As a member of the Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester was known for dependability. Even on nights when Lester did not have his "A" stuff, the Boston ace was able to keep things together, go six innings and keep his team in the ballgame.
Though he was not acquired in the same deal for Lester, Joe Kelly has done his best impression of the left-hander that Red Sox Nation has missed since his departure on the trade deadline.
After a brilliant seven-inning outing against his former team in St. Louis last week, Kelly was back on the road - and in a National League park - on Tuesday night. And, like his first start in a Boston uniform, Kelly overcame some early damage to hang around long enough to put together his second quality start in as many outings.
Kelly did not get the win on Tuesday night, but he pitched well enough to give his team a chance to comeback in the late innings, which is exactly what the Red Sox did. Boston walked out of Great American Ballpark 3-2 winners in game one of a quick two-game series.
Kelly gave up his only run in the first inning of his first start at Busch Stadium; and he did the same against the Reds. Cincinnati hit the Boston starter for a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Both runs went up on the board before Kelly could get a single out.
Red Sox down early
It started with a walk to Billy Hamilton, who immediately caused havoc on the base paths. Hamilton stole second and then moved to third on an error by catcher Christian Vazquez. Jay Bruce followed with a walk and then both Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco delivered RBI singles. Frazier's knock scored Hamilton and then Mesoraco's plated Bruce. Kelly faced a two man on, no out situation in the bottom of the first with two runs already in, but he would not surrender a single run from there. He quickly induced a double play from Bryan Pena and struck out Chris Heisey to escape the inning. And then everything was smooth sailing from there.
Kelly walked just one more Red all night and allowed three more hits in his next five innings of work. He didn't find much more trouble from a lineup without sluggers Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. The problem was that his team could not score him any runs. But that changed in the seventh.
Offense comes alive
Though Kelly was already out of the game, Boston's offense got him off the hook for the loss when Xander Bogaerts singled home a run. That came against Mat Latos and then Jonathan Broxton gave up the lead the very next inning.
Yoenis Cespedes hit his second home run with the Red Sox with a two-run blast to give his team a 3-2 lead. Cespedes' first home run came in the team's last game on Sunday when another eighth inning long ball put his team in front.
The offensive output did not come in time to get Kelly the win, but the Red Sox moved to 2-0 in his starts - both against NL Central opponents. If he can sure up the first inning, Kelly could emerge as real tough opposition for just about any team in the big leagues.
He's scheduled to make his next start Sunday against the Houston Astros.