Cobb yelled at catcher Joey Bart to throw to second because Thomas hesitated before advancing. Geraldo Perdomo hit Cobb’s next pitch for a two-run single that made it 5-1.
Cobb lasted five innings, allowing five hits and five earned runs. He walked two and struck out three.
Mike Yastrzemski hit his 15th home run leading off the sixth for the Giants.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Giants used a 5-6-3 play to retire Carson Kelly leading off the third. Kelly hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Jason Vosler, but the ball came up and hit him on his wrist above his glove hand. The ball caromed high in the air to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who caught it with his bare hand and fired to first in one motion to retire Kelly by a half-step.
SEE YOU NEXT SEASON
Giants OF Luis Gonzalez (low back strain) was placed on the injured list Saturday and likely will not play again this season. He came out of Friday’s game with a recurrence of a problem that landed him on the injured list earlier this summer.
"Last night we just came to the conclusion that it’s best to protect him for the long haul," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said before Saturday’s game.
Gonzalez batted .254 with four homers and 10 stolen bases in 98 games this season.
ANOTHER NEW GUY
Gonzalez was replaced on the roster by Ford Proctor, who made his major league debut for the Giants. He started at second base Saturday and is the 65th player used by San Francisco this season, setting a franchise record. Fittingly, he was assigned No. 65.
Proctor, 25, has mostly played middle infield in the minors but has also caught 58 games. He was acquired last month from Tampa Bay. He grounded out three times against Kelly in his first game.
Giants LHP Thomas Szapucki pitched two innings and warmed up before the eighth but was removed due to right hip tightness while warming up. Jharel Cotton relieved and pitched a scoreless eighth.
LHP Scott Alexander will open for the Giants Sunday, followed by RHP Jakob Junis. RHP Drey Jameson makes his third major league start for the Diamondbacks, who play their final home game of the season on Sunday. Jameson threw seven shutout innings against San Diego in his major-league debut on Sept. 15 and got the win against the Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader in Los Angeles on Tuesday.