Coming off an embarrassing loss in their series finale at Baltimore, the Boston Red Sox could use some quality pitching at home in their opener against Toronto.
Joe Kelly looks to give them that Monday night when the right-hander takes the hill opposite Aaron Sanchez in the first of a three-game set with the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
Boston (10-9) opened its weekend series against the Orioles with a 7-5 victory Friday before being outscored 23-11 in losing the next two. Most of that damage occurred Sunday when Baltimore pounded out 20 hits in an 18-7 rout.
It was the most runs the Red Sox have ever allowed against the Orioles.
After Wade Miley failed to get out of the third inning for the second time in four starts, the Red Sox would welcome a deep outing from Kelly (1-0, 4.08 ERA), who is making his fourth start against an AL East opponent this season.
"I will say in general, we have to do better in all phases of the game," manager John Farrell said, "and it starts with how the game is controlled from the mound."
Kelly had a stellar season debut in a win against the Yankees on April 11 and a workmanlike outing to help Boston beat Baltimore five days later, but he slipped a bit in his most recent start Wednesday. Although he struck out seven in five innings at Tampa Bay, he blamed falling behind in the count for the five runs he gave up in a 7-5 loss.
"I didn't get ahead of hitters," Kelly said. "... I tried to get too fine and fell behind hitters, and had to throw it down the middle from there."
Kelly was impressive in his lone start against Toronto, however, tossing six innings of three-hit ball while giving up just two earned runs in a 5-2 loss Aug. 27.
Boston's bats weren't the problem Sunday, with Hanley Ramirez homering twice and Pablo Sandoval adding another, but the bullpen followed Miley with a sub-par performance -particularly Heath Hembree, who was charged with six earned runs in 1 1-3 innings.
The Red Sox bullpen entered the game with a 2.88 ERA, which ranked eighth in MLB.
Toronto (9-10) is also in need of a strong start from Sanchez (1-2, 5.14) after a three-game sweep against the Rays concluded with Sunday's 5-1 loss. The Blue Jays allowed 21 runs in the series, including a 12-4 loss in Friday's opener.
Their bats also need to return to the type of production that plated 24 runs in a sweep of Baltimore that preceded their pummeling by the Rays.
"I think over the course of the year we have to be consistent," left-hander Mark Buehrle told the team's official website Sunday. "When we're scoring 10 runs a game it's good ... but we just need to be consistent all around, in all aspects of the game."
That begins with Sanchez, who hasn't started against the Red Sox but made five relief appearances against them in 2014 and allowed one run in five innings.
Although the right-hander didn't get off to a good start with a rough outing at Baltimore on April 11 - he was yanked after 3 1-3 innings - he's tossed 5 1-3 in each of his last two starts and appears to be righting himself.
He took the loss April 16 against Tampa Bay, giving up three runs and five hits in Toronto's 4-2 defeat before allowing just two hits and two runs in a 4-2 home win over the Orioles on Wednesday.