Red Sox

Kelly channels Pedro with an undefeated month

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Kelly channels Pedro with an undefeated month

NEW YORK -- Joe Kelly just finished a fantastic August -- mostly because he's currently pitching nothing like he was in April, May and June. 

For the second straight outing, Kelly established a career high with 7 1/3 innings, limiting the New York Mets to a single run on five hits while directing the Red Sox to a 3-1 victory.

It was Kelly's sixth win in as many starts this month, as he became the first Red Sox starter since Pedro Martinez in May of 1999 to win six starts in one month.

In that span, he's compiled a 2.68 ERA.

Subtract the first start of the month, when Kelly gave up five runs against Tampa but managed a win because of strong run support, and the number is even more impressive - he's got a 2.06 ERA.

The turnaround isn't much of a mystery. After relying too much on his fastball earlier in the year, Kelly has learned to better utilize his secondary stuff to keep hitters off balance.

"Earlier in the year, maybe he was just a thrower,” said Torey Lovullo, "trying to throw fastballs, trying to throw balls past guys. And we know that's not going to happen at this level. He's started to pitch. He's come a long way. He's developed some pitches. The confidence is there and he's got three, sometimes four, active pitches to left- and right-handed pitchers at any time. And that's very lethal.”

The afternoon didn't begin well for Kelly, who had to battle out of a first-and-third jam in the first inning, needing 30 pitches to get the first three outs. 

That type of inefficiency plagued Kelly earlier in the year, too. But he settled in and got the next 19 outs on just 72 pitches, including a stretch that saw him face one batter over the minimum from the second through the sixth.

"Those guys came out, having really, really good at-bats, fouling pitches off,'' said Kelly. "It was tough. After the first inning, it was something we talked about -- try to be more efficient and get some early contact and it ended up working out.''

Kelly credited improved command of his fastball and a plus changeup to keep the Mets unsettled. The changeup, in fact, was so effective that he felt good enough to throw five in a row in one at-bat against Kelly Johnson.

"It's been a point of emphasis lately that, no matter what team we're facing, I have to throw the off-speed,'' said Kelly. "Earlier in the year, I was just throwing all fastballs and obviously that didn't work out. So we've been trying to get the hitters off the fastball.'' 

David Ortiz, who was out of the lineup with a sore heel, got to watch Kelly from the dugout most of the afternoon and couldn't help notice the difference from what he saw earlier this year.

“He's got me super-excited about next year already,'' said Ortiz. "You watch him pitch now and he's doing what the greatest normally do – keeping hitters off balance. Watching him pitch today and it was outstanding. He definitely is (a different pitcher than before) and he's going to keep improving.''

Here's the rule that had Alex Cora hopping mad -- until he realized the umpires hadn't gotten it wrong after all

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File photo

Here's the rule that had Alex Cora hopping mad -- until he realized the umpires hadn't gotten it wrong after all

Alex Cora needed to be separated from home plate umpire Jeremie Rehak by coaches after Tuesday night/Wednesday morning's marathon 17-inning loss to the Twins, but it only took one look at the replay for the manager to admit he was wrong.

Cora and other members of the Red Sox, most notably right-hander Rick Porcello, were incensed after Eddie Rosario fouled off a bunt attempt with one out in the 17th. Catcher Sandy Leon immediately pointed at the batter's suggesting Rosario had stepped out before making contact, which would have been an automatic out.

Cora asked Rehak to consult with the rest of the crew and third base umpire Mark Wegner agreed that no violation had occurred. Cora complained bitterly before Rosario doubled the winning run to third. Two batters later, the Twins prevailed on Max Kepler's walk-off single.

Only after the game did Cora realize that Rosario, who had slid to the front of the box while awkwardly trying to bunt against the shift, didn't actually do anything illegal.

"I want to apologize to the umpires," Cora told reporters in Minnesota. "Obviously, emotions take over. I look at the replay, and Eddie wasn't off the batter's box. They did an outstanding job for how long (the game) was. Just one of those, it's tough to swallow. You see it and the emotions take over, but it was out of character. That was my fault."

Rule 6.06 (a) states that a batter is out for illegal action if, "he hits a ball with one or both feet on the ground entirely outside the batter's box." Upon video review, the left-handed Rosario's front foot clearly does not leave the box until after the ball leaves his bat. At the moment of contact, his heel is on the line.

