Joe Kelly dominated the Yankees on Saturday during seven, one-hit innings. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Closing Time: Joe Kelly dominates, reserves shine as Red Sox down Yankees

John Tomase
April 11, 2015 - 12:21 pm
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NEW YORK -- Talk about a situation fraught with peril.

Just hours after burning through their entire bullpen in Friday's 19-inning victory that was also the longest game (6:49) in franchise history, the Red Sox sent Joe Kelly to the mound unsure if he'd even give them five innings.

Making his first start of the season after talking his way out of a final rehab appearance, Kelly topped those modest expectations by a country mile, silencing the Yankees over seven one-hit innings. He walked two, struck out eight, and allowed just one run in an 8-4 victory that was every bit as inspiring as the previous night's marathon.

"Coming out like that against this team, to be able to execute with the lower pitch count and get through seven, that was huge for us, man," said catcher Ryan Hanigan. "Once he gets the ball rolling and gets some momentum and starts feeling it, he's tough. That was a good start for us, for sure."

Featuring a fastball with tremendous movement that routinely topped 95 mph, Kelly dominated on a day when the Red Sox desperately needed it, sparing the bullpen further torment.

He had originally been scheduled to start in Single A Greenville on Saturday in a tuneup before coming off the disabled list with a biceps injury. But after throwing 78 pitches in a rehab start on Monday and coming out of his bullpen later in the week feeling strong, Kelly proved to manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves that he was ready to go.

"As well as he threw the ball, it looked like he was ready," Farrell said. "And that wasn'€™t just me but it was Juan, it was Dana (LeVangie), we all witnessed the same thing."

Kelly predicted on Thursday in Philadelphia that he'd throw at least 90 pitches on Saturday, and he also reiterated that he pitches with a bulldog mentality, both of which turned out to be true.

"We had a very, very thin bullpen, and it was a marathon game (the night before)," Kelly said. "I was going to go out there until they told me I couldn't. If it was in the fifth inning, I was going to try to say, 'Well, these guys need a little bit more of a break and my arm is feeling fine,' no matter where I was at in the game. Luckily enough, I made it to the seventh inning and gave myself and the team a chance to win that ballgame."

The right-hander proclaimed over the offseason that he planned to win the Cy Young Award, and the boast quickly became a punchline. What's he thinking? He's never thrown more than 124 innings.

But one start into his season, Kelly looked as good as anyone in the Red Sox rotation, which has collectively excelled through its first turn. He threw 58 of his 93 pitches for strikes while compiling an impressive 12 swings and misses.

He certainly made the most of his opportunity, and now the Red Sox are sitting pretty at 4-1, with a chance for Clay Buchholz to complete the sweep on Sunday. Five games into the season, the Red Sox look like a team that is for real, with incredible offensive depth -- reserves Brock Holt and Daniel Nava combined to go 6 for 9 with five RBIs -- as well as better than expected starting pitching.

Kelly provided just the latest example of that on Saturday.

SWENSON GRANITE WORKS ROCK SOLID PERFORMER OF THE GAME: This one's easy. Joe Kelly started the game as a question mark, and ended it as the standout performer. He went seven one-hit innings, walking two and striking out eight. He dominated the Yankees practically from start to finish, retiring the last 17 batters he faced.

WHAT WENT RIGHT -- Who needs regular playing time? Making his first start of the season, leadoff man Brock Holt recorded four hits and a run while playing a flawless center field in place of Mookie Betts. His double in the eighth drove in three and provided the final margin of victory.

"Yeah, just be ready to play every day," Holt said. "I was ready to go today. John gave me the word last night that I'€™d be in there in center so I was able to sleep on it, kind of get ready. I was fortunate to have a good day, but the mindset is coming to the field every day ready to go. If you'€™re in the lineup, get ready to play. If not, get ready to come in. It was a good day."

-- Reserve outfielder Daniel Nava continues to illustrate why he's so important to the Red Sox. A left-handed hitter on a roster that's overwhelmingly right-handed, Nava stepped in for Hanley Ramirez after Friday's 19-inning marathon and went 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs. He also made a nice running catch in left on a ball that Ramirez might not have reached.

He now has four RBIs, a total he didn't reach last year until mid-June.

"I'm definitely grateful things have started this way, compared to last year," Nava said. "This is obviously a different situation I'm in this year, compared to last year, but I think with the way our team is constructed is we have a lot of opportunities, so whenever we get them '€“ we being myself, Brock and (Allen) Craig '€“ we try to relish them. I think that's how we're looking at it.'€

-- Shortstop Xander Bogaerts may not have recorded a hit until his final at-bat, but he manufactured an insurance run in the seventh by reaching on a fielder's choice, stealing second, advancing to third when the throw sailed into center, and then going on contact to beat a relay to the plate on a grounder to third.

-- Second baseman Dustin Pedroia took advantage of center fielder Chris Young playing curiously shallow by drilling a 92 mph fastball straight over his head for the clinching two-run double in the seventh.

-- Catcher Ryan Hanigan continues to show that an .091 hitter can be valuable offensively, thanks to seven walks and a .444 on base percentage.

"I keep working," Hanigan said. "The hits aren't coming as much as I'd like, but I'm not chasing out of the zone. I'm taking my walks and trying to put the ball in play with guys on base. I feel all right. I'll keep working. The hits will come."

WHAT WENT WRONG

-- Right-handed reliever Alexi Ogando was entrusted with an 8-1 lead in the eighth, but he only recorded two outs before three straight hits culminated in Chris Young's three-run homer to chase him.

-- First baseman Mike Napoli went 0 for 4 and remains hitless (0 for 17) on the season, though he's still second on the team in runs (3).

-- Designated hitter David Ortiz continues to struggle as well. He went 0 for 4 with a strikeout as his average fell to .158. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they've hardly needed him en route to a 4-1 start.

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