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Both starting pitchers came out of the gates hot, with Luke Hochevar allowing just a single in his first two innings while Beckett struck out four men in his first three frames. The bottom of the Red Sox’ lineup would get to Hochevar in the third, however, with Jason Varitek and Yamaico Navarro both reaching base and scoring on Jacoby Ellsbury’s line drive single to right field.
Facing a 2-0 deficit, the Royals battled back against Josh Beckett in the fourth. Alex Gordon and and Mitch Maier each battled Beckett to full counts before finally drawing walks. So, when Billy Butler launched a 1-2 fastball deep to center field and onto the batter’s eye, it ended up being worth three runs and the lead. The Royals pushed across a fourth run on a poor play by Drew Sutton, making a rare outfield appearance with Carl Crawford on the bench after receiving a cortisone shot in his elbow.
From there, the Sox offense went curiously dead against Luke Hochevar much as it had against Kyle Davies on Monday, leaving the Kansas City starter free to go seven innings, leaving with his 4-2 lead still intact. The Sox did strike once against the bullpen, as Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak and brought the Sox within one as he slammed his 15th homer of the year over the Monster in the eighth. But a long ninth-inning drive from a pinch-hitting Carl Crawford with a man on base was knocked down on the track by the wind in the deepest part of right field, and the Sox fell 4-3.
This is only the Red Sox’ fifth loss in July, and the first series in the month that they didn’t win outright.
Based on the beginning of the game, it would be hard not to think about the torturous 14-inning marathon that took place Monday night. The Red Sox had an ace on the mound then in Jon Lester as they do today in Josh Beckett, and the Royals were pitching anything but in Kyle Davies and, today, Luke Hochevar.
Josh Beckett had done what Lester did, and what he was expected to: he’s shut down the Royals for three innings, using just 33 pitches to do so. Luke Hochevar, meanwhile, seemed nigh-unhittable against the top of the Sox’ lineup.
That changed in the third inning, however. Jason Varitek and Yamaico Navarro led off the frame with a single and a double respectively. With Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate, the Royals went back to the curveball-heavy approach that they’d employed for much of the series against the Red Sox center fielder. He was having none of it, taking the third bender he saw and sending it into right field, scoring both baserunners in the process.
Unfortunately, the lead hasn’t lasted long at all. Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier worked a pair of tough at bats against the Red Sox ace, each drawing a walk on a full count. Up came Billy Butler, who’s been a major thorn in the Red Sox’ side this series, to do his usual thing, launching a 1-2 fastball out of the park and onto the batter’s eye in center for the three-run homer.
The Royals have added another run now between a bad play from Drew Sutton and a double from Mike Moustakas. The inning is now mercifully over, but only after nearly forty pitches from Beckett, and four runs from the Royals.
The Red Sox will, for the second straight night, be without Carl Crawford, as the struggling left-fielder sits against Luke Hochevar.
It made some sense for Crawford to sit Wednesday night. With a left-hander on the mound, and the trade deadline coming up, the Sox at once managed to not only get Crawford a day off after a truly terrible stretch at the plate, but also to get Yamaico Navarro a chance to showcase himself against a lefty--he would pick up a pair of hits in the game.
Thursday, however, against a right-handed Luke Hochevar who struggles against lefties, his absence is downright conspicuous. Especially when it's Drew Sutton who "picks up the slack" in left.
Boston Red Sox (64-38)
Much like on Tuesday, the Sox found themselves in an early hole as the Royals struck in the top of the first inning. A pair of bad defensive plays behind John Lackey proved costly when Eric Hosmer took the Boston starter deep, changing a one-run homer into a three-run shot.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia made short work of much of that lead, going back-to-back in the bottom of the inning to make it 3-2. Then, in the second, it was the bottom of the lineup picking up a walk and a pair of singles to set up the top for an RBI walk, sacrifice fly, and groundout that left Boston up 5-3.
Aside from a Billy Butler home run in the fifth, John Lackey settled down well enough as the game went on, allowing the Sox to pull away in the fifth. Again it was the bottom-of-the-order that got things started, as Darnell McDonald doubled on a ground ball to left field and Yamaico Navarro singled him home, but this time the top-half of the lineup got the done too. A trio of singles from Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis (combined with a baserunning gaffe) loaded the bases for David Ortiz, who quickly emptied them when he launched a grand slam into the bleachers in right. The four RBI put him over the 1,000 mark in his Red Sox career.
Randy Williams and Dan Wheeler finished up the last three innings with just one run between them, sending the Red Sox to an 18-4 record in July, and once again sending them to a three-game lead over the Yankees.
