BOSTON (CBS) — Making his first appearance in New York since starting a benches clearing brawl with the Yankees last month, Joe Kelly knew the boos were coming.
And boy did they come. Kelly was greeted by a smattering of scorn from the 45,000+ on hand at Yankee Stadium when he came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning. The chorus of hate went from the time the bullpen door opened through the righty’s warm-up pitches.
Kelly has been public enemy No. 1 in New York since he plunked Tyler Austin with a fastball at Fenway Park. It was retaliation for Austin spiking Brock Holt at second base earlier in the game, and ignited a benches clearing brawl between the two rivals. Kelly was hit with a six-game suspension for his role in the matter, while Austin was banned for five games.
On Tuesday night, the Yankees won Round 2 against the Boston reliever.
Kelly found himself with no wiggle room when he entered the game for Heath Hembree in the bottom of the seventh. There was a Yankee at every base, only one out and Aaron Judge was at the plate. It took only three pitches for those New York jeers to turn to cheers, as Judge laced an RBI single to left. It proved to be the difference in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory.
Gleybar Torres was thrown out at home on Judge’s single, and Kelly got Didi Gregorious on a comebacker to end the inning with only one run crossing the plate. Based on the situation Kelly entered, allowing just one run was a bit of a win for the Red Sox. It could have easily been a lot worse with the heart of New York’s order due up with the bases loaded and only one out.
Kelly, who allowed just the one hit during his 1.1 innings on Tuesday, didn’t mind the cold reception he received. He said it added to the game’s playoff feel.
“It was good. It was fine. Probably more of a playoff atmosphere. Any time you pitch in the playoffs it’s fun,” he said, via the Boston Globe. “When I’m on the mound, I’m worried about my pitching. You don’t really see anything else.”
As an outspoken player who is always willing to stand up for a teammate, Kelly is used to that kind of welcome from opposing fans.
“Nothing I hadn’t heard before,” he said.
Kelly has been one of Boston’s most reliable relievers this season, allowing just four earned runs in his 15.2 innings while striking out 17.