Kelly, Marte, Smith Power Diamondbacks to Victory over Cardinals

Pavin Smith of the Diamondbacks rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam against the Cardinals.
(Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images)

Diamondbacks 6, Cardinals 3

ST. LOUIS, Apr. 17 — Merrill Kelly allowed one run on five hits, walking none and striking out three across six innings as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 6–3, Monday night at Busch Stadium. Ketel Marte went 2-for-4 with a home run and Pavin Smith went 1-for-3 with a walk and his first career grand slam to power the Diamondbacks’ offense in the victory.

Diamondbacks Take Early Lead; Kelly, Flaherty Settle into Pitchers’ Duel

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The Diamondbacks got to Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty early. Third baseman Josh Rojas led off the game with a second-pitch double off the wall in left-center. Second baseman Ketel Marte dumped the next pitch into shallow center, plating Rojas for a 1–0 lead. The scoring from that frame ended there, however. After left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. grounded into a 6–4–3 double play, first baseman Christian Walker grounded to third. Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly responded by facing the minimum in the bottom half. He plunked first baseman Brendan Donovan but erased him when designated hitter Alec Burleson grounded into a 3–6–1 double play. The inning ended when catcher Willson Contreras struck out.

The Cardinals threatened in the bottom of fourth, but Kelly got out of it. With one out, Contreras, after fouling a ball off his foot and taking a minute to get looked at, doubled to the right-field corner. Third baseman Nolan Arenado smashed a liner to third, but Rojas gloved it for the second out. The inning ended with a whimper as Gorman grounded to first unassisted.

The Cardinals tied it up in the bottom of the sixth. It began with a one-out Donovan bunt single up the third-base line. As Burleson batted, Donovan advanced to second on a balk. Burleson ultimately lined to short for the second out. That brought up Contreras. After Donovan advanced to third on a wild pitch, Contreras roped the tenth pitch off the center-field wall for a double, scoring Donovan and tying the game at one. That brought up Arenado, whom Kelly fanned for the inning-ending out.

Seventh Inning Seals Fate

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Marte made sure the game didn’t stay tied for long. On the third pitch of the seventh, he belted a hanging 2–0 slider into the left-center-field seats, a 409-foot blast. Three pitches later, Gurriel smoked a fastball off the wall in left. After Walker walked, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol brought in Andre Pallante. He walked right fielder Corbin Carroll, loading the bases for Smith, the designated hitter.

A grinning Smith confessed after the game that while on deck, he hoped Carroll would walk. “I wanted that runner on third with less than two outs. I’ve done a much better job with that this year, not trying to overthink things and treating it like a normal at-bat.” He added that he felt like he had a good chance if he only were to hit it hard. On 2–2, Pallante snapped a curveball, Smith fouling it off down the first-base line. He threw another one with the next pitch, and Smith crushed it. It sailed 414 feet, settling in the seats in right-center for a grand slam.

“I honestly thought he was gonna go back to the heater. For some reason I recognized the curveball, sat back, and put a good swing on it,” Smith said.

The big fly gave the Diamondbacks a commanding 6–1 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals narrowed the gap to 6–3 with a two-run Burleson homer to right off Jose Ruiz, who has allowed runs in both of his appearances with Arizona. A 1–2–3 ninth by Andrew Chafin gave the big left-hander his third save and sealed the victory for the Diamondbacks.

Postgame Reflections

When Smith reached two strikes in the seventh, manager Torey Lovullo felt he was going to fight through it. “Pavin can hit,” Lovullo said. “He’s got a nice two-strike approach, got a good plan. The more pitches that he saw, he was going to be able to get some extension on something and score us a run. That’s what I was looking for. Obviously, hitting the grand slam was the bonus, but I thought the curveball that he fouled off down the first-base line was an indication he was locking on to it. Then he made a great swing, and it broke open the game.”

Kelly felt liked the way his fastball and cutter worked in the game. He said his changeup was “okay” and his curveball is “still a work in progress.” He added, “I still would like to be able to execute it in different parts of the zone in different times of the game, which I’m still struggling with and is kind of frustrating. But otherwise, I think we had a pretty good flow out there. Gabby did a really good job calling pitches as well.”

Quick Hits

This was the Diamondbacks’ first victory over the Cardinals since April 30, 2022, snapping a four-game losing streak. Merrill Kelly was also the winning pitcher in that game, a 2–0 victory at Busch Stadium. … Contreras gunned down Alek Thomas trying to steal in the sixth, his major league-leading fifth time throwing out a would-be base stealer. … The Cardinals are now 0–6 on the season in series openers, with four coming at home. … Josh Rojas has now hit safely in nine of fourteen career games against the Cardinals, including all four at Busch Stadium. … The Diamondbacks left no runners on base Monday night for the sixth time in franchise history. It was the first time where they did so while scoring four runs or more. … Smith’s last grand slam came while he was in college at the University of Virginia.

Looking Ahead

Kelly (1–2), with his second straight quality start, earned the win for the Diamondbacks, while Flaherty (1–2) took the loss for the Cardinals. The Diamondbacks (10–7, first in NL West) and Cardinals (7–10, fifth in NL Central) face each other against Tuesday evening. Cardinals left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2–1, 2.45 ERA) will take on Diamondbacks right-hander Drey Jameson (2–0, 1.46 ERA). First pitch will be at 6:45 pm Central Time/4:45 pm Arizona Time.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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