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Merrill Kelly to the Diamondbacks’ Rescue, More Takeaways from World Series Game 2

Merrill Kelly to the Diamondbacks’ Rescue, More Takeaways from World Series Game 2

Merrill Kelly to the Diamondbacks’ Rescue, More Takeaways from World Series Game 2

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 28:   Merrill Kelly #29 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during Game 2 of the 2023 World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on Saturday, October 28, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    After taking a punch to the absolute center of their gut from the Texas Rangers in Game 1, the Arizona Diamondbacks are officially in the win column in the 2023 World Series.

    It was indeed pretty much all Snakes in Game 2 at Globe Life Field on Saturday. Corbin Carroll, Tommy Pham, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Alek Thomas all enjoyed multi-hit games as part of a 16-hit attack, helping propel Arizona to a 9-1 victory that has the series tied at 1-1.

    The real star of the show, though, was Merrill Kelly. The formerly unheralded right-hander made his best addition yet to what had already been a heck of a postseason run, logging seven one-run innings to silence the Rangers’ high-powered offense.

    For more on Kelly and other takeaways from Game 2, read on.

Snakes Alive? More Like Answerbacks Alive.

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    Alek Thomas

    Alek ThomasAP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez

    They don’t call them the “AnswerBacks” for nothing, folks.

    The Diamondbacks’ 6-5 loss in Game 1 was every kind of bad outcome for them, up to and most obviously including the result. They had an 81 percent chance of winning after Paul Sewald recorded the first out of the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead, but Corey Seager’s two-run homer and Adolis García’s walk-off shot in the 11th took care of that.

    B/R Walk-Off @BRWalkoff

    Snakes alive? Snakes alive. 🐍

    (via @DeeshaThosar)

    Yet the process, also, was ugly for the Snakes in Game 1. Their hitters struck out 14 times and their pitches issued 10 walks. Neither is what you want to have happen in the World Series.

    Despite all this, at no point in Game 2 did the Diamondbacks ever look anything less than totally confident.

    Kelly had already gone nine up, nine down through three by the time he was staked to a 2-0 lead in the fourth, and the Rangers never really threatened to make that lead go bye-bye. And in the end, D-backs hitters struck out just twice while their pitchers issued only one walk.

    It was, in effect, a dominant win for the Diamondbacks. And with it, they reclaimed home-field advantage and ensured that there will be at least three games on their turf at Chase Field.

Merrill Kelly Gave the Diamondbacks Exactly What They Needed

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    Merrill Kelly

    Merrill KellyCarmen Mandato/Getty Images

    It’s impossible to overstate just how badly Arizona needed Kelly to shove in Game 2.

    As days go, Friday was a short one for Zac Gallen, who only lasted five innings, and a long one for the bullpen, which handled 5.1 innings. The pen needed a rest in Game 2, and the longer, the better.

    Enter Kelly. He became the first pitcher to log at least seven one-run innings in a World Series game since Gerrit Cole in 2019, and he made it look easy. He tossed first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 24 batters he faced en route to whiffing nine, walking none and allowing only three hits on 89 pitches.

    MLB @MLB

    Merrill Kelly was carving ’em up. #WorldSeries

    What’s more, Jordan Montgomery did his best to ramp up the pressure on Kelly through the first two-thirds of Game 2. Though the wheels ultimately fell off for him and the Rangers in the seventh, prior to that the lefty had allowed just two runs over six innings.

    That Kelly never blinked shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point. Though the 35-year-old was in Gallen’s shadow at the start of the playoffs, he’s been undoubtedly the more ace-like of the two in pitching to a 2.25 ERA in his four starts.

Ketel Marte Just Keeps Racking Up Playoff Hits

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    Ketel Marte

    Ketel MarteMary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    At least when compared to Arizona’s multi-hit heroes from Game 2, Ketel Marte wasn’t much of a standout on the offensive side. He only had one hit.

