Red Sox thoughts & reactions: Joe Kelly’s wildness spoils Chris Sale’s gem

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: Joe Kelly /

Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox was going beautifully until it wasn’t.  

Whelp, chalk Thursday afternoon’s Opening Day 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays as another one of those games that got away from the Boston Red Sox.

In addition to being the first game of the season, what stings so badly about the loss is the dominance Red Sox starter Chris Sale delivered.  The tall, lanky pitcher had it going on.  He had Rays batters baffled to a point where they couldn’t get anything going against him.

With the help of an improbable inside-the-park home run off the bat of Eduardo Nunez and a couple of RBI from Rafael Devers, Sale and the Red Sox were cruising with a 4-0 lead up until the ball was handed to right-hander Joe Kelly in the eighth inning.

Folks, that’s when the bottom fell out on.

In a display of complete wildness, Kelly instantly gave the silent Tampa Bay bats a voice by giving up a walk to the first batter he faced.  More wildness followed and suddenly a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit just like that.

While Carson Smith didn’t add any good relief to the eighth inning onslaught, this one is on Joe Kelly.

Frustration mounts

Following the game, the Jekyll & Hyde right-hander tried to make some sense of his issues on the mound.

"“I don’t know if I can pinpoint a reason to you,” Kelly said, via WEEI.  “It was just one of those things that I can live with getting hit around a little bit, but when you let that many hitters on base with a free pass, first of all, it’s going to end up biting you in the butt.  Second, it’s the most frustrating part, especially when the guys in front of you threw the ball so well and we were playing a great ballgame.”"

That really is the most frustrating aspect to Thursday’s loss.  Chris Sale was simply masterful.  While the Red Sox weren’t hitting the ball off the cover offensively, the four runs were more than enough with the way Sale was pitching.

More from Chowder and Champions

These kinds of games are going to happen throughout the season, but with it being the first game of the season, the heat is already on this Red Sox bullpen.

What about Craig Kimbrel? 

In what started out as a great managerial debut for Alex Cora quickly turned into questions.

With the team leading 4-0 and Joe Kelly obviously struggling, why didn’t the team turn to their best reliever, Craig Kimbrel?

Simply put, it wasn’t the right situation for the closer.

"“I’m not going to put him in that spot right now,” Cora said, via MassLive.  “We feel he’s ready, but I didn’t think it’s fair for him to come in in a situation and it’s not a clean inning.  It’s something that we map it out, we talk about it and we stick to it.”"

Kimbrel’s late spring training arrival due to the health of his daughter may have contributed to his readiness, or lack thereof.  Although Cora explained that not being the case, the fact that he was adamant about not putting him into a game in that situation, the new Red Sox manager must feel his closer is not ready to handle that type of pressure moment mentally.

Next: The 5 greatest Boston Red Sox hitters in franchise history

In any event, the Boston Red Sox now have to try to bounce back from an Opening Day loss that will be tough to swallow through the early part of the season.