Another walk-off victory occurred for the Dodgers on Saturday night and it was yet another solid outing for the enigmatic Joe Kelly.
The Dodgers entered Saturday afternoon’s game with an eleven game lead in the NL West. In an extra-innings affair, Joe Kelly entered a tie game looking to hold the Rockies scoreless and pick up a potential win. On Saturday, Kelly fired a scoreless inning paving the way for Alex Verdugo’s walk-off blast that sent the Rockies to a twelve game deficit.
Under normal circumstances that wouldn’t really count as a high leverage situation for Kelly but this season, he has been pitching under anything but normal circumstances. After signing one of the more lucrative deals that Andrew Friedman has handed out to a reliever, Kelly entered the season with heightened expectations, especially after dominating the Dodgers in the World Series.
To be fair to Kelly, who had to sign the lucrative offer the Dodgers offered, he has not had a history of being a shutdown setup reliever. Last season he posted ERA’s over eight in June, July, and September. He posted ERA’s under two in April, May, and August. Even for a reliever with wicked stuff, Joe has never been an established dominant setup man.
This season Kelly got off to a miserable start with the Dodgers, pitching to an ERA over seven in the first two months of the season. Many called for Kelly to be released or for him to be placed on the injured list in a phantom type injury situation. Then came the June turnaround for the fireballing reliever.
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In June, Joe Kelly has pitched to an ERA of 1.50 and held the opposition to a .136 batting average. On Saturday night he entered in yet another high leverage situation with the game tied in extra innings. Kelly recorded two strikeouts en route to a scoreless inning and later picked up the win when Alex Verdugo ended the game on a walk-off home run.
When it comes to Joe Kelly, the Dodgers have to keep using Joe in high leverage situations. With a big cushion in the division, the Dodgers must take advantage and see what Kelly can do for them in high leverage situations. That is what Kelly was signed for and on Saturday he delivered en route to another solid outing in June.
With just over one month until the single trade deadline this season, the Dodgers should give Kelly one more look as the eighth inning setup reliever. If he puts it together, great, but if he reverts back to struggling then the club knows they must seek an upgrade via trade. The clock is ticking towards the deadline and the Dodgers cannot afford to ease Joe Kelly back into effectiveness.
The Dodgers must throw Joe Kelly “into the fire” and if he cannot handle it then the team knows it needs to seek a Brad Hand or Shane Greene type setup man. It has been a disappointing start for Kelly in Dodger blue but he seems to have turned a corner in June. Now it’s time for the Dodgers to put Kelly through a litmus test.