PHOENIX -- Carson Kelly knew that his hitless streak wasn’t going to go on forever. He also realized that his 0-for-17 stretch at the plate was not the result of him not hitting the ball hard.
“I just had a case of the at’ems,” Kelly said. “At’em balls.”
That’s baseball speak for hard-hit balls that are right at a defender.
Kelly finally broke through in a big way Monday night, breaking up a no-hitter with a single in the sixth and igniting a three-run rally in the eighth with a solo homer as the D-backs beat the Rockies, 5-3, at Chase Field. The homer was the 18th of the year for Kelly, who tied the Arizona record for homers by a catcher set by Miguel Montero in 2011.
With the win, the D-backs climbed back to the .500 mark at 63-63 and they gained a half-game in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot, four games behind the Cubs.
It also had their manager, Torey Lovullo, feeling better about his team’s chances of making a run.
“It was a good team win,” Lovullo said. “There were so many things that happened inside of the game today that keeps me thinking this team is ready to do something special, on the verge of making a run. So, we’ve got to button it up and take care of what we did today, enjoy it and make sure we come out tomorrow to continue to execute on that really good level and expect good things to happen.”
It didn’t look good for the D-backs early on as they were no-hit through the first five innings by Chi Chi Gonzalez, while their starter, Zac Gallen, allowed five hits and walked six in six innings.
The Rockies took a 1-0 lead on Gallen in the fourth when he walked three, including Tony Wolters with the bases loaded, to force in a run.
“I felt good the first three innings,” Gallen said. “Then in that fourth inning, I just felt off. I tried to make adjustments. I couldn’t make them as quick as I wanted to.”
Still, the D-backs were able to get a 2-1 lead after Kelly snapped his hitting slump with a single to start the sixth and Ketel Marte drove him home with his 26th homer of the year.
The Rockies tied the game in the eighth on an RBI single by Wolters. Wade Davis, though, gave up the homer to Kelly to open the eighth.
The D-backs had made defense behind the plate a priority since general manager Mike Hazen took over prior to the 2017 season, sacrificing offense at times in the process. In Kelly, who came over in the trade that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis during the offseason, the team may have finally found a player with both.
“But when you get an offensive catcher as capable as Carson, it adds a whole new dimension and some thickness to your lineup,” Lovullo said.
Kelly did not get much of an opportunity to play in his limited stints with the Cardinals because their longtime starting catcher, Yadier Molina, seldom takes days off. But now that he is getting the bulk of the catching duties, Kelly's confidence is growing.
“Maybe a little bit,” Kelly said. “Early on, as a young player not having a ton of success and then finally seeing the work you put in over the years pay off at the highest level, it just makes me motivated to continue to get better. This game will humble you really quickly. As you can see over the past couple days, you can hit balls hard and have nothing to show for it. You’ve got to continue to develop and continue to grow. That’s what this game is all about.”