Interim manager Torey Lovullo admitted as much during his pregame scrum with the media Friday, and Kelly continued his winning ways en route to a 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park.
The right-hander worked six innings and allowed two runs on five hits, including three walks and five strikeouts, to earn his seventh consecutive victory. He tossed 106 pitches (61 strikes). With the win, Kelly ties former Red Sox pitchers Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling with seven wins in as many starts, which is the longest streak by a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez recorded nine straight in 1999.
Kelly entered his career-high 23rd start of the season with a 2.68 ERA, 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in his previous six starts.
Overall, he improves to 9-6 this season, but because of earlier struggles, there was talk he would be moved to the bullpen in 2016. Still, there's plenty of baseball remaining in the final month of the season, and the way Kelly finishes could determine his role on the staff.
On Friday, he allowed two runs in the top of the fourth inning, but his offense helped him out and he exited with a 3-2 lead. Boston's bullpen -- which has been suspect for the majority of the season, especially in the middle innings -- came through for Kelly as Alexi Ogando, Tommy Layne and Noe Ramirez shut the door in the seventh and eighth innings. It also helped that the Red Sox's offense put up a 4-spot in the bottom of the seventh inning, because Boston closer Jean Machi surrendered three runs in the top of the ninth. He was given the hook with two outs, and Robbie Ross Jr. recorded the last out, striking out Ryan Howard.
Defensive gem: With the Red Sox trailing 2-1 in the top of the fifth inning, left fielder Rusney Castillo turned in a spectacular defensive play. The Phillies' Odubel Herrera lined a base hit to left-center field and attempted to stretch it into a double, but Castillo quickly tracked down the ball, spun and made a strong throw to second base, where Brock Holt applied the tag to cut down the runner for the second out of the inning. Philadelphia's Cesar Hernandez followed and ended the inning with a fly ball to right field. The Red Sox responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to gain a 3-2 lead.
Dialed in: Jackie Bradley Jr. gave the Red Sox a 4-2 lead with his seventh homer of the season to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. He crushed the first offering from Phillies starter Adam Morgan and deposited it deep into the seats in center field. Bradley now has six homers in his past 22 games after hitting five in his first 188 major league games.
Up next: The Red Sox send left-hander Wade Miley (10-10, 4.57 ERA) to the mound Saturday to face Phillies right-hander Alec Asher (0-1, 6.35). During his most recent start, Miley allowed four earned runs on nine hits with six strikeouts in six innings Sunday against the New York Mets.