On a day where the Red Sox needed a big start more than ever, Joe Kelly stepped up with a seven-inning gem, sparing the bullpen and keeping Boston ahead until a late-inning explosion left them with a comfortable 8-4 win over the Yankees.
The first inning had the look of two tired lineups playing against two fresh pitchers. Joe Kelly threw eight pitches in a 1-2-3 first, striking out two Yankees while the Red Sox could only muster some mediocre contact against Adam Warren, making his fourth Major League start and first since 2013. For the first time this season, we had dueling perfect games.
Then in the second the Yankees took over. Only not in the typical fashion. They took control of the top half of the inning by practically forcing a run down Boston's throat. Alex Rodriguez, starting his first game at first base, gave the Red Sox a leadoff baserunner by failing to make a fairly routine catch on a Mike Napoli ground ball. A pair of ground balls moved Napoli along to third, but with two outs now on the board, it was going to take a hit to get the job done. And technically Daniel Nava gave them just that with a long fly ball to left field, but in the end, it was Brett Gardner making a mess of what should have been a fly out that let the Red Sox take the 1-0 lead.
As if to return the favor, out came Joe Kelly looking nothing like he had to start the game. Every last one of Kelly's pitches had hit their spot in the first, or came close enough to not be worth mentioning. But in the second, he couldn't find Ryan Hanigan's mitt if his life depended on it. Kelly sent his catcher sprawling this way and that, allowing a single to Alex Rodriguez, then a pair of walks to Garrett Jones and John Ryan Murphy, nearly decapitating the latter in the process.
Somehow Kelly managed to survive the bases-loaded, one-out situation allowing just a sacrifice fly despite having no ability to locate the ball. But headed to the third, it looked like Boston's starter was not long for the game, and might well leave the bullpen on the hook for far more work than they could handle after Friday night's marathon.
Only, when he came out for the third, the Kelly from the first inning was back. Seven pitches saw the Yankees retired, and in the fourth Kelly went back to the strikeout, picking up another pair against Chase Headley and Garrett Jones. Where once it looked like he wouldn't make it through the fourth, Kelly rolled through the seventh, even with a low limit on his pitch count. The Yankees did not manage to put a single man on base against him after that second inning.
Adam Warren had a decent start in his own right, but couldn't quite maintain the tie. Daniel Nava made good on a two-out rally started by Pablo Sandoval and Allen Craig, flipping a single into center field to bring Sandoval home from second to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
It wasn't until the bullpen came into the game for New York that the offense really got going for Boston. Daniel Nava provided the spark for the Red Sox in the seventh, drawing a lefty-on-lefty walk against Justin Wilson. Xander Bogaerts replaced the left fielder at first after a ground ball, then stole second and moved to third on a hit-and-run gone wrong first because of a swing-and-miss by Ryan Hanigan, and then again on an errant throw from John Ryan Murphy.
The Yankees defense would come up short when Hanigan hit a weak ground ball to third, as Chase Headley came home too late to get Bogaerts, also allowing Hanigan to reach first base. Brock Holt would single behind him, and both men would score as Dustin Pedroia hit a long fly ball to center field, up and over the head of Chris Young for a double.
Now ahead 5-1, the Red Sox appeared to go down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth, but John Farrell challenged the call at first on the third out, claiming Alex Rodriguez had been pulled off the bag by an errant Chase Headley throw. Replay proved him right, giving Daniel Nava the base, and starting a sudden two-out rally from the Red Sox. Xander Bogaerts singled off the mound, Ryan Hanigan drew a walk, and Brock Holt cleared the bases on a double that glanced off Garrett Jones' glove in right--his fourth hit of the game.
At the time, the three insurance runs seemed entirely unnecessary. But after getting two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, Alexi Ogando fell apart, surrendering singles to Gregorio Petit and Brett Gardner, then serving up a hanging slider that Chris Jones couldn't help but take out to left for a three-run shot. What would have been a one-run lead was instead at a comfortable four thanks to the challenge and two-out rally, allowing Robbie Ross Jr. to finish the game with a relatively relaxed ninth.
The Red Sox have their second series win in as many tries this year. They'll go for their first sweep Sunday night behind Clay Buchholz.