Rejuvenated D-backs win 6th straight in front of raucous crowd

June 3rd, 2023

PHOENIX -- There was a different energy in Chase Field on Friday night, one that hasn’t been felt in these parts for a few years. But that’s because this year’s D-backs are different than the versions that have struggled for the better part of three years now.

They entered the game on a roll. They had won five straight and were tied with the Dodgers for the most wins in the National League, with confidence building in the clubhouse for the last month.

It will certainly continue after the D-backs played crisp baseball and got another outstanding performance from starter to beat the Braves, 3-2, in front of a raucous crowd.

“Awesome,” Kelly said of the atmosphere. “That seventh inning, especially. [Braves fans] started doing the chop and our fans didn't like that too much. That was some of the better energy I felt in here, and games like that are why we do this. It's really good energy. It's a really good team. It's good to see, you know, not only their fans into it, but it's good to see our fans into it.”

The last time the D-backs won six straight games was Aug. 12-18, 2020. They then proceeded to lose eight in a row and 13 of 14 games in that shortened season.

That was followed by a 110-loss season in 2021 and a 74-88 mark in 2022.

Those teams struggled to close out games. This edition of the D-backs, though, managed to get a pair of early runs off Charlie Morton, played good defense, ran the bases aggressively and found their way out of a first-and-third, one-out situation in the ninth thanks to closer .

“The last couple years, we would have found a way to lose that game,” Kelly said. “I just think the fact that we've been playing well, obviously, helps. The confidence that we've built over the first couple of months of the season, I think helps going into a game like that. We know we can finish games. We have the confidence to finish games where the previous couple years, like I said, we would have found somehow to lose that game.”

One of the reasons the D-backs hung on to win was because of their defense, something that is near and dear to manager Torey Lovullo’s heart and something they also struggled with in previous seasons.

Catcher set the tone for the defense in the first inning when he threw out Ronald Acuña Jr., who had led off with a single, at second base.

robbed Michael Harris II of a hit to open the third when he made a sliding catch in center.

Later in that inning with Matt Olson on first, Austin Riley hit a ball to left. made a nice play to stop the ball and then made an off-balance throw to quickly get the ball to shortstop Nick Ahmed, who fired a strike to third baseman Emmanuel Rivera.

The fact that Gurriel got rid of the ball made Braves third-base coach Ron Washington change from waving Olson home to throwing up a stop sign and Olson was tagged out by Rivera as he attempted to scamper back to third.

“You don't see that play often,” Lovullo said. “So, to me, it made a statement about our preparedness, and we pride ourselves on that. We do things in an uncommon way and, to me, that's why we won the game today.”

That and the fact that Kelly was once again outstanding, allowing two runs over seven innings.

The right-hander has won his last six decisions, and over his last two starts he has allowed just three runs in 13 1/3 innings.

 “Having Merrill on the mound with his stuff, his mindset, his mentality -- that dog mentality -- it’s easy to feed off,” Walker said. “When your guy is out there, putting himself on the line and coming through in big moments, you have to get him runs.”