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Daily Red Sox Links: Joe Kelly has not had a great month

A disastrous outing on Tuesday capped a month of games in which Kelly has not been as effective. Plus David Price’s consistency, Xander Bogaerts’ leadership and J.D. Martinez’s determination.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Chris Sale pitched well on Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox lost to the Minnesota Twins. While the offense deserves some of the blame after scoring only two runs, the bullpen has to foot most of the bill. Sale threw seven strong innings, striking out 11 and letting up two runs on three hits and a walk. The three relievers that came after allowed four runs in the eighth inning alone.

First Robby Scott came in and couldn’t find the plate during his first appearance of the season and was pulled after getting just one out. Hector Velazquez would get the last two outs of the frame, but he didn’t come in right after Scott. Joe Kelly was the next in line and he faced three batters, allowing a double, walk and a triple before Velazquez finally came in.

Kelly was only responsible for two of the four runs that scored in that eighth inning, but it he was on the hill when all of them scored. It’s not a look we’ve been used to seeing for most of this season. If you consider at his entire body of work, Kelly has been an extremely effective and important part of the bullpen. He has an ERA+ of 138 in 31 innings, with an ERA of 3.19 and FIP of 3.42. He is surrendering exactly one walk or hit per inning pitched and striking out more batters than he did a year ago. During the last month, those numbers have all been going in the opposite direction, even if they look fine overall from a passing glance. In his last 12 appearances dating back to May 22, Kelly has an ERA of 5.59 and FIP of 6.30, while his strikeout rate has fallen to 7.45 per nine innings.

If we cut to June alone, Kelly has been even worse, with a 10.80 ERA (9.70 FIP) in seven appearances. The worst of it came against the Houston Astros on June 1 when he was tagged for two home runs while allowing three runs in 13 an inning of work during a game the Red Sox lost 7-3.

Now, how much of this recent trend is actually a cause for concern? After all, we’re dealing with small sample sizes both in terms of games and innings pitched. A few errant pitches getting shot over the fence will have more impact on a reliever’s numbers than that of a starter.

Kelly’s fastball has been much less effective during his recent cold streak, while his slider has still been a plus pitch, but not to the degree its been for most of the season. Interestingly enough, his velocity has been up compared to the rest of the year, so its not a speed issue. The real problem just seems to be that he is allowing more balls in the air on solid contact. When some of those fly balls carry, they can obviously be detrimental.

There’s no real reason to panic. Kelly has endured a less than ideal stretch of games, but there doesn’t not seem to be any major underlying root cause. If he can start missing bats, or at least forcing hitters to put the ball on the ground more, he should get back to being the fairly dominant setup man he has been. Until the Red Sox make some sort of trade to beef up the bullpen, they absolutely need that from Kelly.

The bats let David Price down last night, but the lefty is pitching well and just needs to continue on that path. (Nick Cafardo; Boston Globe)

Problems on the base paths don’t help matters. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

We talked about Xander Bogaerts’ power surge earlier this week, but what about his rise as a leader? (Jen McCaffrey; The Athletic) ($$)

Let’s talk about playoffs. (Meg Rowley; FanGraphs)

J.D. Martinez is a superstar but he still plays like he has something to prove. (Chad Jennings; The Athletic) ($$)

Eduardo Nunez is doing what he can to improve at second base. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)

Tanner Houck has his two-seam fastball back. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)