Chad Kuhl pitched his tail off, but the Rockies and Diamondbacks stayed deadlocked until the late innings, when a late Arizona rally sealed the victory for the snakes on Friday.
Rockies attack early
Merrill Kelly has had a tremendous start to the 2022 season, and that showed in Friday’s contest. It started off rough, though, as Connor Joe sent the second pitch of the game back into center field for a leadoff single. After moving to second on a Charlie Blackmon bunt and then to third on a deep flyout to center field by Randal Grichuk, Joe would come home to score the game’s first run via a C.J. Cron double.
Kelly would settle in after this inning (we’ll get to that), but it was certainly a positive start to the night for Colorado.
Chad Kuhl’s the snakes
It’s hard to say what was hotter at first pitch - the temperature in Arizona (96 degrees), or the Diamondbacks, winners of three straight and seven of their last ten games. It was up to Chad Kuhl to chill the Snakes out, and he certainly did. His slider was working from the start, and he finished his night having tossed seven innings of one-run baseball, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five.
The only real trouble he ran into came in the second inning, which saw the D-backs put men on second and third with no outs. Seth Beer sent what appeared to be a foul ball into the right field corner, but Randal Grichuk made a phenomenal sliding grab to record the out. A run did score on the sacrifice fly, but the Rockies needed outs and “Grich” got them one.
Kuhl would then strike out Nick Ahmed and José Herrera to end the Arizona threat.
As mentioned, Merrill Kelly looked untouchable for the majority of the game, at one point retiring 13 straight Rockies batters between the second and seventh innings. With the game still tied at 1 apiece, José Iglesias led off the eighth inning with a double to put the Rockies in a good spot to take a late lead. Unfortunately, Joe grounded out to third (therefore being unable to advance Iglesias), and Charlie Blackmon and Grichuk followed with groundouts of their own to end the frame.
The chance had come and gone, and the Rockies would look back on that inning as a key opportunity to score a key run in the close contest.
The late gut punch
In the bottom of that eighth frame, Carlos Estévez toed the rubber for the Rox, looking to keep it a 1-1 game into the ninth. He had a scare with leadoff hitter Jordan Luplow, who sent a ball just foul down the right field line. At first glance it looked to have been a home run, but it was indeed foul. Estévez then fought back to strike out Luplow (that being Estévez’s first K of the season).
Daulton Varsho would not be denied, however. He cranked a 97-mph fastball into the right-center field stands that gave the Diamondbacks their first lead of the game at 2-1. Things escalated from there, as Pavin Smith singled and moved to second on a wild pitch before scoring on David Peralta’s two-run home run.
After the late-inning blowup, Kelly continued his dominant performance by recording the first two outs of the ninth before being relieved by closer Mark Melancon following singles by Brendan Rodgers and Elías Díaz. This brought Sam Hilliard to the plate as the tying run, and he walked to load the bases for Iglesias. Could a miracle happen?
Unbelievably, Iglesias sent a ball right back up the middle, sure to score a run or two, if not for Melancon’s leg stopping the ball short. He tossed it to first to record the out and seal the victory for Arizona.
The Rockies and Diamondbacks run it back for game two of their three-game series. Kyle Freeland (1-3, 4.85 ERA) starts for Colorado, while Zach Davies (1-1, 4.24 ERA) defends his home turf (literally - he lived in Gilbert, AZ!)
First pitch is at 6:10 MDT. See you then!