Joe Kelly was in complete command on Monday night. (Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Closing Time: Joe Kelly, Rusney Castillo lead Red Sox past White Sox

John Tomase
August 24, 2015 - 7:22 pm
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One year ago on Sunday, the Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a record $72.5 million contract, the biggest ever given to a Cuban free agent. They spent most of the ensuing 365 days praying they hadn't made a mistake. Not even a month earlier, they had swung a pivotal trade, sending John Lackey to the Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig. When both acquisitions found themselves in Pawtucket this July, that deal looked like a bust, too. A few more nights like Monday, however, and the team will be breathing easy. With the Red Sox in full-on 2016 evaluation mode, Castillo and Kelly keyed a 5-4 victory over the White Sox and stated their case for the future. Continuing a second-half resurgence that has put him in a position to lay claim to a starting job next season, Castillo provided virtually all of the offense with a double, homer, and five RBIs. Kelly, meanwhile, shook off a solo homer in the first by White Sox slugger Jose Abreu to submit his best outing of the season. Reaching the eighth inning for the first time all year and just the second time in his career, Kelly limited the White Sox to two runs on five hits, and he was still throwing 97 mph fastballs in the seventh. "Great outing for him," interim manager Torey Lovullo said of Kelly before adding about Castillo, "he was dynamite." Add it together, and the Red Sox could feel good about two swing players who will have to earn their playing time moving forward. Monday night represented a step in the right direction, particularly after the trials each endured earlier in the season. Kelly, for instance, opened the season in the Red Sox rotation before pitching his way right out of it and down to Pawtucket in late June. "It wasn't good, obviously," Kelly said. "It feels better, obviously, to pitch better. That was my goal in the second half -- to try to pitch better, to try to limit the damage with runners on base, which I wasn't very good at in the first half. I'm mixing pitches and locations, and that has definitely helped." As for Castillo, he got hurt in spring training, looked completely overmatched while hitting .230 in May and June, and needed to find his groove in Pawtucket, too. "I feel a lot more comfortable with more and more reps," Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo. "I feel like I'm finally getting into a rhythm. Thankfully I've finally gotten a chance to play, so it's definitely helped." Both players continued recent hot streaks. Kelly began the night 4-0 with a 3.22 ERA in August. Castillo, meanwhile, entered the game hitting .367 with two homers and a .956 OPS this month. His 3-for-4 night extended his hitting streak to nine games. After Abreu homered in the first, the Red Sox responded with a two-out rally. White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija hit Hanley Ramirez and allowed a sharp single to Brock Holt. In stepped Castillo and out went the baseball on a homer to center that made it 3-1, Red Sox. The Sox added on in the sixth on Castillo's two-run double and Kelly took over from there. He struck out four and walked only one, dropping his ERA to 5.18, the lowest it has been since May 20 (5.13). Jean Machi made things interesting in the ninth by allowing a pair of runs, but the Red Sox held on for the win. And for one night, anyway, Kelly and Castillo gave the impression that all hope is not lost as the Red Sox look ahead to next season. (Rob Bradford contributed to this report from Chicago)