Merrill Kelly was the National League Pitcher of the Month for July and he will attempt to carry his success into August when his Arizona Diamondbacks host the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night in Phoenix.

Kelly went 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA over six starts last month. He struck out 33 in 41 1/3 innings and allowed just 24 hits and eight walks.

The right-hander gave up just six total hits over 15 scoreless innings in his final two outings of the month. He worked eight innings while beating the San Francisco Giants on July 25 and seven in a no-decision against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Kelly, 33, said being ahead in the count fueled the strong month.

“I think the ability to throw strikes,” he said. “I pride myself on being a strike thrower, I pride myself on getting ahead of guys and my game plan works a lot better when I do that.

“I think I’ve done a good job attacking guys and kind of trusting my stuff.”

Kelly (10-5, 2.87 ERA) defeated the Rockies on July 1 when he gave up two runs (one earned) and five hits over seven innings.

He is 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA in two starts against Colorado, part of his career record of 3-3 with a 4.83 ERA in eight starts against the Rockies.

Ryan McMahon (5-for-23) has two homers against Kelly. Charlie Blackmon is 6-for-18, while Randal Grichuk (0-for-10) and Elias Diaz (1-for-11) have both struggled.

Arizona rallied for a 6-5 victory on Friday in the opener of the three-game series. It was just the Diamondbacks’ second win in the past seven games.

The Rockies led 5-2 after six innings before Josh Rojas stroked a two-run double in the seventh and Geraldo Perdomo delivered the go-ahead two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Colorado has dropped 13 of its past 17 games, and manager Bud Black was surprised by his bullpen’s big meltdown.

“This was a tough one,” Black said of the loss. “The guys at the end have been pretty consistent, especially the last couple months. But this goes to show you every player is not invincible.”

Right-hander Antonio Senzatela (3-6, 4.87) will be on the mound Saturday for Colorado. He is 0-3 with a 5.84 ERA over his past five starts.

Senzatela, 27, lost to the San Diego Padres on Monday when he gave up three runs and five hits over six innings.

Senzatela fell against Kelly and the Diamondbacks in the July 1 contest when he gave up three runs and four hits in two innings before leaving with shoulder soreness that sidelined him for three weeks.

Overall, he is 3-9 with a 6.07 ERA in 19 career appearances (15 starts) versus the Rockies. He has faltered often against Christian Walker (11-for-22, two homers, four doubles) and Ketel Marte (10-for-25).

Arizona right-hander Ian Kennedy recorded his sixth save in the opener just hours after Arizona manager Torey Lovullo announced the demotion of right-hander Mark Melancon (3-10, 4.66) from the closer role.

Kennedy needed just eight pitches in a perfect frame.

Melancon has converted 14 of 17 save opportunities but blew a save in the 10th inning and lost the game in the 11th during Monday’s 6-5 setback against the Cleveland Guardians.

Lovullo said he will use a matchup-based closer-by-committee approach with Melancon, Kennedy and All-Star left-hander Joe Mantiply (two saves) regarding save situations.

“We’re gonna go back into a situation where we don’t have one closer at this point,” Lovullo said. “Had a discussion with Mark about making this move and he understood. He didn’t necessarily like it, but he understood it’s for the good of the team.”

–Field Level Media