PHOENIX -- Before he took the mound against the Brewers on Thursday night, D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly knew the stakes.
“You want to get off to a good start in this series with the implications that this series has,” Kelly said.
With a win in the opening game of this four-game set, the D-backs would have slid into a tie for the National League’s second Wild Card spot. It also would have helped them make their case to the front office that rather than sell at the deadline, the team should instead look to buy.
That all went by the wayside thanks to a three-run rally by the Brewers in the eighth as the D-backs lost 5-1.
With the loss, the D-backs fell to 1 1/2 games behind the Brewers and one game behind the Cardinals and Phillies for the Wild Card spot.
Kelly certainly did just about everything that he could, as he limited the Brewers to just one run on three hits while striking out six over seven innings.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t capitalize on a really well pitched night by Kelly,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “What more could you ask for from him? He gives us seven solid innings, really no damage other than the one run and it seemed like he was in command of every pitch that he threw tonight, and he just got into a really nice rhythm late in the game.”
Kelly, who has been a nice find for the D-backs after being signed as a free agent following four years pitching in Korea, did not shy away from the importance of the game.
The D-backs were coming off a dominating two-game sweep of the Rangers in Texas where they outscored the home team 28-6.
“If anything it’s a positive,” Kelly said of the pressure. “If anything you try to use that. Not necessarily that I need more motivation, but coming off a good two games in Texas and going into this series that has some serious playoff implications, going out there and giving the team seven innings and seven strong innings. ... I guess means a little bit more than it usually does.”
Unfortunately, setup man Yoan Lopez, who came into the game with a 1.50 ERA in 42 games, had an off night allowing the three eighth-inning runs.
Lovullo said that Lopez’s inning might have begun to spiral away from him after a throwing error by Carson Kelly, but Lopez did not want to use that as an excuse.
“I don’t come out and go by bad luck or good luck,” he said. “To me it’s about doing my job. They connected, they made contact and they deserved what they got going. But for me, it’s about doing my job and not good luck or bad luck.”
It wasn’t just the bullpen that cost the D-backs. After pounding the ball in Texas, they struggled to do much against Brewers starter Zach Davies, who gave up one run over seven innings.
Three times the D-backs had innings ended by double plays. Jake Lamb hit into one in the fourth, while Adam Jones did likewise in the sixth and Christian Walker in the eighth.
“Offensively we just got a little sloppy at times,” Lovullo said. “I thought we had a couple of opportunities where we could have made some noise, but we didn’t get some big hits at the right time. I think the double plays were a big part of the equation for us.”
The D-backs will try and put the loss behind them Friday night in the second game of the series with rookie Taylor Clarke making his first start since July 2. The right-hander has been on the injured list ever since with left back inflammation.
“We’ve still got three more, so come back tomorrow and try to turn the page,” Kelly said.