NEW YORK — Joe Kelly left Yankee Stadium in the top of the 10th inning on Friday night, going back to the team hotel in midtown Manhattan to get some sleep before his start against the Yankees on Saturday afternoon.
The game was still going on when he fell asleep and the first thing Kelly did after waking up was to check his phone. He was shocked to see it went 19 innings before the Sox won.
“Holy crud,” Kelly said.
Kelly knew then he had to go deep into his start. The Sox used every reliever they had in the marathon game and do not have a day off until Thursday. How Kelly pitched was sure to influence the team, positively or negatively, for several days.
“Being the starter that day, pitch good or pitch bad, you want to try to try and pitch 100 pitches at a minimum,” Kelly said. “It’s something starters take pride in, trying to save the bullpen.”
That’s why Kelly had so many teammates coming up to thank him after the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 8-4. The righthander allowed one run on one hit over seven innings, retiring the final 17 batters he faced.
Kelly struck out a career-best eight and walked only two as the 4-1 Red Sox won their third straight. They didn’t have a three-game win streak until the end of May last season.
By the time Kelly came off the mound after throwing 93 pitches, the Sox had a seven-run lead and only six outs to get. When the day started, manager John Farrell hoped Kelly would provide six innings and 85 pitches.
“He was outstanding,” Farrell said.
Kelly allowed a run in the second inning when the Yankees strung together a hit, two walks, and a sacrifice fly. From there, he shut them down. Kelly needed only 62 pitches over his last five innings.
“When you’re in that groove you don’t want to try to overthrow,” he said. “Mentally you’ve got to tell yourself, ‘This working right now.’ ”
Beyond the immediate impact, Kelly showed that the Red Sox rotation is a deep one. He hit 96 miles per hour with his fastball into the seventh inning and showed command of his secondary pitches.
It’s only one turn through, but Sox starters have a 2.30 earned run average and have struck out 34 over 31⅓ innings.
“You want to be the guy who keeps the run going,” said Clay Buchholz, who starts Sunday night. “[Kelly] was able to do something today that the team needed pretty desperately. It should give him a lot of confidence. His stuff was pretty electric.”
Catcher Ryan Hanigan, who has ably replaced the injured Christian Vazquez, said Kelly was fun to catch because of the options he presented. His slider was unusually sharp, and as the game went on his changeup improved.
Kelly had a biceps strain in spring training and came off the disabled list to make the start. Only a few days ago, the Red Sox were planning to have him pitch in a Single A game Saturday to build more arm strength.
Instead Kelly beat the Yankees for the third time in as many starts since the Red Sox acquired him from the Cardinals last season.
“It was awesome,” Hanigan said. “Guys are picking everyone up on this team.”
Most of the Sox players arrived at the ballpark just before 11 a.m. Batting practice was canceled and warmups were minimal.
“It was almost like a football schedule, not a baseball one,” said Farrell, who got three hours of sleep.
The Sox started Brock Holt in center field with Allen Craig in right and Daniel Nava in left. Center fielder Mookie Betts and left fielder Hanley Ramirez got a day off after going the distance on Friday.
“Trying to get as many fresh legs on the field as possible,” Farrell said.
It paid off. Holt was 4 for 5 with a run scored and three RBIs. Nava was 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs. Dustin Pedroia, who showed up at the park before everybody else, drove in two runs.
“Just be ready to play every day. I was ready to go today,” Holt said. “John gave me the word last night that I’d be in there in center so I was able to sleep on it, kind of get ready. I was fortunate to have a good day.”
Nava made several tough plays appear routine. Craig took a hit away from J.R. Murphy in the fifth inning with a sliding catch going toward the foul line. They helped Kelly’s efficiency.
In the eighth inning, the Red Sox appeared to go in order. But Farrell challenged a tag play at first base on Nava and the third out was taken off the board.
With Nava on first, Xander Bogaerts singled and Hanigan walked. Holt followed with a double to right field and three runs scored.
Trailing, 8-1, the Yankees got a three-run homer by Chris Young off Alexi Ogando. But Anthony Varvaro and Robbie Ross Jr. finished the Yankees off.
“I’m tired but I feel great. We needed that,” Pedroia said. “A big part of winning is starting pitching, especially today. Joe gave us everything he had.”