The Sox will take an 11-4 lead into the seventh after a five-run fourth inning powered by David Ortiz’ grand slam.
The fourth-inning fun got started with a ground ball double to left and then an RBI-single from Yamaico Navarro that made it a 6-3 Sox lead. Dustin Pedroia singled after Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a fielder’s choice, but some baserunning mishaps led to Dustin Pedroia falling down between first-and-second, and then ultimately Jacoby Ellsbury getting out at third as Pedroia retreated to first.
The lost baserunner wouldn’t prove to be much of an issue, however. Singles from Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis brought David Ortiz to the plate with the bases loaded. It had been nineteen long days since Papi last went long, but Bruce Chen proved just the remedy. With a 3-1 count, Chen went for a slider away, but David Ortiz reached out and managed to hook it, and hook hard. The ball sailed out to right, past even the bullpens. Not only did the Sox have a 10-4 leas, but Ortiz had collected his 1,000th RBI as a Red Sox.
The Sox added another run on Adrian Gonzalez’ single in the sixth, with Kevin Youkilis’ sharp liner that ended up as a double play being the only reason the inning did not result in quite a bit more. Billy Butler’s solo shot off John Lackey and some two-out trouble in the sixth forced him from the game without a quality start, but as of now Lackey seems to be on his way to his fourth straight victory.
Getting the start tonight, John Lackey’s evening started out looking a lot like the start he had against the Tampa Bay Rays just after the All-Star break. That time it was Marco Scutaro making three blunders in the first inning to cost Lackey upwards of four outs, leading to a three-run first. This time it was Yamaico Navarro letting an easily catchable ball bounce off the very bottom of the Monster and Kevin Youkilis booting a routine ground ball to put the first two batters of the game on base.
Lackey would strike Billy Butler out—it was looking like he’d have to to get an out, after all—but what came next wasn’t the fault of the defense. Facing Eric Hosmer, who should have been the first batter of the second inning, Lackey allowed a three-run shot into the Monster seats to give the Royals the early lead.
The Sox wasted no time chipping away at the lead, however. On the second pitch of the game, Jacoby Ellsbury rocketed a line drive off the Pesky Pole for a leadoff home-run. Dustin Pedroia quickly followed suit, launching a 2-2 fastball well over the Monster to make it 3-2.
With Lackey settling down behind them, the Sox started up the scoring again in the second. Boston loaded the bases on a walk, single, and perfectly-placed pop fly, and scored all three baserunners on Ellsbury’s walk, Pedroia’s sacrifice fly, and Adrian Gonzalez’ ground out.
The Red Sox will once again have the services of Kevin Youkilis at third base Wednesday night against the Royals and their lefty starter Bruce Chen.
There was cause for concern after Kevin Youkilis left Monday's debacle with a hamstring injury; Carl Crawford had only just returned from missing a month with a similar injury. But it's clear now that the Sox need not fear for their big righty bat. While he was originally scheduled to sit, Youkilis reassured Terry Francona that he was good to go, and now he's in the lineup, batting fourth.
Yamaico Navarro, originally scheduled to play third with Darnell McDonald taking over left for Carl Crawford has now takenn over McDonald's spot as he moves to right field, pushing Josh Reddick to the bench for tonight's game. It's a curious decision given that Reddick has hit lefties whenever given the chance this year, but this might be about getting some playing time for Navarro against southpaws as the deadline approaches to bring up both his numbers and his appeal.
Boston Red Sox (63-38)
The Red Sox collected 16 hits Tuesday night, overpowering the Royals' offensive attack en route to a 13-9 win.
After Andrew Miller put the Sox in an early two-run hole, the offense responded with two runs of their own on a triple from Dustin Pedroia and a double from David Ortiz Miller gave up another two in the second, and the Sox quickly responded with three more, again courtesy of the top-of-the-lineup.
Neither starter ended up lasting through the fourth inning. Andrew Miller quickly gave the lead back to the Royals on a pair of home runs that left the score at 7-5, and Danny Duffy was pulled after giving up a single to Adrian Gonzalez. His replacement proved every bit as much a disaster as Duffy, giving Dustin Pedroia his third hit of the night (he would finish with four), then walking the bases loaded, and scoring a run when he gave up the free pass to Carl Crawford.
The Sox left the bags full that inning, but took advantage of their opportunities in the fifth. With Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury (pinch hitting for Yamaico Navarro) leading off with back-to-back singles, Drew Sutton laid down a sacrifice bunt. But Mike Aviles couldn't make the grab at first, and by the time the Royals had chased the ball down, the two men on base had scored, and Sutton stood at third.
