Dodgers punish Merrill Kelly in big 4th as Diamondbacks start series with loss

LOS ANGELES — Right-hander Merrill Kelly’s outing was spoiled in the span of five pitches in the fourth inning on Monday night, mistakes that caught too much plate, mistakes the Los Angeles Dodgers punished in a 5-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

Kelly has enjoyed a breakout season in the Diamondbacks’ rotation, his best yet in his four years in the major leagues. It would be better — much better — if he had not had the misfortune of having to face the Dodgers five times.

The numbers are hard to dispute. Kelly has made 30 starts, ranking 10th in the National League with a 3.15 ERA. Five of those starts have come against the Dodgers, who have scored 22 earned runs off him in 24 innings (8.25 ERA). Over his other 25 starts, he has a 2.38 ERA (42 runs in 158 2/3 innings).

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“It’s like having a big brother you keep wrestling and every time he taps you out,” Kelly said. “I know that I can compete with them. … I feel like I throw competitive games against them but I just need to do a better job of the damage control, I think.”

Joey Gallo (solo shot) and Chris Taylor (three-run homer) each went deep off Kelly. Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw threw six innings of one-run ball, striking out 10. The Diamondbacks mounted a threat in the ninth but had it extinguished on a play that was equal parts bad luck for the Diamondbacks and smart baseball by the Dodgers.

With the loss, the Diamondbacks start off this unusual, five-game series here on the wrong foot. The series continues on Tuesday with a split doubleheader. The first game will begin at 12:10 p.m., the second at 7:10 p.m.

Kelly had allowed just one run, on Gallo’s no-doubt homer in the second, when the Dodgers’ Max Muncy lined a 1-1 curveball to right with one out in the fourth. Right fielder Jordan Luplow raced back but couldn’t make what would have been a terrific play in front of the wall. Muncy had a leadoff double. The Dodgers had the start to their rally.

In a matter of moments, the Dodgers had cashed in four runs. Gallo shot a single to center on a 1-0 pitch. Gavin Lux followed with a first-pitch single to right. And Taylor followed by hacking at another first-pitch offering from Kelly, a two-seamer down in the zone that he sent on a line into the first row in left field. Initially ruled a ground-rule double, it was changed to a home run for Taylor after a replay review.

“I just didn’t really execute and they took advantage of it,” Kelly said. “They came out swinging. When a team like that starts stringing hits together, obviously, there’s the saying that hitting is contagious, I think they feed off that, big time. I’ve got to locate better.”

On May 17, Kelly gave up eight runs in two innings in a start here at Dodger Stadium. The other three times he faced them, he kept the Diamondbacks in games, but he also did not pitch as effectively as he did in the vast majority of his other starts this season. Kelly could easily chalk that up to the quality of the opposition, but he was hesitant to do that.

“If we’re trying to get to where we’re going to go, we’ve got to beat them,” Kelly said. “We’re going to face them all the time. I know (with) the schedule next year, we don’t face them as much, but I know out of the gate we have them eight out of the first 10. We can sit here and sit in awe of their lineup and who is in their lineup, but at the end of the day it doesn’t do us any good.”

The Diamondbacks loaded the bases with no one out in the ninth off Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel, but Sergio Alcantara, who hit a walkoff homer off Kimbrel last week, hit into a tough-luck double play to stymie the rally.

Alcantara hit a hard shot to the right of second base, where Lux dived and snared the ball on a short hop before flipping to shortstop Trea Turner at second. Because it appeared the ball might be caught in the air, the Diamondbacks’ baserunners had to freeze, and Turner needed only to make an easy throw to third base to get Josh Rojas in a rundown.

“I think it was just a heads-up play,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said, “by a very good player.”

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or nick.piecoro@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks off to rocky start in LA as Kershaw whiffs 10