Merrill Kelly dominates on mound as Diamondbacks bounce back to rout Rangers 9-1, tie World Series

Series shifts to Arizona for Game 3
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws at Texas Rangers during first inning of Game 2 of World Series, Oct. 28, 2023
Posted at 1:08 AM, Oct 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-29 01:16:11-04

ARLINGTON, Texas — Merrill Kelly pitched three-hit ball over seven innings, Ketel Marte extended his postseason hitting streak to a record 18 games and the Arizona Diamondbacks routed the Texas Rangers 9-1 on Saturday night to even the World Series at one game apiece.

Gabriel Moreno hit a go-ahead homer in a two-run fourth against Jordan Montgomery, and Tommy Pham went 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles as the young Diamondbacks rebounded quickly from an agonizing defeat the night before.

Marte added a two-run single in a three-run eighth, breaking a tie for the longest postseason hitting streak with Derek Jeter, Manny Ramírez and Hank Bauer. Marte has a hit in every postseason game he's ever played.

Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte hits 2-run single against Texas Rangers during the eighth inning in Game 2 of World Series
Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte hits a two-run single against the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Arlington, Texas.

A night after wasting a two-run, ninth-inning lead in a 6-5, 11-inning loss, the Diamondbacks outhit Texas 16-4 and never trailed. The 16 hits marked the most in a Series game in nine years.

Emmanuel Rivera also had a two-run single, and rookie Corbin Carroll had a pair of RBI singles. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and 38-year-old Evan Longoria each singled in a run for Arizona, which got its first World Series road win after four losses dating to 2001.

The Series, just the third between wild-card teams, shifts to Arizona for Game 3 on Monday in the first Series game at Phoenix since 2001.

Kelly struck out nine, walked none and allowed his only run on Mitch Garver's leadoff homer in the fifth.

Texas Rangers catcher Mitch Garver hits home run off Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly during 5th inning in Game 2 of World Series, Oct. 28, 2023
Texas Rangers catcher Mitch Garver hits a home run off Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly during the fifth inning in Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Arlington, Texas.

"I thought he might go nine innings today at one point," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. "But for that to happen, 89 pitches, you've got to jump him up probably another 35. I wasn't going to let him throw 120 pitches."

The 35-year-old right-hander took an unusual career path. After six seasons in the minors, he detoured to South Korea from 2015-18 before making his major league debut with Arizona in 2019.

Back then he could hardly imagine dominating on baseball's biggest stage.

"I dreamt of it, but I think at that point when I was doing it, that was all it was, was a dream," Kelly said. "It took a lot of hard work, a lot of being in the right place. I've got to give a lot of credit to the Arizona organization for giving me a chance to be here. I appreciate them a lot for giving me this opportunity."

Kelly went 12-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 30 starts this season and is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four postseason starts.

"I think there's a little bit of an evolution, a little bit of maturity that continues to show up with him in every outing. He takes things personally upon himself to get better every single start. He's aware. He's present. And he's getting better and better with every start," Lovullo said. "He's really stepped on it and gotten after it and gotten even better, which is not surprising to me because that's who he is at his core. He wants the biggest moment, the biggest stage to show what he's capable of doing."

Kelly went to only one three-ball count.

"Just great command. He hit his spots all night, four pitches. He was on. He's tough when he's on," Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's been pitching well in the postseason and carried that into tonight's game."

Pham, a trade-deadline acquisition from the New York Mets, entered in a 3-for-29 skid that included a Game 1 homer. He singled in the second, hit opposite-field doubles to right in the fourth and sixth, and singled in the eighth. He also was picked off second base by Montgomery.

Montgomery entered 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in the postseason and was coming off a win in relief in Monday's Game 7 victory at Houston that won the AL pennant, only the second time he pitched out of the bullpen in his big league career. His velocity was down about 1.5 mph from his season average, and Diamondbacks batters failed to make contact on just two of the 37 pitches they swung at.

"He felt good. He was in a good place as far as pitch count," Bochy said. "I don't know how much it affected him. But he's not saying it did."

Moreno put Arizona ahead when Montgomery left a full-count curveball over the middle of the plate. Moreno lined the ball into Arizona's bullpen in left-center, giving him four postseason homers and 10 RBIs in 14 games. Pham sliced a two-out double into the right-field corner and scored on Gurriel's single for a 2-0 lead.

Arizona built a 4-1 cushion in the seventh. Alek Thomas doubled leading off and scored when Longoria, in his first World Series since 2008, hit a hard grounder that got past rookie third baseman Josh Jung and down the line for an RBI single.

Longoria advanced on Geraldo Perdomo's sacrifice and scored on Carroll's single.

Carroll followed Marte's two-run single in the eighth with an RBI single off Martín Pérez that made it 7-1. Rivera added a two-run single in the ninth.