Joe Kelly gave the Red Sox another strong performance Wednesday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Joe Kelly takes one for the team while showing signs of turnaround

Mike Petraglia
May 21, 2015 - 5:34 am

If there was one person inside Fenway Park Wednesday who deserved a better fate Wednesday night, it was Joe Kelly. On a night when he wasn't feeling well to begin with, the Red Sox righty starter took to the mound and dug deep for seven quality innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits, working his way out of trouble and giving his team a chance. All he got for his troubles was a bruise on the fleshy outside part of his right hand on a Shin-Soo Choo grounder back to the mound in the third inning and his third loss in four decisions this season in Boston's 2-1 defeat to Texas. "It's a little bit sore but it didn't affect the way I pitched out there," said Kelly, who wore a white bandage over his wrist and hand after the game. "I'm definitely going to ice it and keep trying to get the swelling down. It feels fine." After his 108-pitch effort, manager John Farrell recognized what Kelly was able to accomplish after allowing solo runs in the second and third innings. "After the third inning, he settled in. He used his curveball a little bit more," Farrell said of his hard-throwing starter. "He started to elevate his fastball for some strikeouts. And on a night when he wasn't completely healthy in terms of an illness he was dealing with. He threw the ball exceptionally well. He takes the one-hopper off the hand that really, after the initial sting went away, didn't affect the way he threw the baseball. He got a couple of big strikeouts with men in scoring position. A well-pitched game." It was a well-pitched game using mostly his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, his two best pitches. Of Kelly's 108 pitches, 79 were fastballs. He velocity improved as the night wore on, reaching 99 on his final pitch of the night to end the seventh with a strikeout of Thomas Field. As a matter of fact, Kelly was able to fan Chirinos and Field back to back after Leonys Martin doubled with one out. "My fastball was working for me," Kelly said. "My offspeed, I was giving up a lot of hits on those. My slider wasn't breaking like it normally does. I couldn't really throw a changeup over the plate but I made some pitches when I had to and commanded my heater." In the last two starts, Kelly has been not only been overpowering, he's been in command for the most part. Heading into his start last Thursday in Seattle, he allowed 21 runs and 26 hits over a stretch of four straight starts. Last Thursday, he yielded just one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 2-1 win. Ironically, Wednesday night, he was on the wrong end of a 2-1 score. "[We] played some good defense," Kelly said. "It's baseball. We lost 2-1. The guy over there pitched a good game. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap," Kelly said of Texas starter Phil Klein. "We haven't played as well as we're capable of. We're not putting too much pressure on ourselves. We're just going to go out there and keep playing and grinding away and eventually, we'll all click together." In two starts with new pitching coach Carl Willis, Kelly has allowed just three runs and 12 hits in 13 1/3 innings. His ERA is 2.03. His WHIP is 1.20. "Just his effort level from pitch to pitch. He's more under control," Farrell said of Kelly's last two starts. "He's been down in the strike zone and when he's missed, he's missed to the extreme, not with a ball leaking back over the middle of the plate. I even though the ball Chirinos hit was a fairly well-located fastball. He's been very strong, very good, very consistent the last two times out."