ST. LOUIS -- Joe Kelly made 38 starts for the Cardinals in his nearly three seasons with the team, or two starts fewer than Hall of Famer Bob Gibson made for the Cards in 1964, a World Series-winning year.
Kelly won a total of 17 games for the Cardinals, the same number local hero Chris Carpenter won for the Cardinals in 2009, when he won the league ERA title and finished runner-up in the Cy Young voting.
But in his first start in St. Louis since last week’s trade that made him a member of the Red Sox while John Lackey became a Redbird, the 26-year-old Kelly received a rousing welcome back fit for a Cardinals legend rather than a guy who was ultimately just passing through.
Kelly was cheered when he popped out of the dugout and began the long walk to the bullpen to warm up. He was cheered when he walked back, cheered when he was introduced, cheered when he went to the mound, and was given a standing ovation when he batted for the first time.
Any second, you expected the Cards to give Kelly his own Clydesdale as a parting gift. There was even some love for Allen Craig, the former Card whose bum foot did not prevent him from taking John Farrell’s lineup card to home plate, where the crowd of 42,733 cheered him, too.
Not even a drenching that delayed the start of the game 63 minutes could dampen the graciousness of these good-hearted Midwesterners.
Kelly left the Red Sox in even better spirits by making his Sox debut an impressive one, checking his former mates on three hits and a run in seven innings. He walked four, which was high for him, and struck out two, but had the Sox smiling with his mix of power sinker, high-octane four-seamer, curveball and changeup.
How much was it his night? He not only won an all-in-fun $100 bet against Cardinals pitcher and pal Shelby Miller -- they served as best man in each other’s wedding -- but he got a chance to celebrate a Sox victory, a rare feat these days.
The Sox, who had lost 11 of their previous 13, beat the Cardinals 2-1, scoring a ninth-inning run off Redbirds closer Trevor Rosenthal.
Bogaerts followed by lining a ball to center, deep enough for Cespedes to score easily. Bogaerts also was credited with an RBI double in the fourth, when Matt Holliday dropped his drive to the wall.
The win went to Junichi Tazawa, who pitched a scoreless eighth. The save was the 23rd for Uehara.