We pick up the game with Joe Kelly needing to settle in a bit, after flirting with trouble in the last couple innings. To his credit, though, he’d done what Kelly so often does and avoided the proverbial “big inning” that opponent Zack Greinke succumbed to in the first inning.
The narrative with Kelly seems to always go back to pitch count. He doesn’t go deep into games. He’s pitched past the 6th inning just once before. His in-and-out of trouble style uses lots of pitches in a hurry. Even here, with just one run given up so far, social media and traditional media alike were ready to run with that same old headline: Kelly good, but not good enough.
He was 60 pitches into his second start back from the DL as the fourth inning began. As an unashamed Joe Kelly supporter, I was willing him to have a quick, shutdown inning. It was needed.
First things first — another showdown with (in)famous opponent, Scott Van Slyke. After a first pitch strike, Kelly worked his way around the outside of the strikezone with a couple pitches. His curveball wasn’t quite as sharp as he’d have liked to this point in the afternoon. But no worries. The 2-1 pitch to Van Slyke was lined to Matt Holliday who wandered a few steps to his right for an easy — and quick! — first out.
Kelly works quickly on the mound. It’s a welcome pace compared to some starters who lull you to sleep with the time they take between pitches.
The first pitch to Juan Uribe kept things moving right along. The fastball in on his hands was chopped back to Kelly who made the easy, underhand toss to Matt Adams at first.
Two down, in less than two minutes of play, and only five pitches. Hard to ask for any more efficiency than that!
It seems we’ve seen all too many innings, though, where the first two outs are easy as they come. That third out tends to be a pesky one. The Cardinals as a team have the 5th-best two-out ERA (3.71), but they’ve given up 81 runs with no outs and 122 with two outs. (Interestingly, they’ve given up 147 with just one out.)
Kelly, specifically, in just five starts has surrendered four runs with no outs, zero runs with one out, and five runs with two outs. In comparison, here’s the runs-by-outs for the rest of the rotation (including Wacha, in hopes that he returns sooner rather than later…):
So … that third out. Pesky.
For Joe, it’s A.J. Ellis who will try to add to the two-out run total.
First pitch, called strike.
Second pitch, inside and off the glove of George Kottaras.
Third pitch, fouled back.
Fourth and fifth pitches miss away.
It took just five pitches total to get the first two outs. Now, Ellis is threatening to take away the easy 1-2-3 inning with Greinke on deck.
Ellis fouls off another one.
And with the 12th pitch of the inning, Kelly gets an easy bouncing ball to Jhonny Peralta who makes the throw to Adams.
And there it is. A 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches. I’ll take that all day everyday.
Perhaps it took the first three innings for Kelly and Kottaras to find their groove, but it seemed to all come together in the top of the fourth.
A few more Redbird runs would be the icing on the cake!
Greinke, though, had also settled in. Runs might be hard to come by from here on out.
Jon Jay led off the inning and saw just two pitches. A grounder back to the pitcher, and Greinke was on his way to matching Kelly’s short inning.
Or, he might just beat it. Kelly also chopped the first pitch back to the Dodgers’ hurler. (No hustling down the line these days for Kelly!) Two down.
Matt Carpenter had worked an impressive walk in his first plate appearance. This time, he watched as Greinke quickly got ahead 1-2. This is where Carpetner is at his best, though. Nearly half (15 of 34) of his RBI this season have come with two strikes. Though, it would have helped to have a base runner or two ahead of him. Greinke ‘s 72nd pitch was fouled out of play. It took Zack just one more pitch to get through four innings, though, as Carpenter lined one right at Uribe for the final out.
And that is how you keep a game moving.
It’s a good thing the Cardinals got to Greinke early, because he appears to be back in the zone. As for Kelly? I can’t even tell you how happy I am to see him looking more like the guy he was before the hamstring pull. The Cardinals are going to need him to keep it up, if they want to guarantee themselves a series win today.