Joe Kelly’s first five starts with the Boston Red Sox featured everything but a win. He finally tossed that feat into his back pocket in start No. 6.
Kelly, who was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals before the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline, lasted into the seventh inning Tuesday while guiding the Red Sox to a 9-4 win over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The effort wasn’t without a brief hiccup in the fifth inning, but Kelly ultimately came away from the series opener in the Bronx with his first win in a Red Sox uniform.
“I think the early run support he got kind of cooled him down, made him more confident and more relaxed out there so he could throw a good game,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who went 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs.
Kelly’s first five starts featured a collection of quality outings with an Aug. 17 stinker mixed in. He was solid for the most part, struggled at times and even exited one contest prematurely after five shutout innings for precautionary reasons stemming from a tweak in his throwing shoulder. Through it all, Kelly’s first win with the Sox proved elusive, largely because of a lack of run support.
The Red Sox supplied plenty of support Tuesday, producing nine runs on 12 hits, including three home runs. Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and built a 7-1 lead by the fourth inning, affording Kelly some wiggle room, which he ended up needing in the fifth inning.
Kelly allowed four singles and issued two walks while surrendering two runs in the fifth. The pair of free passes were especially troubling because they were issued to the Yankees’ No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, Chase Headley and Francisco Cervelli. Kelly managed to power through the inning, though, striking out Brett Gardner with the help of some favorable calls en route to completing 6 2/3 frames.
“It wasn’t a good inning,” Kelly said in regards to his shaky fifth. “It was something I was pretty frustrated at, and it’s something that you have to kind of forget. But it’s baseball, and stuff like that happens. You just have to try to flush it and get to the next pitch.”
Kelly allowed three earned runs on five hits and four walks overall. He struck out six, including four through the first two innings, and threw 102 pitches (61 strikes). It wasn’t the most graceful performance, mostly because of his fifth-inning struggles, but it was another indication that Kelly could take the next step in 2015 if he’s able to make the adjustments necessary to cut down his high walk totals.
“When you’re not feeling comfortable from the stretch, it’s always tough to pitch from it,” Kelly said. “Like I said, it’s just something that I’m going to have to go in between starts here and go find my release point. It was definitely off, and I was rushing to the plate a little bit, so it’s something that obviously if I didn’t have that inning could have pitched a little bit deeper into the game and saved some of those bullpen guys.”
Kelly has a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts, during which he’s held opponents to a .155 average. He finally has a win to show for his good mound work, which isn’t a bad way for him to introduce himself to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.