Boston Red Sox (2014-2018)
2014 Season – Traded
Joe Kelly started the 2014 season with the St. Louis Cardinals. He made 7 starts with the Cardinals before being traded, along with Allen Craig, to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher John Lackey and minor leaguer Corey Littrell at the MLB trade deadline.
His first start with Boston came on August 6, six days after he was traded. The start was against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Against his old club, he pitched 7 innings and allowed only 1 run. The St. Louis crowd welcomed Kelly back with a standing ovation less than one week after he was traded.
Kelly made 10 starts in all for the Sox after the trade. During that time, he lead the team in quality starts down the stretch. Despite his quality run, he didn’t end up recording his first win with the Red Sox until September 2. Including that win, Kelly ended his season by recording wins in 4 of his 5 September starts, which was tops on the staff.
He finished the 2014 season with a 9-8 record and a 4.20 ERA in 17 starts between St. Louis and Boston.
First Career Stolen Base
During the 2014 season with Boston, Joe Kelly recorded his first career stolen base. The feat came on August 12 against the Reds at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
After singling the third inning, he advanced to second base on a bunt. On a 3-0 pitch to Dustin Pedroia, he took off running for third base and made it in without a throw.
That stolen base was the first swiped bag for a Red Sox pitcher since Bill Landis 9/8/1969. Moreover, it was the first steal of third base since Tom Brewer on 7/30/1959.
In his first full season with Boston in 2015, Kelly set career highs in starts with 25, innings pitched with 134.1, and strikeouts with 110. He accumulated a 10-6 record with a 4.82 ERA.
After starting the season on the DL with a biceps strain, het was still able to make 4 starts in April. Kelly made it through 14 starts before being optioned to AAA-Pawtucket to work on some mechanical issues. In 4 starts with Pawtucket, he went 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA before being recalled for an August 22 start.
Kelly came on strong in the second half of the season, winning 8 starts in a row, including all 6 starts in August. Those 8 consecutive wins made him the first Red Sox pitcher to achieve the feat since Pedro Martinez in 1999.
The Red Sox did not make the playoffs in 2015.
After a strong showing in spring training 2016 (3-1, 2.63 ERA), Kelly struggled in his first 3 starts before succumbing to a shoulder injury. The highlight of his first half of the season came on his first start back from the disabled list. Facing the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park in Boston, Kelly took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning.
He spent the season bouncing between the Red Sox, the DL, and AAA Pawtucket.
While he struggled as a starter when up with the big club in Boston, Kelly’s relief splits were quite impressive.
- As a starter, he pitched to a 2-0 record with a 8.46 ERA in 6 games.
- However, when coming out of the bullpen, he pitched to a 2-0 record with a 1.02 ERA in 14 games.
Joe Kelly made his final career start on June 1. That game was in Baltimore against the Orioles. He allowed 7 runs in 2.1 IP before being removed and subsequently optioned to AAA Pawtucket to work through some mechanical issues.
In a season to forget, Kelly ended up with a 4-0 record and 5.18 ERA in 20 games (6 starts). However, in his final 11 appearances between September and October, he went 2-0 and allowed 1 run in 14 innings pitched (good for a .64 ERA). The dominant run helped salvage his season, and earned him a spot on the playoff roster.
2016 also saw Joe Kelly make his return to postseason baseball for the first time since 2013. Pitching exclusively in relief for the Red Sox, it was also the first time he had made a relief appearance since 2012.
The Sox were swept by the Cleveland Indians in 3 games in the American League Division Series. Kelly appeared in each of the 3 games and pitched a total of 3.2 innings while striking out 3 batters. Moreover, he didn’t give up any earned runs, which started a stretch where Kelly didn’t allow a postseason earned run to score until the 5th inning of game 4 in the 2018 ALCS.
Kelly spent the entire 2017 campaign as a reliever and had arguably his best season while setting up Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. In 54 games, he had a 2.79 ERA and 14 games finished in 58 innings. He also had a stretch of 22 scoreless innings from May 1 through July 9. He hit the DL with a left hamstring strain on July 15. Had a 1.19 ERA on the road, good for second in the AL, and fourth in MLB.
Joe also established career marks in batting average allowed (.202), on-base percentage (.294), and slugging percentage (.279). His career-best 15 game unbeaten streak was snapped on July 9th in Tampa Bay.
The Red Sox made the postseason again in 2017, and Joe Kelly was a fireman relief pitcher in the ALDS against the Houston Astros. He appeared in 2 games and tossed 2.2 scoreless innings. Joe earned his first career postseason win in game 3, the lone win for Boston in the postseason.
Kelly appeared in a career high 73 games, which was tied for fourth most appearances in the American League. In a season where he picked up his first career save — on April 1 at Tampa Bay — he had stretches of dominance. Once example is a run where Kelly allowed only 1 run in 24 games between April 1 to May 29.
However, during that stretch, he incited a bench-clearing brawl. On April 11 against the New York Yankees, ultimately receiving a 6-game suspension for the incident. During his suspension, Joe took in a game with the fans at Fenway Park.
He finished with a 4.39 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched. He was scored on in only 18 of 73 games.
The Red Sox faced the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. Joe Kelly appeared in only one game, but pitched 2.1, 1-hit innings in game 2 at Fenway Park. Boston defeated New York 3-1.
Next facing the defending world champion Houston Astros, Kelly appeared in 3 games, picking up a win and a loss while allowing 2 runs, one earned. Boston defeated Houston to advance to the World Series.
Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, Joe Kelly had a performance for the ages. He appeared in all 5 games for Boston, while allowing no runs in 6 innings pitched. He struck out an impressive 10 batters and walked no one.
All told, Joe ended up with a 2-1 record, a 0.81 ERA, 13 Ks, and one pair of prescription glasses in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Kelly left Boston as a World Series Hero and as something of a cult legend. In postseason play, he allowed only 1 run in 17.2 innings pitched.