Kelly impressive in Red Sox 3-1 loss to Pirates

Mar 14, 2016; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly (56) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2016; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly (56) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Outstanding Joe Kelly pitching and a Pablo Sandoval home run were the only Red Sox highlights in a loss.

Joe Kelly has been good this spring and today at Jet Blue Park in Ft. Myers Kelly was outstanding with four impressive shutout innings in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates that featured a Pablo Sandoval home run and many missed Red Sox opportunities.

Vaz Gets Tested

Christian Vazquez was tested in the first inning by Gregory Polanco (1-3, R, SB) who was on via a force play. Despite his size, Polanco swiped 27 bases in 37 attempts in 2015 and the attempt in the first was also successful. The end result was a runner left in scoring position when Kelly retired Jason Rogers (1-3, R) on a fly ball.

The Red Sox demonstrated that they are certainly capable of one-upmanship in RISP situations.

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In the last of the frame, Dustin Pedroia slammed a one-out double and David Ortiz followed with a hard single to right to put runners on the corners. Up stepped Xander Bogaerts and a ball back to Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong for a double play.

The Panda Strikes Back

In the second inning with one gone up stepped Sandoval (2-3, R, RBI, HR) and he blasted one off his former Giants teammate for a right-field home run. No doubt Panda has been reading the articles du jour on BSI hammering away at his performance. Rusney Castillo ( 1-2, BB) and Jackie Bradley (1-3) finished off the inning with routine fly balls. Panda attempted to give it back in the fourth with a fielding error, but Kelly took care of that with a three pitch K on Gift Ngoepe.

Kelly Calls It A Day

Remember that Kelly that won eight straight starts in 2015? That was the Kelly that was on the mound today. Four innings of shutout and three hit ball. Three strikeouts, a walk and a hit batter. Kelly got a key strikeout with two on and two out in the third. Granted, it was a minor league player, but Kelly did the job. Kelly is certainly climbing the depth charts with this performance.

Matt Barnes replaced Kelly for a quick top of the fifth and Red Sox bats came alive against new Giants pitcher left-hander Kyle Lobstein. Singles by Castillo and Bradley were enhanced by a wild pitch putting runners on second and third. Vaz could not take advantage of the opportunity with a strike out but could Mookie Betts? No – as Betts also fanned. Pedroia – with two doubles on his stat sheet – was gifted a complimentary walk to load the bases. Ortiz hit a ground out and another three runners left on base.

Pirates Break Through

The Red Sox brought out Brian Johnson for his scheduled appearance and bad things now come in four as in four straight Pirate singles. Polanco, Rogers, Matt Joyce and an RBI single by Jake Goebbert brought the hook for Johnson and the entry of 33-year-old veteran right-hander Carlos Marmol. Marmol became a pitching Houdini by retiring the next two Pirates without another run scoring, but even Houdini sometimes failed. A two-run single by Pedro Florimon – a career .199 hitter – scored two and gave the Pirates a 3-1 edge.

Red Sox Go Quietly

Hanley Ramirez started off the last of the sixth with a one-out single. Sandoval added his own single and Castillo walked to once again load the bases for Boston. Hot-hitting Bradley missed his opportunity with a pop up leaving the run producing task to light hitting Sandy Leon.  Another bases jammed ground out and another lost offensive opportunity.

The ninth brought some excitement as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn disguised as Daniel Bard entered the game. Bard in another life was considered the Red Sox closer of the future until struck by a case of Steve Blass disease and found the plate to be about the size of a postage stamp. Not this time as Bard tossed a clear inning with a whiff. Just maybe he will turn it around?

Next: Red Sox: What to think about the pitching staff

Game Notes:

* Game time temperature in Boston was 42 degrees.
* The Kelly – Vogelsong match-up was a repeat of last week when they were opposing starters.
* Nice play by Bradley to double-up a runner in the second.
* The Pirates choose to play without a DH.
* Marco Hernandez leads the Red Sox in doubles (5) and runs (6) this spring.
* After his home run Sandoval went down on three straight strikes.
* Travis Shaw leads the Red Sox spring hit parade (12) and home run derby (2).

Joe Kelly. STARTING PITCHING . A. . Game Ball

Very impressive performance that saw the ball stay in the park despite five fly ball outs. When faced with a RISP situation Kelly let the runners languish. Any questions about his arm appear to be answered. The final tally was four innings, no runs, three hits, a walk, three strike outs and one nicked batter.

B. . Game Ball. Matt Barnes. RELIEF PITCHING

Barnes (1 IP, 2 K) has not allowed a run this spring. Johnson ( 0 IP, 4 H, 3 R) should be making housing arrangements in the Pawtucket area. Marmol (1 IP, H) gave up a big hit with two outs.

Pat Light

(1 IP, H) tossed a respectable inning.

Sean O’Sullivan

(2 IP, 2 H, 3 K) closed out the Boston work for the day. Overall a decent performance by anyone not named Johnson.

Game Ball. Pablo Sandoval. OFFENSE . D.

Two doubles by Pedroia. Panda a pair of hits and a home run. Castillo a hit and still well above .300. The Red Sox certainly had their opportunities and managed to do nothing. A 1-9 RISP and 9 LOB.