Joe Kelly led the Red Sox to a 5-4 win over the White Sox Monday night, pitching into the eighth as Rusney Castillo knocked in all five Boston runs in support.
Once, a home run in the first inning would have spelled disaster for Joe Kelly. Even now, with three straight positive starts to his name, when Jose Abreu went deep with one out, there was a feeling of "here we go again." Kelly, after all, is supposed to struggle the second time through the order, not the first. Escaping the fourth without giving away the game is supposed to be the hard part, not escaping the first, and when Kelly has struggled early, the results have often been truly disastrous.
Let it not be said, however, that Kelly caved to history. Leaving the homer behind him, Kelly struck out Melky Cabrera, and got an Avisail Garcia fly ball to end the inning. Yes, the Red Sox were down early, but Jose Abreu homers happen, and they happen to everyone.
Helping matters, the Red Sox lineup was quick to retake the lead. A rally started by Hanley Ramirez getting plunked with two outs ended with Rusney Castillo, still hot despite inconsistent playing time, clobbering a long fly ball to center. Spinning around at the wall, Adam Eaton could only watch it sail over for a three-run shot.
Given a lead to work with, Kelly got some help keeping it from Pablo Sandoval in the bottom of the inning. Ranging back on a pop-up from Adam LaRoche, Sandoval went tumbling over the tarp in foul territory to make the first out of the inning, with Kelly finishing the job on a pair of ground balls after walking Alexei Ramirez.
Even after putting the first two batters on in the third, the Red Sox would fail to give Kelly any extra insurance to work with until the sixth. Again, Hanley Ramirez would start the attack, though this time he had a lot more agency in the matter, doubling to center with one-out. The big hit, too, would again come from the same man, with Rusney Castillo just missing his second homer of the night, driving in both Hanley and Brock Holt.
Still with just one run to his name even after going twice through the White Sox lineup, Kelly was now given four runs to work with as he returned to the mound in the sixth to try for three times through. The double to center off the bat of Adam Eaton that greeted him promised troubled, but if Eaton would manage to come around to score on a couple ground balls, that was all the White Sox got, with Rusney Castillo gunning down Avisail Garcia trying to stretch a two-out single into extra bases.
Usually, 7.1 innings of two-run ball from the starting pitcher should be enough, and with Robbie Ross Jr. getting Adam Eaton to ground into a double play to end the eighth, the Red Sox needed just three more outs...from Jean Machi. Far be it from Machi to make things easy--the closer-for-the-day somehow managed to make this one a nail biter, allowing three of the first four batters of the ninth to reach, bringing two runs home and putting the winning runner on first. Finally, though, Carlos Sanchez hit a fly ball to left, which defensive replacement Jackie Bradley Jr. was able to collect to end the inning, and the game.