Rockies strike out 14 times in opening game loss at Arizona

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ postseason hopes got a boost Monday afternoon: A visit from the road-weary Rockies.

Colorado arrived in the desert having lost 11 of its last 13 road games, then continued the downward spiral with a 4-2 loss at cavernous Chase Field.

Unlike several of the road losses that preceded it, this one didn’t require a bullpen implosion for things to go south.

Not with D-backs sinker-ball sorcerer Merrill Kelly in full command (61 of 91 pitches for strikes) before he exited with an apparent injury at the start of the eighth inning.

The youthful Rockies struck out 12 times against the right-hander, and 14 times total, in another shaky outing away from Coors Field. They are now 21-49 on the road and 50-87 overall.

“He’s a good pitcher … and he pitched today, he really did. We just couldn’t solve the mix,” Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters in Phoenix. “… (He throws) a lot of pitches at the bottom that have action. Out of the hand they look like strikes and then they dive, we just couldn’t dig them out.”

The D-backs didn’t hit Colorado starter Peter Lambert particularly hard either, but did enough damage to end a two-game slide and maintain a hold on the last NL wild card spot.

Lambert didn’t get into trouble until he issued a walk with one out in the third inning. The next batter, Corbin Carroll, ripped a slider down the first base line for a run-scoring triple. Lambert limited the damage by getting Alek Thomas to hit a weak fly ball to shallow center and striking out Tommy Pham, but he got into trouble again at the start of the fourth.

The D-backs strung together four hits to open the frame, including doubles from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Jace Peterson, to score three runs before an out was recorded.

“I guess it all came down to that fourth inning, just let it snowball on me a little bit,” said Lambert, who threw 62 of 94 pitches for strikes. “It kind of happened really fast, and just in the moment I should have taken a step back and slowed everything down.”

Lambert retired nine straight after that, then was pulled after the sixth having given up six hits, one walk and four runs with five strikeouts.

“He hung in there … they just bunched the four hits together,” Black said. “I thought Peter pitched well… kept us in the game. His stuff looked good. It was another strong outing of re-establishing himself as a major league starter.”

Arizona’s four runs were more than enough support for Kelly, who faced the minimum through four innings and didn’t give up a hit until Nolan Jones poked a single to center field with one out in the fifth.

Rookie Hunter Goodman drove in his seventh runner since getting called up last week, hitting a sharp line drive to left that scored Jones, but Brendan Rodgers was thrown out at third to end the inning.

Colorado didn’t get another runner past second base until there were two outs in the ninth.

That was Elias Diaz brought home Ezequiel Tovar with a double down the left field line. Jones came to the plate representing the potential tying run, but closer Paul Sewald got him to fly out to center.

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