Right-hander Joe Kelly has been the Red Sox' most consistent starter in his two months since joining the Sox. (Getty Images)

Why You Should Have Cared About Sunday's Red Sox Game: Joe Kelly, Mookie Betts helping to give Sox some 2015 answers

September 21, 2014 - 12:44 pm
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BALTIMORE -- When the dust settled following the Red Sox' drastic July 31 reconfiguration, the team committed itself to using the final two months to evaluating a number of newcomers and unproven big leagues for their potential to contribute in 2015. By and large, the results have been uninspiring, with two notable exceptions who led the Sox to a 3-2 victory in Baltimore on Sunday. On Saturday, Mookie Betts went 0-for-3 with a walk. As manager John Farrell observed on Sunday morning, "Last night might be the first game in a while he hasn't been on base twice in a game. Getting back to the on-base, that is still a major factor and he's doing that." He resumed doing so on Sunday in noteworthy fashion. Betts led off the game by jumping on a 90 mph fastball from Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez in a 1-2 count, launching it well over the fence in left-center for a solo homer to give the Sox a lead they would never relinquish. He later added a single, with his 2-for-5 game improving his line for the season to .285 with a .362 OBP and .389 slugging mark, including a line of .293/.379/.431 in 15 games since taking over as the leadoff hitter, a role to which he may be laying fairly secure claim for 2015. The reason why that early offense held up was because of another strong outing from right-hander Joe Kelly. Kelly allowed just two runs on three hits while walking three and punching out five. The outing was Kelly's fifth straight of six or more innings, and continued to underscore why the Sox view him as a source of reassurance for the rotation next year. He showed mid-90s velocity that elicited both swings and misses and some timely groundballs, while getting swings and misses on his changeup and showing a useful curve. In his last five outings, Kelly has a 3.94 ERA. Between his stuff and his apparent competitiveness on the mound, along with the suggestions of a somewhat reliable ability to delivery six to seven innings, Kelly gives the Sox a second defined rotation piece -- along with Clay Buchholz -- for next year. OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT SUNDAY'S RED SOX GAME -- The Sox won, while the Twins and Cubs both appear headed towards losses. Assuming those results hold, the Twins will remain in position for the No. 5 pick in next year's draft (with a record 1 1/2 games worse than the Sox), while the Sox' "advantage" over the Cubs for the No. 6 pick would stand at one game. -- Rusney Castillo extended his career-opening hitting streak to four games by going (for the fourth straight game) 1-for-4. He also stole the first base of his career. -- David Ross crushed a solo homer well over the fence in straightaway center field, his seventh of the year. -- Garin Cecchini, serving as DH, went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, the first time in his big league career that he's reached base multiple times. -- Edward Mujica continued to give the Red Sox some comfort with their late-innings options for next year, converting his fifth straight save attempt with a scoreless ninth. He's allowed two run in 9 2/3 innings this month.

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