Kelly thrills D-backs -- and grandma -- with dazzling Game 2 start

October 29th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- 's grandma looked on in tears as she watched the D-backs right-hander turn in arguably the best outing of his career in Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday night at Globe Life Field.

To be fair, what grandma wouldn't be emotional watching their grandson pitch the game of his life on the biggest stage possible?

Now, consider the fact she hadn't seen Kelly pitch in person since he was a child.

"She was so thrilled," said Kelly's wife, Bre, who watched the D-backs' 9-1 victory alongside the Kelly family. "I asked her earlier tonight and she said the last game she saw him in was Little League. She had tears in her eyes. Just so happy. It was incredible."

Forget watching him play baseball, Kelly hadn't seen his grandma -- who trekked 300 miles northwest from Beaumont, Texas -- since 2011.

"Unfortunately, I feel like just life gets in the way," said Kelly, who pitched in Korea from 2015-18. "This baseball thing takes up a lot of our time. But, obviously, I would like to see her more."

Kelly made the most of the reunion, treating his grandma -- one of 10 family members in attendance, along with his grandfather, parents and brother, among others -- to not only the most remarkable start of his life, but one of the more dominant outings in the World Series. Kelly struck out nine and walked zero over seven innings of one-run ball to help Arizona even the World Series at 1-1 as it shifts to Phoenix for Game 3 on Monday.

Kelly became just the fifth pitcher in World Series history to complete seven innings of one-run ball with at least nine strikeouts and zero walks. The others: Clayton Kershaw (2017 Game 1), Cliff Lee (2009 Game 1), Roger Clemens (2000 Game 2) and Don Newcombe (1949 Game 1).

That's a long way from a Little League mound.

"It was definitely special," Kelly said. "I haven't seen her probably since 2011, so I'm looking forward to seeing her. But I haven't seen them yet."

The only thing standing in his way?

"If you guys could ask less questions," Kelly said with a smile, "I can get over there and say hi."

While his family remained in awe well after Kelly had dotted his 89th and final pitch -- a sinker on the inner half for strike three -- to end the seventh inning, the surreal moments for him came well before his first World Series start.

"I think the pinch-me moment, honestly, came before the game, just sitting there thinking about what I was about to do and where I am and the stage that I'm on," Kelly said. "The fact that I was preparing to pitch Game 2 of the World Series. I think that was probably more of the 'Oh [wow]' moment."

There were also plenty of those moments during the game itself on a night when Kelly gave up only three hits: a 69.3 mph bloop single to Evan Carter in the fourth, an infield single to Josh Jung in the fifth and a fifth-inning solo homer to Mitch Garver that was the lowest pitch Garver has ever hit out of the park.

"I'd say that's the best," teammate Zac Gallen said when asked where that start ranks for Kelly. "It'd be easy to say it's the best given the circumstances and the stage of it. But yeah, he's been unbelievable all year."

Kelly has taken it to another level in the postseason. He's 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts. In his past two outings -- first, with the D-backs' season on the line in Game 6 of the NLCS, then in Saturday's Game 2 of the World Series -- he has a 1.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 12 innings.

But all four of Kelly's postseason starts have come on the road. So he’s yet to experience that postseason roar from the crowd as he walks off the mound.

Fortunately, he had his own personal cheering section in Arlington.

"I cried a million times tonight," Bre said when asked what the night meant to her. "I'm so proud. I can't believe any of it."

And for her husband?

"It meant everything," she said. "I don't think he'd ever thought he'd be here. So it's literally everything to him."