PHOENIX (AP) — Corbin Carroll got demoted to the seventh spot in the batting order Thursday night, the first time he’s hit that low in the starting lineup since opening day.
The precocious rookie probably won’t be there much longer.
Carroll snapped a 27-game homerless drought with a clutch two-run homer in the eighth inning, Merrill Kelly struck out 12 in seven innings before leaving because of a cramped right hamstring and the Arizona Diamondbacks overcame an embarrassing baserunning gaffe to beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2.
“At the end of the day, that’s our job,” Carroll said. “We play hard, man. It’s fun to be a part of.”
It was the first of an important four-game series between teams in the middle of a six-team battle for the three National League wild-card spots.
The D-backs have won five straight while the Reds had a three-game winning streak snapped. Arizona moved a half-game ahead of the Reds and the idle Giants for the final wild-card position.
The Reds led 2-1 after seven innings, but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. coaxed a leadoff walk before Carroll — an All-Star who has been the catalyst for many big moments this season — followed with his 22nd homer of the season, a line drive shot to right off reliever Alex Young (4-2).
Paul Sewald worked the ninth for his 28th save, and seventh since coming to the D-backs in a trade deadline swap with the Mariners.
The D-backs broke a scoreless tie in the seventh after loading the bases with no outs. Jace Peterson’s RBI single scored Nick Ahmed for a 1-0 lead, but Gabriel Moreno was thrown out at home after some inexplicable confusion on the basepaths, putting a damper on the potentially big inning.
Tommy Pham and Christian Walker followed with flyouts to right that ended the threat.
Manager Torey Lovullo said there was plenty of blame to go around on the baserunning mishap. The detail-oriented skipper admitted it was hard to get past that moment, though Carroll’s homer obviously helped.
“Did we even win this game?” Lovullo said grinning. “I’ve been blacked out since it happened. I was so mad.”
The Reds rallied in the eighth when Nick Senzel — who was just promoted from the minors and entered the game as a pinch hitter — hit a towering homer off lefty Kyle Nelson that just cleared the left field wall and landed in the D-backs’ bullpen.
Noelvi Marte followed with a one-out walk and then stole second base, scoring on Stephenson’s line drive single off Miguel Castro (6-6), giving Cincinnati a 2-1 lead.
That set the stage for Carroll, who is among the favorites for NL Rookie of the Year.
“We staggered around the ring a little, but got back on our feet and won a baseball game,” Lovullo said.
Before the late-inning drama, Kelly and Cincinnati left-hander Brandon Williamson matched scoreless innings through six.
Williamson — a promising rookie — gave up six hits and a walk while striking out six. The Reds went to the bullpen in the seventh because Williamson had already thrown 98 pitches.
“He gave us everything we needed and more tonight,” Reds manager David Bell said.
Pham extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a sixth-inning single. The streak is baseball’s longest active run.
KELLY’S BIG NIGHT
Kelly was cruising before warming up for the eighth inning, giving up just one hit. The right-hander threw a pitch and then grimaced, walking around the mound for a few seconds before leaving the field with Arizona’s medical staff.
Up until that point, it was arguably his best start in five seasons as a big-league pitcher.
“I felt good,” Kelly said. “I felt calm, I felt in control.”
Losing Kelly for any amount of time would be a huge blow for the D-backs’ playoff hopes, though Lovullo said he was confident the pitcher would make his next start. The 34-year-old has a 10-5 record and 2.97 ERA, combining with fellow right-hander Zac Gallen to form a formidable combo at the top of the rotation.
Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto was placed on the 10-day injured list with left shoulder discomfort on Thursday. The six-time All-Star is hitting .200 with 13 homers. Senzel was called up from Triple-A Louisville to take Votto’s place on the roster.
The series continues Friday night. Reds RHP Hunter Greene (2-5, 4.72 ERA) was set to start against RHP Brandon Pfaadt (0-6, 6.13 ERA).