Let’s face it, when Joe Kelly was activated from the disabled list prior to Saturday’s start against the Cleveland Indians, he had his fair share of doubters. Count me among them.
Kelly had made three previous starts, he was 1-0, but he had an earned run average of 9.35.
That all changed Saturday afternoon before 37,254 fans at Fenway Park.
Kelly wasn’t just up to the task, he exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. Kelly spun nearly seven-innings of one-hit, shutout baseball and led the Red Sox to a 9-1 win over the visiting Cleveland Indians.
In fact the only expectations that Kelly didn’t exceed were the ones he boldly stated back in January of 2015 when he declared himself the likely 2015 American League Cy Young award winner.
“Yeah, I’m going to win this year. That’s what I told the radio guys,” Kelly said Saturday at the Baseball Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “They didn’t believe me, so sucks to be them.”
If this was a delayed prediction, Red Sox fans will gladly take it.
One thing is for sure, the Cleveland Indians came away impressed. Former Red Sox skipper, and current Indians manager Terry Francona told Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com
“He had everything (working),” said Francona when asked about Kelly. “He’s got a really good arm as you can see. He started getting comfortable in the windup and starting throwing breaking balls even when he was behind and that made him tougher.”
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Indians third baseman Juan Uribe laced a double into the gap in right-center field. That was the first and only hit that Kelly would allow. He was removed to a lengthy and well-deserved standing ovation following Uribe’s hit. His final line for the day was 6.2 innings pitched, 1 hit, 3 walks and 7 strikeouts. Kelly threw 104 pitches, 60 for strikes.
It was everything the Red Sox could have hoped for out of Kelly, and then some. Going forward, if Kelly can provide starts similar to Saturday’s, the Red Sox starting rotation will have more depth than anyone would have imagined less than a week ago.
The Red Sox scored 9 runs Saturday, their highest total since plating 10 against the Astros last Sunday.
Mookie Betts provided the bulk of the offense. He hit a pair of home runs, a solo shot in the fourth that barely cleared the green monster, and a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh off of former Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain. Betts would finish with five RBI’s on the day.
The big story for the Red Sox was Jackie Bradley Jr. The most unlikely MVP candidate in all of baseball, was a mere 1-for-2, but that one was an infield single to lead of the bottom of the sixth which extended his hitting streak to 26 games.
Bradley currently leads the AL in batting average (.342,) and ops (1.035.) His 33 runs-batted-in has him tied for third in the league with teammate Mookie Betts, and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays.
In 1949 Dom DiMaggio recorded a hit in 34 consecutive games, that’s the franchise hit-streak record. Manny Ramirez had a 27-game hit streak back in 2006, David Ortiz hit in 27 consecutive games from the end of the 2012 season, into the start of the 2013 campaign.
The Red Sox are 26-17, one game out of first place behind the 26-15 Baltimore Orioles.
Sunday afternoon at 1:35 pm ET the Red Sox will send Rick Porcello (6-2, 3.51) to the mound to try and win the rubber game of this three-game series. The Indians have their best starter Danny Salazar (4-2, 1.80) on the rubber.
Boston has an off day Monday, Tuesday the Colorado Rockies arrive in town for a three-game series.