NEW YORK — Joe Kelly’s fastball to Aaron Judge came up as an incredible 104 mph on the Yankee Stadium radar gun. The only problem: it might not have been accurate.
The 2-2 heater was high with tail on the inner half, and awed those who happened to catch the reading. Judge, somehow, fouled the pitch back, and struck out on a slider one pitch later to end the seventh inning.
“It wasn't something I was trying to go up there and trying to blow it out. It was just heat of the moment, high-intensity situation,” Kelly said of the high reading. “Like I said, one of the best hitters in the league. Try to come at him with all my stuff that I have."
Kelly himself didn’t know what the radar gun said until David Price told him.
“That’s pretty amazing,” said closer Craig Kimbrel, who sometimes touches a mere 100 mph. “He’s an unbelievable athlete and I’m sure he’ll let us know about his 104 for the next week or so."
He might not want to do that.
Some time after the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Yankees, or toward the very end it, a pitch measured at 103.5 mph (and rounded up to 104) was downgraded to a 102.2 mph pitch. MLB’s Statcast measurements are available via Gameday on MLB.com.
Kelly said in a recent appearance on the CSNNE Baseball Show podcast that he isn’t awed by his velocity.
"I can get a sense, I mean especially at home, when you hear like, a little more cheers in the crowd," Kelly said on the podcast. "I'll peek every once in a while ... but mostly it's me going out there and just trying to see how the hitter reacts to the fastball.
"A lot of guys throw hard and stuff. I wouldn't say I'm in an exclusive fraternity inside of baseball. ... Not going out there thinking, hey, how many guys do this?"
Kelly’s super fastball Tuesday was the fifth pitch of the at-bat. His next pitch was 92.6 mph, per Gameday — and it was a slider, swung on and missed, on the low-outside corner. That was the end of the inning and preserved a 5-3 Red Sox lead at the time.
Judge was the potential tying run after a one-out walk from Kelly to Brett Gardner.
If Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister is right, then Kelly’s pushing the limits of the human arm.
“On average most guys can’t break 103,” Bannister said on the Baseball Show podcast. “But you see more guys getting closer to that on a more consistent basis around the league.”