Three things learned from Red Sox 4-2 win over Orioles
1) Joe Kelly's start wasn't a thing of beauty, but give him credit for limiting the damage
By Sean McAdam
Kelly had baserunners everywhere, all the time - right from the first hitter of the game, a walk to Mike Rickard.
There would be more four more walks and seven hits before he was through five innings at 116 (!!) pitches.
But given that he was facing an Orioles team that was averaging almost six runs per game and had scored 18 in the last two games against Red Sox pitching, Kelly limiting them to two runs Wednesday was a victory in and of itself.
"I tried to limit the damage with guys on base,'' said Kelly.
He had plenty of experience, too, with not a single 1-2-3 inning among his five. But he expertly worked out of jams, and didn't allow the Orioles the kind of big innings they've been routinely enjoying.
"Joe made a number of big pitches with men on base,'' marveled John Farrell. "He battled. He got a couple of big strikeouts. Even when guys were in scoring position, Joe did not give in one bit here tonight.''
His high pitch count left the bullpen to handle the final four innings, but with an off-day Thursday, the Sox had the luxury of leaning on their three best relievers -- Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel - to guide them through the final four frames.
2) Craig Kimbrel's bounce back was impressive
Kimbrel suffered a ninth-inning meltdown Monday, allowing three runs on a mammoth homer into the center field bleachers by Chris Davis, and like most closers who suffer a similar fate, was eager to get back on the mound and make good on that poor outing.
He did so with style in the ninth. Protecting a two-run lead, he faced the same three batters Wednesday that he got Monday, but this time, overpowered them and struck out Joey Rickard, Manny Machado, and in a bit of irony, Davis himself for the final out of the game.
"You can't script that,'' said Joe Kelly. "You've got Davis out there It was good to see that line right back up. Day off, and right back at the guy who hit the homer off him the day before and struck him out on a really, really good slider.''
It was the 21st time in his major league career that Kimbrel faced just three batters in an inning and struck out all three.
Kimbrel may have done merely what he's supposed to do -- holding the lead and earning the save -- but the fact that he did it against two very tough hitters on an undefeated team, and did so just 48 hours or so after his highly-publicized slip-up during the home opener, had to send the right message.
"Honeslty, his stuff's electric,'' gushed catcher Ryan Hanigan.
3) Rusney Castillo being optioned to Pawtucket was a matter of time
In the first eight games, Castillo was in the starting lineup just once, and had only four at-bats. With Mookie Betts a fixture in right, Jackie Bradley hitting enough to maintain center field and Brock Holt and Chris Young splitting time in left, there were precious few opportunities for Castillo.
He'll be better playing regularly in Pawtucket, with the ability to come back and help out if there's an injury or performance issue with any of the current outfielders.
For now, the sizable investment in Castillo (six years, $72.5 million) looks like sunken money, but smartly, the Red Sox aren't looking at the money owed, but rather the big picture.
At this point, there's no guarantee that Castillo will have significantly contribute to the Red Sox -- or any other big league team, for that matter.
But given how little consistency he's shown and some sometimes questionable instincts he's displayed, more playing time can't be a bad thing.
It beats getting four at-bats every 10 days, for sure.