A pitcher enjoying a memorable season and a hitter still basking in the glory of a historic at-bat are scheduled to go head-to-head Friday night when the Arizona Diamondbacks open a three-game series against the host San Francisco Giants.
The National League West teams begin the last six games ofthe season separated by six games, meaning the fourth-place Diamondbacks (72-84) would need to sweep this set to retain the possibility of catching the third-place Giants (78-78) in the standings.
San Francisco still has a slim chance of securing a wild-card berth. The Giants trail the Philadelphia Phillies by 5 1/2 games for the final slot.
The Diamondbacks dropped two of three games to the Giants last week in Arizona. Right-hander Merrill Kelly (13-7, 3.13 ERA) recorded the lone win in the series, a 5-2 decision last Saturday.
Kelly has faced the Giants five times this season, with Arizona going 3-2 in those outings. He got the win in all three victories and wasn't charged with a loss in either defeat.
Kelly was on the mound for Ford Proctor's major-league debut last week, getting the second baseman to ground out three straight times.
Proctor recorded his first big-league hit the next day with a single off Kevin Ginkel, before having Giants historians reaching for the record books with a grand slam in his 11th career plate appearance in Thursday's 6-4 win over the Colorado Rockies.
The last Giant to hit a grand slam for his first homer was Brandon Crawford, who accomplished the feat in the third at-bat of his major league debut on May 27, 2011, against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Proctor left the field Thursday curious to see his feat on replay. He had trouble recalling what had transpired.
"I honestly don't even remember rounding the bases," Proctor said. "No doubt probably the fastest I've run around the bases on a home run. Seeing the guys (celebrating) in the dugout was a really cool moment."
Kelly has struggled a bit down the stretch, seeing his ERA rise from 2.84 to its current 3.13 in his last four starts. He needs one more win in what will probably be two more starts in order to set a career-high total, with hopes of joining Zac Gallen (2.46) to give the Diamondbacks two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs in 30 or more starts in the same season for the first time since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001.
The 33-year-old Kelly is 6-3 with a 2.56 ERA in 15 career starts against the Giants.
Like the Giants, the Diamondbacks begin the series with a bit of momentum, having scored three times in the 10th inning for a 5-2 road win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
"It's just kind of a testimony to the character we have in the clubhouse," Gallen said. "We're kind of never really out of it until the game's over."
Arizona could serve as a spoiler next week when it caps an eight-game trip with three contests against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Giants are scheduled to start right-hander Alex Cobb (6-7, 3.67) in the series opener. He has gone head-to-head with Kelly on three previous occasions this season, with the Diamondbacks winning twice -- including 4-3 in San Francisco on July 11.
Cobb, 34, is 1-2 with a 5.88 ERA in five career starts against Arizona.
--Field Level Media