The Red Sox got back in the win column Wednesday night, taking out the (until now) undefeated Orioles 4-2 in Fenway Park and getting back up to .500.
Alright, a win is a win. Now let's talk about Joe Kelly, and the danger of this start.
Joe Kelly pitched five innings and allowed two runs. The Red Sox would like one more inning on there, but hey, they'll take it.
In this case, though, we need to make the distinction between "it" being the result and "it" being the pitching. Joe Kelly produced an acceptable result with an unacceptable performance, and it needs to be treated that way. I'm typing this in the middle of the sixth inning, but I can already hear John Farrell making mention of Kelly "battling through" and "making big pitches" and etc. etc. etc.
That's one way of putting it. The other way is that Joe Kelly gave up twelve baserunners in five innings. WHIP is not the best statistic in the world, but at these extremes, it's pretty damn illustrative. Last year, no pitcher with even as few as just 20 innings pitched had a WHIP over 2.17. And it's not until you get below 1.84 that you find a pitcher with an ERA under 6.00! Kelly was the same pitcher today as ever. Occasionally, he'll find a game where he strands the bases loaded a couple times, but he just doesn't know where the ball is going on any given pitch, and that's not sustainable.
With that public service announcement out of the way...the Red Sox finally entered a game with only two runs on the board against them in the sixth! And what's more, they had an honest-to-God 4-2 lead!
Really, in much the same way the Orioles were coming away with less against Kelly than they perhaps should have, the Red Sox were finding themselves in the same situation against Ubaldo Jimenez. Xander Bogaerts had hit into a 5-4-6 (yes, 5-4-6) double play in the first to waste a great start from Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia, and then found himself responsible for another one when he watched a third-inning flare from Hanley Ramirez until it ended up in J.J. Hardy's glove, leaving him too far from second base to avoid getting doubled up.
Yes, it would be a glaring spotlight on Xander indeed if he wasn't on base to get doubled up by virtue of a double that had driven in the two tying runs in that third inning, making good this time on the leadoff efforts of Betts and Pedroia. And if Bogaerts' baserunning gaffe might have prevented the Red Sox from taking the lead in the inning, it didn't stop Jackie Bradley Jr. from tripling home Brock Holt after a leadoff walk in the fourth. Mookie Betts hit a ground ball off the mound to bring Bradley home, and the Sox had that aforementioned 4-2 lead.
From there, it was mostly a matter of putting together the sixth inning, which Matt Barnes more or less did with some help from Manny Machado, who provided the third out after Tommy Layne had entered the game to face Chris Davis by getting himself thrown out at third. There are perhaps times to take that risk with two outs. All of them involve a knuckleballer on the mound and Chris Davis not being at the plate.
With the help from Machado, the Red Sox got to the seventh, where Layne handled Davis all the same, then handed the ball off to the Tazawa - Uehara - Kimbrel sequence. And oh, man, Kimbrel. Remember that three-run disaster? He wanted revenge. Facing the top three in Baltimore's lineup, Boston's closer struck out the side in an inning that saw the Orioles swing five times and not make contact even once. It was a thing of beauty.
So a good finish to a bad series. Enough to get the Red Sox back to even, and leave the atmosphere a bit lighter headed into the day off. Be it via Kelly-style shenanigans or Kimbrel-style dominance, the Red Sox will take it.