Marco Scutaro walked, and three singles from the middle-of-the-order later, the score was 11-7. A Josh Reddick sacrifice fly made it 12-7 before the frame ended. Meanwhile, the Sox had finally found some quiet innings from Alfredo Aceves. The bullpen long-man went more than three scoreless innings before handing the ball over to Matt Albers, and a very shaky Franklin Morales to finish off the game.
The Sox have taken a 12-7 lead over the Kansas City Royals after a six-run fifth inning.
After the Kansas City Royals’ pair of fourth-inning homers left them on top 7-5, the Sox picked up a sixth run on a bases-loaded walk by Carl Crawford. The Sox would leave the bags full that inning when Jason Varitek flew out to center.
The floodgates did open, however, in the fifth. With Terry Francona bringing in Jacoby Ellsbury to hit for Yamaico Navarro—he hit the second straight single to lead off the inning—Drew Sutton came in to lay down a sacrifice bunt for Darnell McDonald. The bunt was good, but the throw got away from first baseman Eric Hosmer, and then just about everyone else in the infield. By the time the circus was over, Sutton stood at third, and two runs were in.
The Sox were far from done, however. Marco Scutaro walked to make it runners on the corners. Up came Adrian Gonzalez, who began a string of four straight singles to score three more runs, and set up a Drew Sutton sacrifice fly for the fourth. Only a running grab by Melky Cabrera in center kept Jacoby Ellsbury from adding a few more.
The Red Sox and Royals are embroiled in a slugfest, with the Sox taking a 5-4 lead into the fourth inning.
As you may have gathered, it's been a bad start for Andrew Miller, whose time with the Red Sox could be drawing to a rapid close. A three-hit, two-run first inning for the Royals was capped by an Eric Hosmer double over the head of Darnell McDonald in Center. And they added another pair in the top of the second after Miller loaded the bases without recording an out, partially thanks to an inability to make an accurate throw on a sacrifice bunt.
He managed to work around a walk and a double in the third, however, giving the Sox a chance to mount an early comeback. After a Dustin Pedroia triple and David Ortiz double proved good for two runs in the first, the top of the lineup came through again in the third. Marco Scutaro doubled to left, Adrian Gonzalez walked, and Dustin Pedroia hit an RBI-double to make it 4-3. Five pitches later, and it was David Ortiz lacing a double to left to score both baserunners, giving the Sox the 5-4 lead.
Unfortunately, Andrew Miller hasn't gotten any better. A pair of home runs to Alex Gordon and BIlly Butler were good for three runs, putting the Royals back up 7-5. Miller is gone now after just 3.2 innings, leaving Alfredo Aceves to shoulder a significant innings load and Theo Epstein to hit the phones in search of a starter.
The Red Sox will be playing one of their most bizzare--and, quite frankly, worst lineups of the year Tuesday night against Danny Duffy and the Royals.
An odd mixture of injury concerns for Kevin Youkilis and a focus on stacking the lineup with right-handed hitting has produced a lineup that does not promise a fun night after Kyle Davies and the Royals bullpen managed to shut down the Red Sox' best for fourteen innings.
Of course, given the improbability of that particular event, maybe some weirdness is exactly what the Sox need. To be sure, they'll get just that with this bunch:
Boston Red Sox (62-38)
It's really a sight to look at. Two of the worst hitters in the lineup are batting 1-2 while Josh Reddick is batting eighth, after even Jason Varitek. All that's missing is the famous Joe Maddon two third basemen approach so that Andrew Miller can take some hacks in place of David Ortiz.
The biggest difference between Tuesday's Royals lineup and the one from Monday is the inclusion of highly-touted prospect Mike Moustakas at third base. He's had a lot of trouble adjusting to the majors so far, though, and isn't terribly frightening in the six-hole.
Kansas City Royals (43-59)
A botched suicide squeeze left the Sox losers after fourteen innings Monday night, as the Royals took a surprising victory off the Red Sox.
The starts that would eventually be forgotten come the end of the game were virtually the same. Jon Lester was strong in his return, striking out five batters in the first three innings. He faltered as his pitch count rose. Ultimately, it seems as though Terry Francona opted to stay with his returning starter for one inning too many, allowing Lester to return to the mound after five shutout innings. The lefty promptly allowed a single to Melky Cabrera, and then a double to Billy Butler, who was caught trying to take third. The damage had been done, however, and a walk to Eric Hosmer spelled the end for Reddick's night.
Had the Red Sox offense been doing its job, the one run may not have been so impactful, but somehow they had managed to allow Kyle Davies to match Lester's start--even surpassing it. The only run against Davies came in the second, when Josh Reddick doubled Carl Crawford home from second to give the Sox an early 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, from there the Sox lineup went into hibernation, allowing Davies to escape the game with just one earned run in six innings, and making Cabrera's run to tie the game.
