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Saturday, May 27, 2023

    MLB News: Pirates, D-backs brace for finale of back-and-forth series

    The Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Arizona Diamondbacks will both be looking to pick up a series victory when they play the rubber match of their three-game set on Sunday afternoon.

    Pittsburgh got to Arizona’s ace, Zac Gallen, on Friday in a commanding 13-3 win.

    “I felt OK,” Gallen said. “I wasn’t super sharp.”

    The Diamondbacks countered with a 4-3 win on Saturday, when it was Arizona’s turn to face the opposition’s ace, Mitch Keller, the reigning National League Player of the Week. Keller had not allowed a run in his previous two starts, totaling 16 innings.

    Keller seemed to be responding to the challenge but was pulled after six innings after giving up two runs on three hits and striking out eight on 84 pitches. His replacement, Robert Stephenson, gave up the deciding hit in the seventh, a two-run homer by Pavin Smith.

    “In the sixth inning there, he kind of lost his delivery a little bit,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of his decision to pull Keller. “We saw the pitches start to not have the same action.”

    The loss came after Pittsburgh had won three of four as it tries to regain its footing following a stretch in which it lost 11 of 12 games.

    Arizona has won six of its last eight.

    Both teams could have somewhat depleted bullpens Sunday. The Pirates used four relievers, including closer David Bednar, on Saturday. Arizona also used four relievers, including Kyle Nelson, who got the win.

    In the series finale, Arizona right-hander Merrill Kelly (4-3, 2.92 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Roansy Contreras (3-4, 4.40).

    Kelly is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in his past four starts.

    In last Monday’s outing against Oakland, Kelly did something he had never done before — got ejected.

    Kelly got tossed shortly after being lifted in the eighth inning following an ejection of Arizona manager Torey Lovullo. Both were arguing about a check swing that was called a strike.

    “It was my first ejection ever,” Kelly said. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten thrown out of a game in my whole life. But I just felt like that was a terrible call. I thought it was a very, very obvious swing. I’ve seen the video of it and, in my mind, it was a very obvious swing.”

    The heat of that moment most likely isn’t what will linger. Instead, it will be Kelly’s performance. In seven-plus innings, he gave up two runs (one earned) and four hits, with nine strikeouts and one walk.

    “(Monday) was probably the most in control of my delivery, rhythm, everything that I’ve felt all year,” Kelly said.

    Kelly is 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates.

    Contreras has lost three straight starts, giving up at least one homer in each.

    Most recently, Contreras gave up two runs, both on homers, in seven innings and got no offensive support in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 loss to Baltimore on May 13.

    “I think (May 13) was probably the best stuff Ro’s had all year long,” Shelton said of Contreras’ tough-luck loss. “He gives up two solo homers … but other than that, I thought he was outstanding. He was pretty much in control other than that. Not a lot of contact, he got fly balls and he did a really nice job.”

    Contreras has faced Arizona once in his career and did not earn a decision after giving up one unearned run in 5 2/3 innings on June 4, 2022.

    –Field Level Media


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