The Red Sox returned to Fenway and to the loss column Tuesday night thanks to one of the few consistent truths of this season: Joe Kelly cannot be trusted in the starting rotation.
So that's certainly the downside to the night. Kelly wasn't even good once through the order tonight. The first two batters reached base with singles off of Kelly's off-speed offerings, and when that left him either unable or unwilling to locate his secondary pitches in the strike zone, they attacked the fastball. J.J. Hardy loaded the bases with a single of his own, and while Ryan Flaherty was only good for a sacrifice fly, when Kelly tried to challenge Ryan Lough inside on a full count, he didn't bury it deep enough, and Lough punished, launching a three-run shot into the bullpen to make it 4-0, Orioles.
The Sox would get on the board themselves in the third, with Sandy Leon singling, Mookie Betts continuing an unreal tear with a double to center to move the catcher to third, and Brock Holt providing the productive out to bring him home. But the small dent they'd made was quickly erased when Joe Kelly allowed two men to reach in the fourth and was pulled for Robbie Ross Jr., who allowed an RBI single to Jimmy Paredes.
Boston would end up keeping it close enough to be called a game by scoring in the next couple innings as well on hits from Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, with Ramirez providing his RBI single even after hurting himself sliding home to score the run knocked in by Sandoval the inning before. But Robbie Ross and Alexi Ogando conspired to surrender a sixth Orioles run in the sixth.
The Red Sox would mount a ninth-inning rally. Mookie Betts reached base for the third time in the game with a one-out walk, and Dustin Pedroia drove him in with a double that came pretty close to getting the Sox within a run. But David Ortiz's line drive was laced directly into the glove of Manny Machado, ending the threat.
In the context of 2015, a bad game in a familiar way. Through the lens of 2016, though, Mookie Betts kept on keeping on, Pablo Sandoval picked up three hits, and Hanley Ramirez silenced those who might suggest he's not giving it his all on the field. It could be worse. Who knows, maybe this even gets Kelly out of the rotation to give Brian Johnson a shot? We can always hope.