So, Cora did the right thing and apologized.

"I look on the video and he wasn't," Cora told reporters. "They were right and I was wrong."

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Red Sox lose marathon 17-inning game to Twins, so pull up a chair, because there's a lot to dissect

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AP Images

Red Sox lose marathon 17-inning game to Twins, so pull up a chair, because there's a lot to dissect

While you were sleeping, the Red Sox and Twins played one hell of a baseball game on Tuesday night.

You want a little bit of everything? We've got a little bit of everything.

Minnesota prevailed 4-3 in 17 innings after 5 hours and 45 minutes in the longest game in both innings and time in the nine-year history of Target Field in Minneapolis and the Red Sox' longest since their epic, 18-inning loss to the Dodgers in the World Series. This finish did not lack for controversy. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and right-hander Rick Porcello screamed at the umpiring crew over a foul bunt by Eddie Rosario in the final frame when it looked like he made contact while stepping out of the batter's box, though Cora later apologized.

The Twins walked it off on Max Kepler's single into the right-field corner. But between Miguel Pineda's first pitch at 8:10 p.m. and Brian Johnson's last just moments before 2 a.m., a week's worth of action occurred.

"There was a lot of stuff weird in this game," Cora told reporters, later adding, "we'll build from this. I know that for a fact."

Let's dive in!

  • So about that Rosario bunt. Cora and catcher Sandy Leon believed he had made contact after leaving the box, but replays showed that not to be the case, which Cora acknowledged in his postgame apology. It's easy to understand why the Red Sox wanted the out, because Rosario then doubled to right to put runners at second and third with one out. 

  • David Price lasted only five innings and 73 pitches, departing in a 1-1 tie. The Red Sox announced that his absence had nothing to do with anything physical, but it still makes you wonder. Price was obviously worlds better than his last start, when he recorded only four outs vs. the Rangers, but he lacked his best stuff, recording just two strikeouts. Cora told reporters that the plan had been to limit Price's innings from the start. 

  • It's hard to say which slugger had the rougher night -- J.D. Martinez or Miguel Sano. The Red Sox DH went 0 for 8 for the first time in his career and struck out five times, including in the 17th with no outs and the go-ahead run on first. The Twins third baseman went 0 for 7 with five punchouts of his own and stranded five baserunners.

  • The Red Sox stayed in the game with some outstanding defense. Catcher Christian Vazquez picked off Twins counterpart Mitch Garver at third base for the first out of the sixth, snuffing the first-and-third rally. Center fielder Jackie Bradley added to his legend with an absurd over-the-shoulder catch while leaping into the center field wall like Spiderman to rob Jorge Polanco of possibly three bases in the eighth. First baseman Michael Chavis snared a C.J. Cron line drive and doubled off Eddie Rosario following a leadoff double in the 15th. Xander Bogaerts made a tremendous throw from deep in the hole. Mookie Betts briefly stranded the eventual winning run at third with a perfect relay. The defense gave the Red Sox every opportunity to win.

  • The bats? Another story. The Red Sox went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and worked just two walks. They recorded 17 hits, but stranded 14 runners. Every regular except Betts and Chavis recorded at least two hits; unfortunately, almost none of them were timely.

  • The beleaguered bullpen delivered a no-name tour de force. The Red Sox used nine pitchers, including fifth starter Brian Johnson, who entered in the 17th when Hector Velazquez couldn't continue after a recurrence of the back injury that had disabled him since May 29. The Red Sox received scoreless outings from Mike Shawaryn, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, and Colten Brewer.

  • The box score will show four one-run innings with three strikeouts for Velazquez. The box score does not tell the story. The Twins hit rockets right at defenders. Per Baseball Savant, the expected batting average on five of his outs were .520, .430, .620, .480, .510. That might've had something to do with the fact that Velazquez started grabbing his back midway through the outing. He may end up back on the IL.

  • Defending MVP Mookie Betts delivered one of his first legitimately dramatic hits of the season, a solo homer in the 13th. Unfortunately, Kepler matched him with a solo blast of his own in the bottom of the frame.

  • Months after losing an 18-inning World Series marathon before rebounding to sweep the next two games and claim a championship, the Red Sox hope to be similarly inspired before Wednesday's finale. Cora praised the energy in the dugout and the fact that everyone was engaged.

 

The teams have about 18 hours to recover before first pitch in Wednesday's finale.

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