Kelly's 12-K gem ends abruptly due to cramping

September 5th, 2023

PHOENIX -- As he walked off the field, his work done for the day, D-backs right-hander screamed into his glove, which he then promptly threw when he got back to the dugout.

It was what you usually see from a pitcher who has had a rough start.

For Kelly, though, it wasn’t the results that caused an issue, as he matched a career high with 12 strikeouts Monday afternoon in the D-backs’ 4-2 win over the Rockies at Chase Field.

The win snapped Arizona’s two-game losing streak and helped it gain ground in the National League Wild Card chase. The D-backs entered the day in a four-way tie with the Giants, Reds and Marlins for the final Wild Card spot.

• Games remaining: vs. COL (2), at CHC (4), at NYM (4), vs. CHC (3), vs. SF (2), at NYY (3), at CWS (3), vs. HOU (3)

• Standings update: The D-backs (71-67) are tied with the Reds (72-68) for the final NL Wild Card spot, one-half game ahead of the Marlins (70-67) and a full game in front of the Giants (70-68). Cincinnati and Miami hold the tiebreaker advantage over Arizona as does San Francisco, but the D-backs can change that if they win the final two games against the Giants on Sept. 19-20.

What had Kelly so frustrated was that for the third time in his past three starts at home, he was forced to exit the game due to cramping in his right hamstring, something that did not happen in his previous start against Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Chase Field has a retractable roof that remains closed during the hot summer months and the official game-time temperature inside the ballpark was announced at 78 degrees, though it may have been warmer on the field.

“It’s still super hot,” Kelly said. “I had to change my jersey after the fourth inning. I don't know if it's just the stadium being old, because the temperatures [outside] definitely dropped in the last couple of weeks. It's not as hot as it was. I mean, I know it's still hot out there and I know it's still a big metal box that we're in, but I'm definitely sweating more here than I am in other places. Obviously if you look at the games that I've cramped in, it's only been here.”

Kelly has worked with team medical personnel on different ways he can increase his hydration before his starts, and he was optimistic entering Monday that he had gotten it worked out.

Kelly, who was coming off his worst start of the year as the Dodgers tagged him for seven runs on 12 hits over five innings, was in complete control from the beginning, holding the Rockies hitless through 4 1/3 innings. Colorado’s lone run against Kelly came in the fifth on Hunter Goodman’s RBI single.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo talked to Kelly after the seventh, and at that time, the pitcher was not having any cramping issues.

As soon as he threw his first pitch in the eighth, though, Kelly felt the right hamstring “grab” and he was forced to leave the game.

“Probably the most frustrated in a seven-inning, 12-punchout game you're probably ever going to see me,” Kelly said of his demeanor walking off the mound and later in the clubhouse. “I mean, I think it's pretty self explanatory. At this point, I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall, but we got the win today. That's what matters. Now just back to the drawing board with the training staff and the doctors, and I'll see if we can get this thing figured out.”