Kelly joins offensive surge, makes key tag

August 16th, 2020

It took them a little while, but 21 games into this 2020 season, the D-backs look like they are starting to put things together.

Their 7-6 win over the Padres on Saturday night at Chase Field was their fourth in their last five games as they climbed to just one game under .500.

There were plenty of positives for the D-backs -- a great relay between center fielder and second baseman that cut down the would-be tying run at the plate for the final out of the game, a nice outing from starting pitcher and another big night from the offense. The D-backs have scored at least five runs in six straight games.

There’s a lot to sift through, but the one thing that might mean the most to the D-backs going forward is that catcher is starting to heat up at the plate.

Kelly collected three hits on the night, made a nice play reaching over the railing to catch a foul pop to end an eighth-inning San Diego threat and made a nice tag while getting his leg in the way of Jorge Mateo’s hand on the final play of the game.

Coming into the season, Kelly was penciled in to get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate, but he got off to a slow start at the plate and manager Torey Lovullo began giving veteran more reps behind the plate.

In five of the previous seven games heading into Saturday night, it was Vogt who got the start. Meanwhile, Kelly has been working hard behind the scenes with hitting coach Darnell Coles.

“He was kind of drifting through his swing, which kind of slowed everything down,” Coles said. “Now he's in a better position to when he loads. He stays behind the ball, and now he can be shorter and quicker to the ball.”

Kelly was slashing .156/.270/.188 before hitting a home run against the Rockies at Coors Field on Tuesday. Saturday was his first start since then, and Kelly looked better and more confident at the plate.

While there were physical things to be worked out in his swing, there was also the mental battle that accompanies that kind of slow start.

What was the key for Kelly to deal with that aspect of it?

“To not panic,” Kelly said. “That's probably the biggest thing. You know when you add that pressure and stuff, you know internally and externally.”

Lovullo said going forward he envisions an even split between Kelly and Vogt behind the plate, but he liked what he saw Saturday.

“Carson Kelly had a really nice day, some really big hits,” Lovullo said. “Just a really good approach all night.”

And, of course, he came up big with the tag of Mateo at the end of the game. The play was challenged by Padres manager Jayce Tingler to see if Mateo’s hand got to home plate before Kelly tagged his shoulder.

“I got him,” Kelly said. “Yeah, it was a really good throw by Ketel. Him coming around [third] there it looked like he was going to stop him and hold him but no, he kept coming, Ketel made a great throw and we got him right on the shoulder there.”