Joe Kelly shook off a subpar 2018 MLB season and put together a dominant run for the Boston Red Sox that culminated with one impressive showing after another against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
It led to a three-year, $25 million contract with the Dodgers in a free agency period that otherwise saw lucrative deals that were few and far between. Kelly was touted as being capable to pitch in an array of situations, but his tenure with the Dodgers has left plenty to be desired.
That changed for at least one night on Wednesday, when the right-hander entered in the ninth inning and with a 9-4 lead. Kelly retired the Atlanta Braves in order, marking only the fourth time in 14 appearances he’s worked a clean inning.
“Joe was really sharp. I was happy to give him the game. Obviously, the life to the fastball and location was on point,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“The curveball was sharp and down in the zone, he got ahead with it. Changeup was really good to Joyce. It was good to see him get ahead, work in all three of his pitches and just attack.”
On the season, Kelly still boasts an inflated 9.42 ERA, 4.60 FIP and 1.81 WHIP. He did put together consecutive scoreless appearances prior to facing the San Diego Padres last weekend, in a game that saw Kelly removed after only retiring one of five batters.
Roberts attributed the rough outing to Kelly’s ongoing lack of command, but reiterated the club would continue to find moments for the veteran to work himself into form. Roberts voiced a similar sentiment after Wednesday’s win.
“Joe has pitched in leverage, obviously last year, and like I said before the game, for us to win a championship we need Joe Kelly to get back to himself,” he said. “Tonight was a step in the right direction.”
Roberts’ unwavering trust is not unique to Kelly. He most notably stuck by Pedro Baez during trying times, and Chris Taylor throughout an inconsistent 2018 campaign and uneven start to this season.
Both players have rewarded Roberts’ faith of late, and Kelly joining them would be a significant boon for the Dodgers.