Kelly started Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the “2023 Major League” Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, on the 8th (Korea Standard Time), and won a great 11-2 victory with three hits, two walks, and five strikeouts in six ⅓ innings. It was Kelly’s first win of the postseason and his first win in 17 games against the Dodgers.
Kelly threw mainly fastballs (31) and cutters (30), mixing changeups (15), curves (6), sinkers (5) and sliders (2). The highest fastball speed was 95.5 miles (153.7 kilometers), the highest cutter speed was 94.4 miles (152 kilometers), and the fastest sinker speed was 96.3 miles (155 kilometers).
Arizona was the sixth seed in the National League and was the last underdog in the fall baseball league. However, he caused an upset of winning two games in the wild card game against the third seed Milwaukee Brewers, and continued his momentum even in the first game of the division series against the second seed, the Dodgers. The game proved why Arizona was the main player in this fall’s sensation.
Kelly is a very familiar pitcher to Korean baseball fans. Kelly was a longevity foreign ace who played for the SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers) for as many as four seasons from 2015 to 2018. In 119 games in the KBO League, he recorded 48 wins and 32 losses, 729 ⅔ innings, 641 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.86. Kelly returned to the U.S. Major League Baseball by signing with Arizona ahead of the 2019 season, and as he became the second starter, he paved the way for foreign players from the KBO League to return to the big leagues.
Kelly, who made his major league debut at age 30 in 2019, was full of waiting. In his first year, he started 32 games and secured a spot in the starting rotation with 13 wins and 14 losses, 184 ⅓ innings and a 4.42 ERA. 2020 played a 62-game shortened season in the aftermath of COVID-19, and 2021 was sluggish and did not achieve 10 wins, but it has clearly established itself as the second starter with 13 wins in 2022 and 12 wins this year. His total performance in 127 big league games is 48-43, 750 ⅔ innings, 681 strikeouts, and 3.80 ERA.
Kelly took the mound for the first time in the big league postseason. It is true that worries preceded expectations. Because the opponent was the Dodgers. Kelly started 16 games in the regular season against the Dodgers, the same National League West, with no wins and 11 losses, 83 ⅔ innings and a 5.49 ERA. The Dodgers are the only team in the National League West where Kelly failed to win. The Colorado Rockies (5-3), San Diego Padres (9-3), and San Francisco Giants (7-5) all have wins.
Kelly benefited from strong scoring support. From the beginning of the first inning, the batting line tapped Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw and scored as many as six points. With leadoff hitter Ketel Marte on base with a double, Corbin Carroll hit a timely hit to take a 1-0 lead. In the first and second bases chance with no outs made by Tommy Pham’s hit, Christian Walker hit a timely double to the left to make it 2-0.
The Arizona bat finally pulled Kershaw down from the first inning. Gabriel Moreno hit a three-point left-hander to widen the distance to 5-0, in a continuous second and third base opportunity with no outs. It was certainly uncommon for Kershaw to give up five runs on five consecutive hits at the start. After one out, Alec Thomas walked, and Evan Longoria hit a timely double over the middle to widen the distance to 6-0. The Dodgers’ mound was replaced by Emmett Sheehan. Kershaw left the mound after receiving a shocking report card of six hits (one homer) and one walk and six runs in ⅓ innings.
Arizona’s batting lineup’s scoring support did not end here. In the top of the second inning, Carroll extended the distance to 7-0 with a superior home run, proving that the bat was not on fire only due to Kershaw. In a series of chances with one out and runners on first and second bases, Ruides Gurriel Jr. hit a timely double to run away 8-0, and with one out and the bases loaded, Longoria hit a sacrifice fly to right field to run away 9-0.
In the top of the seventh inning, Alec Thomas hit a solo shot on the right middle wall to widen the distance to 10-0, completely breaking the Dodgers’ willingness to chase.
Unlike when he gave up 11 losses, Kelly completely tied up the Dodgers’ lineup. The bottom of the third inning was the only crisis. He sent leadoff hitter Miguel Rojas to an infield hit in front of second base and walked Freddie Freeman with one out and one base, putting him on the verge of first and second bases for the first time. Kelly completely cut the Dodgers off the flow when he hit Will Smith with a fly ball to right field and Max Muncy with a grounder to first base.
Kelly also took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning. He walked JD Martinez, the leadoff hitter, but he was in a good state of breaking the flow by striking out Jason Heyward swinging. With only 89 pitches in the difference of 10 points, he could have dragged more.
However, the Arizona bench chose to operate the bullpen. Rather, he chose not to overdo Kelly by 10 points and to adjust his condition to prepare for his next appearance. Kelly looked a little fat and smiled when manager Toray Lovullo came up to the mound to replace the pitcher. He meant he wanted to throw more, but Lovullo healed Kelly and sent him to the dugout.
Arizona made Dodger Stadium even more chilly when it scored an extra point in the top of the eighth inning. One out later, Tommy Pham fired a superior solo shot to seal the 11-0 victory.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Dodgers chased 11-2 thanks to Will Smith’s superior two-run timely triple with no outs and runners on first and second bases, but it was no longer difficult to catch up.
The Dodgers’ pride must have been quite hurt by the defeat. Dodgers fans expressed disappointment enough to boo when Kershaw was on the sign in the first inning, and when the game was up to 10 points, the Dodger Stadium was almost empty. The Dodgers won the district title with 100 wins (62 losses) in the regular season, and it would have been all the more regrettable to be held back by Arizona, which came in last place in the wild card.
Kershaw collapsed earlyHowever, the batting line was not strong at all either. While Arizona hit 13 hits in the rhythm, it lowered its head as it produced only 4 hits in the rhythm. It was painful that all the main hitters who had to ignite the lineup, such as Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Max Muncy, remained silent without a hit. Smith, the third batter, struggled with two hits and two RBIs in four at-bats. With Arizona’s gust of wind unusual, it seems difficult for the Dodgers to fight back if they lose even the second game.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia won 3-0 in Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
Atlanta, the No. 1 seed in the National League with 104 wins (58 losses) this year, has been hampered by Philadelphia. Philadelphia starter Ranger Suarez lasted nine scoreless innings as he poured in six bullpen pitchers while going down in charge of three ⅔ innings. In the lineup, Bryce Harper played two hits, two walks, one RBI, and two runs in two at-bats, including a home run.
Atlanta’s first starter Spencer Strider, who played as a 20-win pitcher in the regular season, pitched well in seven innings with five hits (one homer) and two walks, eight strikeouts and two runs (one earned run), but cried at the empty ball of the batters.