D-backs seek answers after Dodgers 'pounced on our two best guys'

Kelly unable to slow L.A. a night after Gallen scuffles; AZ drops in NL Wild Card race

August 30th, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- If the D-backs had a reason for optimism following a rare misstep for on Monday, it was that was due up against the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

Kelly struggled as well, getting tagged for a season-high seven earned runs and a career-high 12 hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss at Dodger Stadium. And with the Giants defeating the Reds in a near-no-hitter from Alex Cobb, the D-backs slid out of the third NL Wild Card spot and are now a half-game behind San Francisco. They’re also 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who beat the Brewers on Tuesday.

In their starts, Gallen and Kelly combined for 13 runs on 21 hits and six walks in 10 1/3 innings.

“Yeah, you don’t really budget for that,” manager Torey Lovullo said of his two aces scuffling back to back. “You don't think that's going to happen. Look, give credit where credit is due -- [the Dodgers] came out ready to play in the first inning and pounced on our two best guys.”

Once again, a tough first inning for a D-backs starter proved difficult to recover from. Whereas it was the long ball that stung Gallen, it was everything but for Kelly, who quickly found himself in a first-and-third, one-out jam.

For a moment, it looked like Kelly would escape the first inning unscathed thanks to a double play. But replay review overturned the out call at first after the Dodgers challenged, setting up back-to-back doubles from David Peralta and Jason Heyward, and the D-backs found themselves in an early 3-0 hole for a second consecutive night.

“That’s part of the game,” Kelly said of the missed double play. “I guess that's why they call it a game of inches. [Max] Muncy did a good job of beating that out and then not giving up on it. Nothing I can do about that.”

Kelly had traffic on the bases in every inning except the fourth, when he retired the top of the Dodgers’ lineup in order. Particularly frustrating was the fifth inning, in which Los Angeles scored a run on a walk and three hits -- the hardest struck with an exit velocity of 69.2 mph, according to Statcast.

There was plenty of hard contact against Kelly too, with seven balls put in play with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher. And similar to Gallen, Kelly had a hard time fooling the Dodgers. He recorded just one strikeout, and he induced just five swings and misses in his 87 pitches thrown.

“[The Dodgers] do a good job of controlling the zone,” Kelly said. “They do a good job of not swinging at balls. I kind of make my money on trying to live on the edges and get people to swing at maybe balls that they shouldn't, try to get the weak contact, that type of stuff. And this team does a good job of not doing that. So if I'm not doing a good job of throwing strikes consistently and throwing quality strikes, I'm gonna have some bad days against these guys.”

In 16 career starts against the Dodgers, Kelly is 0-11. He’s had some good outings against them, like on Aug. 9, when he threw six scoreless innings and took a no-decision. But overall, he has a 5.49 career ERA against Los Angeles. Against everyone else, it’s 3.61.

“I believe in him [against the Dodgers],” Lovullo said. “I believe in him being able to spin the ball, throw it wherever he wants and eliminate who he's throwing it against. I know what the numbers are saying and I can't defend it, but I believe enough in him that, when he needs to go out there and make pitches and get outs, that he can do it against anybody.”

The D-backs fell to 5-7 against the Dodgers in 2023, sealing a season-series loss with just Wednesday night's game remaining. This is after Arizona went 5-3 against Los Angeles in the clubs’ first two series this year. And with just one game left in August, a D-backs squad that spent 56 days in first place in the NL West finds itself at 69-64 and in third place.

“We got to make some adjustments all the way around,” Lovullo said. “It's not just [Kelly and Gallen]. It's the hitting, it's just staying engaged at the most critical times and expecting to execute on both sides of the ball. We got to tighten up.”