Merrill Kelly will look to continue his recent torrid stretch on Sunday as the Arizona Diamondbacks aim to avert a three-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox in Phoenix.
Kelly (5-3, 2.98 ERA) has a 4-0 record with a 2.61 ERA in his past five starts. He did not allow a hit through 4 1/3 innings last Sunday before permitting three runs (two earned) in five frames of Arizona's 8-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. And he has a lot of enthusiasm about his Diamondbacks team.
"I definitely hold us to a pretty high standard," Kelly said. "I think we've seen enough this year that we know that we're a good team. Obviously we've turned the page on where we've been the last couple years, especially going back to 2021. This team looks completely different than those teams did before. And in my mind, we still haven't even really hit our stride yet."
Kelly, 34, lost his lone career start vs. Boston despite yielding just one earned run in eight innings of a 1-0 setback on April 7, 2019. It was his second start in the majors.
While Kelly has been heating up, Ketel Marte has been downright hot of late.
Marte hit a solo homer in the first inning on Saturday to extend his career-best on-base streak to 26 games; however, the Diamondbacks dropped their third consecutive game in a 2-1 decision.
Marte has gone deep five times during his on-base streak, but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. went 0-for-3 Saturday to see his career-high 17-game hitting streak end.
The Red Sox have struggled to put hits together -- save for the 14 they produced in a 7-2 victory in the series opener on Friday. They followed that by making the most of their six hits on Saturday to win their second consecutive contest following a four-game skid.
Reese McGuire's safety squeeze drove in what would be the game-winning run in the fourth inning.
Boston will turn to right-hander Tanner Houck (3-3, 4.99 ERA) on Sunday. Houck, 26, won three of his first four starts this season but has lost three of his past five. He settled for a no-decision on Monday despite allowing one run on three hits with eight strikeouts in six innings against the Los Angeles Angels.
"Tanner is throwing the ball well," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday after moving Opening Day starter Corey Kluber to the bullpen. "After talking to (Corey), he knows right now those guys deserve to start. We're going to keep working with him, get him better and help him."
Houck said he has been relying a bit more on his splitter, particularly against left-handed batters.
"I've worked on that pitch for three or four years now," Houck said. "Really pushing the envelope. I'm glad I mixed it in a little bit earlier tonight. I felt pretty confident with it. It's one of those pitches where I have continued to work and continued to push myself on that. So any time you have success, it's a good feeling."
Houck has yet to face Arizona in his career.
Boston likely will see the return of Rafael Devers in the series finale. He sat out the first two games of the series due to an ailing calf.
--Field Level Media