Joe Kelly

Game 51 Recap: Rangers 4, Red Sox 3

In a season rife with disappointment, Sunday’s loss to the Texas Rangers ranks near the top. The 2015 Boston Red Sox might just not be a very good team.

Top Play (WPA): Josh Hamilton’s walk-off two-RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off of Koji Uehara wins this distinction, oddly enough (.800 … seriously). I’m sure John Farrell will get heat for deciding to intentionally walk Prince Fielder, thereby putting the winning run on base, but I’m not sure we can say it was the wrong call, even though it clearly didn’t work out.

The next-best plays came courtesy of Xander Bogaerts singling home Hanley Ramirez in the top of the sixth (.157), followed by Hanser Alberto reaching base in the ninth thanks to a Pablo Sandoval error (.134) and Adrian Beltre singling home Shin-Soo Choo in the bottom of the third (.116).

Bottom Play (WPA): This goes to Choo grounding out in the bottom of the ninth inning (-.119), making the last out the Rangers would make on Sunday. Sigh. The next worst play comes courtesy of Leonys Martin grounding out to first with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third (-.088).

Tied for third place: Mike Napoli striking out in the third (-.064) and Rusney Castillo (-.064) flying out to short in the third.

Key Moment: Shut up about it already.

(Boston’s inability to get Betts home in the top of the ninth looms as a key moment as well, as does Sandoval’s error.)

Trend to Watch: With his starting spot in the rotation likely on the line, Kelly did just enough to survive. Was he much better than his abysmal outing against the Twins last week? Sure. That being said, it would’ve been nearly impossible for him to be any worse. Perhaps no one put it better than the inimitable Tim Britton, who in his game story from yesterday writes: “In Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Rangers, Kelly did not exactly seize the bull by the horns, but neither was he gored by it.”

Kelly ditched his slider and used his curveball and changeup more, and while he only made it through five innings, he also only allowed one earned run. Kelly struck out three and walked two and allowed six hits, which means there were plenty of Twins on base all game. Let’s not confuse this with a dominant start by any stretch, but at the same time, Kelly gave an effort that’s acceptable by No.5 starter standards.

Is Kelly one of the best five starting options in the organization? It’s still hard to feel that way after this game, even if he has among the most upside of any of the candidates. There’s something very tempting about putting him in the bullpen — a unit that clearly needs help as well — and giving his starts to Eduardo Rodriguez or even Brian Johnson. Kelly’s next three or four starts could, and quite frankly should, go a long way toward determining the ultimate role he’ll occupy in Boston. The soon-to-be 27-year-old has 51 professional starts at this point, so it’s not like he hasn’t been given a fair shot.

Another trend to watch is this pattern the Sox have fallen into where they keep scoring fewer runs than the opposition. It’s not going great.

Coming Next: The Red Sox play host to the Minnesota Twins, the team that just swept them in Minnesota last week. They have Clay Buchholz going up against Mike Pelfrey tomorrow — a matchup you’d think would favor Boston — but it’s really tough to count on the Sox offense to score against anyone right now. The Twins are pretty much the anti-Red Sox in that no one picked them to do anything before the season and you look at their roster and think, “wow, they’re overachieving.”

Somehow, despite all this, the Red Sox are still only four games back in the lowly AL East. They can only rely on the failings of their peers for so often, however. They’re getting close to digging themselves into a hole that it will be very, very difficult to climb out of.

Photo by Jim Cowsert/USA Today Sports Images

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