    But that’s all he needed to make history, as his 18-game hitting streak in the playoffs is now officially the longest of all time:

    MLB @MLB

    Ketel Marte’s 18-game postseason hitting streak dates back to 2017 and is now the longest in MLB history! #WorldSeries

    With that, Marte broke free of some pretty good company he had been keeping while his playoff hit streak was at 17 games. That had him tied with Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez and Hank Bauer. Or, an inner-circle Hall of Famer, one of the most feared hitters of the 1990s and 2000s and a seven-time World Series champion.

    Otherwise, Marte’s 21 hits just in these playoffs are the most of any player. More than a few of those have been huge, particularly during his MVP-winning performance in the National League Championship Series.

    Even though the 30 year-old Marte was an All-Star and an MVP vote-getter in 2019, what he’s doing now feels like an ongoing coming-out party for one of the more overlooked stars in Major League Baseball.

It’s a Good Time to Buy Stock in Gabriel Moreno

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    Gabriel Moreno

    Gabriel MorenoAP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez

    Elsewhere on the topic of coming-out parties, how about the month Gabriel Moreno is having?

    Though eight more runs would eventually follow, it was Moreno’s solo homer off Montgomery in the top of the fourth that got the scoring started for the Diamondbacks:

    MLB @MLB

    Snakes bite first on Gabriel Moreno’s 4th #postseason HR.

    That Moreno could handle the bat wasn’t in doubt before all this. He hit .311 in the minors and his .284 average this season put him just shy of Corbin Carroll’s .285 mark for the team lead.

    What Moreno is doing now, though, is teasing that he may yet have more power coming in future seasons. This was his fourth home run in 14 playoff games, whereas he hit just seven across 111 contests in the regular season.

    If more power does come, Moreno could find himself with a strong position among the best catchers in baseball. Because in addition to a knack for batting average, he’s already one of the most gifted blockers and throwers around on defense.

Mitch Garver Continues to Be an Unsung Hero for the Rangers

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    Mitch Garver

    Mitch GarverJamie Squire/Getty Images

    There’s frankly not a whole lot about Game 2 that the Rangers can be proud of. They came in with all the momentum and got their butts whooped, plain and simple.

    Still, it’s worth pausing for a moment of appreciation for Mitch Garver, who provided Texas’ one and only run with a solo shot off Kelly in the bottom of the fifth inning:

    MLB @MLB

    Mitch Garver’s 3rd postseason HR gets the @Rangers on the board. #WorldSeries

    That was Garver’s third home run of the playoffs, but a tad more important is that it was also his 13th run batted in. The only Rangers player with more is García, whose 22 runs batted in are literally an all-time playoff record.

    This is just Mitch Garver doing Mitch Garver things. Or at least, the things he’s been doing since he became a regular in Texas’ lineup back on June 3. From then through the end of the regular season, his 137 wRC+ was second on the team to Corey Seager.

    It may nonetheless be fair to say that Garver has done his part and that it’s now time for some of the more well-known hitters on the Rangers to get their bats in working order. Looking at you, Marcus Semien (.491 OPS) and Nathaniel Lowe (.625 OPS).

Adolis García Can Be Silenced, After All

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    Adolis García

    Adolis GarcíaJamie Squire/Getty Images

    So it is, in fact, possible to not get completely burned by Adolis García’s bat.

    This will come as a shock to anyone who may have napped through Game 2, for this person will know García only as the hottest hitter on the planet. We mentioned the 22 runs batted in, and he had also come into Saturday on a historic five-game home run streak.

    But at the end of Game 2, there García was with no hits, a strikeout and a walk to show for four trips to the plate.

    You have to hand it to the Diamondbacks for pitching García well. He never really saw anything good to drive, with Kelly and Luis Frías largely staying out of the middle of the plate with a steady diet of pitches in the bottom third of the zone. Of course, 0-fers happening is also just a law of averages thing.

    If there’s any bright side for the Rangers, it’s that García’s only playoff 0-fer before Saturday was immediately followed by a seven-game stretch in which he went 13-for-28 with six homers and 17 driven in. Another one of those would be most welcome for Texas as this series prepares to shift to Phoenix.

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