With neither side scoring in the last three innings, the game went into extra innings, and that's where things went from bad to worse.
Having already wasted an opportunity with men at the corners and one out in the ninth, the Sox set about botching four separate opportunities to walk off against the Royals. The first failure came in the eleventh, when with two men on and two out, Carl Crawford struck out swinging. In the thirteenth, Yamaico Navarro--inserted into the game after Kevin Youkilis left before the eighth with a balky hamstring--popped out with Jacoby Ellsbury on third base and one out. David Ortiz grounded into the shift on the very next pitch to end the threat.
But by far the biggest mistake came in the twelfth. With Josh Reddick reaching base to start the inning, and then taking second and third on a botched pickoff attempt, Terry Francona decided to call for a suicide squeeze. Josh Reddick got the message, Marco Scutaro didn't, and the young outfielder was dead meat on the basepaths.
Had any of these opportunities led to runs, then the Sox would not have had to send Randy Williams in to pitch the fourteenth with an inning already on his arm. But the Sox didn't take advantage, and they did have to send Williams in. The result was as could be expected: a double, a single, and then, of all things, a sky-high squeeze bunt that actually managed to produce the necessary run. The Royals added a third for insurance, and the Sox took one of their toughest losses of the year on the chin.
Jon Lester has been strong in his return, taking 60 pitches to get through four innings, he’s struck out five batters already, and has only run into any trouble in the second and fourth inning, when he allowed a pair of singles each time.
Kyle Davies has also been surprisingly effective, but the Red Sox have managed to push across one run. David Ortiz drew a one-out walk in the second inning, and Carl Crawford—having replaced him at first after a fielder’s choice—stole second. He probably didn’t needed to, however, as Josh Reddick took a 3-2 curveball and sent it rocketing into right field to drive Crawford in.
Dustin Pedroia, meanwhile, has kept his hit streak alive with a line drive into right field. That makes it 22 straight games with a hit for the second baseman.
The Red Sox will welcome back Jon Lester Monday night, as their lefty ace returns to a situations he should be quite comfortable with: in Fenway, against the Royals. Since no-hitting the Royals in Boston back in May of 2008, Lester has faced Kansas City in Fenway park twice more, and was nothing short of dominant each time.
Tonight, however, he'll have to contend not just with the Royals lineup, but also possibly a decent amount of rust. It's been 20 days since Lester last took the mound on July 5 against the Blue Jays, and while he looked nearly perfect then, three weeks can do a lot to throw a starter off.
The good news is that he should have relatively little pressure given the Kansas City starter and the lineup he has to face.
Boston Red Sox (62-37)
It won't hurt that the Royals are quite a bit worse against lefties than righties, with an OPS of just .695 against southpaws this year.
Kansas City Royals (42-59)
Pitching Matchup: Jon Lester (10-4, 3.31 ERA) vs. Kyle Davies (1-9, 7.32 ERA)
There's not much to be said about Jon Lester that hasn't already been said here. If he's not suffering from undue rust, the Royals are a team he can beat easily. If it's not enough that the Royals struggle against lefties, they're also one of the worst teams in the league against the cutter, which just so happens to be Jon Lester's bread and butter. On the other hand, if he is rusty, then anything can happen.
Everything that's true for Lester is essentially the opposite for Davies. He starts out with a bad base--his 7.32 ERA should be proof enough of that--adds in difficulties against lefties, which the Sox are of course full of, and tops it off by having to face the best team in the league against the cutter, which happens to be his best pitch as well. Hardly a recipe for success for a pitcher who's giving away runs at an impressive pace.
There are just two series left in July, which means just two series wins for the Red Sox to make a clean sweep of the month. Not since the end of June, when Boston dropped two-of-three to the Phillies, has the team lost a series. They've taken out the Astros, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Orioles again, and now the Mariners en route to a 16-3 record on the month that has the Sox three games up in the East, and well above the Wild Card chase.
Still, there are games to be won, and no team can take any lead for granted until the magic number gets much closer to zero. So with that in mind, the Red Sox are more than happy to welcome the cellar-dwelling Royals to town.
Since peaking in mid-May, the Royals have been in a state of free fall, quickly finding themselves at the bottom of one of baseball's weakest divisions. There's no question as to why, either: the pitching. It's not quite as bad as the Orioles' bunch that the Sox have feasted on in recent weeks, but it's the next best thing in the American League. So while this may not be as much of a walk in the park for the Sox' staff as the Mariners series was, it shouldn't be much of a problem for the Sox on the whole.
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