Joe Kelly had one of the best outings of his career when he faced the New York Yankees three weeks ago, taking advantage of a lineup getting off to a slow start to the season.
He could be challenged plenty more this time around.
The Yankees look to complete their first sweep of at least three games at Fenway Park in more than nine years when they face Kelly and the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night.
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New York dropped to 1-4 after Kelly gave up one hit – Chris Young’s solo homer in the second – while striking out eight over seven innings of an 8-4 win April 11 in the Bronx.
The Yankees avoided a sweep with a 14-run outburst the following day that began a 14-5 stretch during which they’re averaging 5.21 runs. Alex Rodriguez tied Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list with his 660th homer in Friday’s 3-2 victory over the Red Sox before Brett Gardner had three RBIs in Saturday’s 4-2 victory.
New York hasn’t won six straight on the road since June 3-17, 2012, and it hasn’t swept a series at Fenway of at least three games since winning all five – including both ends of a doubleheader – from April 18-21, 2006.
The Yankees have won six of the last seven meetings in Boston.
"Now that you’ve won the first two, you want to win that third one," Gardner said. "It’s hard to do, especially on the road. These games matter just as much as the games at the end of September. Hopefully we can keep playing well."
Kelly (1-0, 4.94 ERA) will look to shut down the Yankees again after a couple of inconsistent starts. He struck out a career-high 10 in Boston’s 6-5 win over Toronto on Monday, but allowed five runs for the second straight outing.
The right-hander, who has won all three of his starts against New York with a 3.43 ERA, also walked three. His velocity has been solid, though, despite starting the season on the disabled list due to right biceps tightness.
"Up and down is exactly how you put it," Kelly said. "My arm felt good."
That’s also how things have gone for the Red Sox (12-12), who are 6-6 at Fenway after dropping three of five to begin a nine-game homestand.
Daniel Nava is 2 for 29 over his last 13 contests and hasn’t been in the lineup for the last three. He’s 6 for 11 with a homer and three doubles off Adam Warren, who opposed Kelly three weeks ago.
Warren (1-1, 4.35) gave up one earned run in 5 1-3 innings in that contest before allowing eight runs over 9 2-3 in his next two starts. He bounced back to strike out six while giving up one run in 5 2-3 innings of the Yankees’ 4-1 win over Tampa Bay on Monday.
The right-hander had made only three starts prior to this season and pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 2014.
"It’s still new to me in some ways," Warren said. "I’m just trying to learn as much as possible and learn on the fly."
The Red Sox have placed Ryan Hanigan on the 15-day DL with a broken right pinkie suffered while catching in the series opener.