ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals drafted them in 2009, one in the first round and the other in the third. They became teammates a year later, pitching for a Single A team in Iowa at a small ballpark overlooking the Mississippi River.
The two righthanders moved up quickly, overmatching hitters in Florida, Missouri and Tennessee before getting to the majors in 2012, one just a few months ahead of the other.
Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller became such good friends they were in each other’s weddings a week apart last November after helping the Cardinals get to the World Series.
Miller was the No. 4 starter to start this season with Kelly going a day later.
“We played together six years,” Kelly said a few days ago. “You think it’s always going to be that way.”
Their respective general managers had different plans. The Cardinals traded Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig to the Red Sox last week. Kelly’s next start came on Wednesday night against the Cardinals and his old buddy Miller.
Both pitched well but were finished before the game was decided with the Red Sox winning, 2-1.
Xander Bogaerts drove in both runs with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning the difference.
Junichi Tazawa (2-3) went an inning for the win. Koji Uehara allowed two hits in the ninth inning but held on for his 23d save.
Kelly and Miller matched each other pitch for pitch. Kelly had an impressive debut with the Sox, allowing one run on three hits over seven innings. He walked four, struck out two and threw 97 pitches.
It was Kelly’s best performance since coming off the disabled list July 11 after missing nearly three months recovering from a groin strain.
Miller allowed one run on four hits over seven innings. He walked one, struck out four, and threw 88 pitches.
St. Louis fans, ever loyal, cheered Kelly when he came out of the dugout to warm up. There was a standing ovation when he took the mound in the first inning and louder and more prolonged cheers when he came to the plate to lead off the third inning.
“Definitely hard to put in words,” Kelly said. “Got a whole standing ovation before I even started stretching. The Cardinal fans are so incredibly awesome. My heart started beating fast.”
St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal (1-6) had a rough ninth inning. Yoenis Cespedes led off with a single and took third on Mike Napoli’s second double of the night.
David Ortiz pinch hit and was intentionally walked. Bogaerts was next and he swung at the first pitch, driving it deep to center. All three runners tagged up, with Cespedes scoring.
Bogaerts came into the game hitting .120 with 13 RBIs in 104 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
“I thought he wanted to get ahead of me with a fastball so he could use his offspeed pitches,” Bogaerts said. “I just went up there and I geared on the fastball.”
It was the third win in 14 games for the Red Sox. The Cardinals, who started the night leading in the National League wild-card race, had a three-game win streak snapped.
The Cardinals scored their only run against Kelly in the first inning. Matt Carpenter led off with a double to right field and scored on a two-out single by Matt Adams.
Former Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski singled to start the second inning for St. Louis. Oscar Taveras then drew a walk. But Kelly kept a 95 mile-per-hour fastball down and Jon Jay grounded into a double play.
Miller drew a walk to extend the inning. Carpenter hit the ball hard again but Bogaerts made a diving stop and flipped the ball to Dustin Pedroia at second base to end the inning. The play saved a run.
Kelly finished his outing retiring nine of the final 10 batters he faced. Kelly got 16 outs on the ground.
“Joe was outstanding,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “Three quality pitches for strikes. After the first couple of base hits in the first inning, he settles down.”
The Red Sox encouraged Kelly to use his curveball more often than he did while with the Cardinals this season. That complemented his fastball.
Kelly also showed some perseverance. He was hit on the right thigh by a line drive off the bat of Taveras in the fourth inning, but made the play at first.
Kelly was checked out several times by the trainers but stayed in the game.
“It definitely left some seams there and a little swelling,” Kelly said. “I wanted to pitch and I didn’t want to come out of that game at all. It was there every single time I let go of the ball but I just wanted to be in there. It was my first start for the Red Sox and I wanted to go out there and gut it out.”
The Sox tied the score with two outs in the fourth inning. Daniel Nava singled and scored on a double to left field by Bogaerts. The ball should have been caught at the fence by left fielder Matt Holluiday, who was in position to make the play, put his glove up, but missed the ball.
The Red Sox did not threaten again against Miller, who was pinch hit for in the seventh inning.
Facing reliever Sam Freeman, Mookie Betts led off the eighth inning with an infield single, the ball deflecting off Adams, the first baseman. But the Red Sox kicked away that opportunity.
Will Middlebrooks pinch hit for Kelly and tried to bunt. He popped up the ball and Freeman let it drop so he could get the out at second.
Middlebrooks looked uncertain about the bunt, taking a pitch before his unsuccessful attempt.
Middlebrooks had one sacrifice in 192 previous major league games. Kelly had eight in his career. But Kelly, at that point, was “already out of the game,” according to Farrell.
Brock Holt followed with a single. Facing righthander Seth Maness, Pedroia had a chance to give the Red Sox a lead but grounded back to the mound. Maness started a double play to end the inning.