By MyFM's Jake Archer - Well, the Red Sox wrapped up their quick homestand (and the month of April) with the lowly Kansas City Royals. After hitting a bit of a rough stretch, they needed to get on track and use KC as a punching bag. They didn't exactly do that, but they ended up taking two of three which I guess is good enough. Let's take a look at how it all went down.
On Monday, Boston opened the series with Eduardo Rodriguez toeing the rubber. He'd be opposed by Jason Hammel, who's had a rough go of it in a little over a season with the Royals. It was E-Rod who blinked first though, as he struggled mightily out of the gate. Whit Merrifield smacked a single to right to lead off the game and then Rodriguez walked, hit and walked the next three batters, resulting in a run. After a mound visit and a strikeout, Lucas Duda drew another walk to force home the second run for the Royals. Things were getting ugly, and they only got worse when Jon Jay singled to bring home a third run. Boston got out of the inning, but the start was not what they were looking for at all.
In the bottom of the second, Mitch Moreland tagged a ball for a solo-shot to get Boston on the board. Moreland was in the lineup due to the fact that Mookie Betts was still sitting out with a hamstring issue. It was said to be precautionary and apparently he could've been playing if he needed to, but it was obviously still worrisome to see the best player out of the lineup. Meanwhile, E-Rod had settled in on the mound and was holding the Royals at bay. His offense was ready to come to the rescue.
Boston scored five runs with two outs in the bottom of the third to take the lead. Andrew Benintendi singled, Hanley Ramirez smoked a ground-rule double and JD Martinez walked to load the bases. Hammel then walked Moreland to send home a run which seemed to rattle his cage a bit. The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, unloaded on a grand slam (his second of the year) to make it 6-3. The slam was Boston's sixth of the season and tied the 1996 Montreal Expos for the most hit by a team before May.
Kansas City came back with two runs in the top of the fourth when Rodriguez hit Alex Gordon with a pitch and then allowed back to back doubles to Alcides Escobar and Merrifield. KC had closed to within a run but Boston grabbed one back in the bottom half. Jackie Bradley Jr. walked with one out, Christian Vazquez singled and Benintendi lifted a sac-fly to bring in JBJ.
Entering the fifth, Rodriguez was replaced by Hector Velazquez. Velazquez has been awesome out of the 'pen for the Sox this year and he'd need to eat up some innings because of another short start from E-Rod. The final line for Rodriguez was four innings pitched, five runs on five hits, three walks and six strikeouts. He'd thrown 88 pitches in what could only be considered a rocky outing. In the bottom of the frame, the Sox tacked on another run. Martinez led it off with a double and Bogaerts singled with one-out. After a strikeout from Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez came through with a single to plate Martinez. It was 8-5 and KC was finally yanking Hammel. The starter's final line was four and two thirds innings pitched, eight runs on eight hits, three walks and two punchouts. He left after 107 pitches.
In the bottom of the seventh, Boston added a few more runs. Moreland doubles, Bogaerts singled and Devers grounded to first base to score Moreland. Bogaerts was out at second but Devers was safe at first. After the third baseman advanced to second on a groundout, JBJ hit one to Cheslor Cuthbert at the hot corner and he misplayed it, allowing Devers to go home and Jackie to reach first safely. It was 10-5 in favor of Boston.
The Royals would pick up a run in the ninth off another pair of back to back doubles by Escobar and Merrifield, but that was all. Hammel was tagged with the loss while Velazquez grabbed another win in relief. Boston finished up April with the most wins they'd ever had in the month (21). They'd turn to Chris Sale the next night as they looked to keep it rolling.
Sale was going against Jakob Junis, a 25-year-old righty who has gotten off to a pretty good start. It was easy to see why as both pitchers cruised through the first three before Sale was the first to falter in the fourth. The frame started off with Salvador Perez reaching on an error by Devers and after a strikeout, Sale walked and hit the next two batters. Escobar sailed a ball to left that Martinez caught and then fired home. The throw was on the money to get Perez at the plate, but Vazquez couldn't hold on to it and Kansas City had the lead.
The Royals grabbed another in the top of the sixth on a little bit of a mental error by the Sox. Jon Jay and Lucas Duda both singled and then Escobar bounced into a fielder's choice. Jay moved to third, Duda was out at second and Escobar reached first. During the next batter, Escobar was caught in a rundown and tagged out, but Jay ran home. Boston probably should have been a little more wary of the distraction, and they fell into a 2-0 hole.
That hole didn't last very long though, as the Sox grabbed two back in the bottom half of the inning. Mitch Moreland smoked another homer to right (still in the lineup with Betts out) and Rafael Devers hit a two-out double and scored on a JBJ single to tie it. After getting out of the inning, Junis was done for the night. He'd pitched six solid innings while giving up just two runs on seven hits, one walk and five Ks. His replacement, Tim Hill, gave Boston another run in the seventh. Benintendi doubled with one out and Brad Keller came in for Hill. Keller unleashed two wild pitches, allowing Benny to come home and give the Sox the lead. In the eighth, Sale was done for the night. His final line was seven innings, two runs on five hits, two walks and six strikeouts. He was in line for the win and just needed the bullpen to close it down.
Somehow, Matt Barnes was not the one to blow this game. Instead it was the dominant closer for Boston, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel came on for the ninth and blew the save by allowing a one-out homer to Alex Gordon to sail into the bullpen. It was depressing, and it shouldn't happen against a team like the Royals. Now the Sox had to head to extras to battle for a win. No one scored until the 12th when Drew Butera doubled, Ryan Goins laid down a bunt single and Jay smacked a sac-fly to put KC up one. Boston answered back with a home run off the bat of Nunez in the bottom half. We'd head to the 13th.
In the 13th, Brian Johnson came on in relief for the Red Sox. After getting an out, he allowed singles to Gordon and Merrifield and then a three-run jack to Jorge Soler. Just like that, the Sox were in trouble again. Moreland led off the bottom of the inning with a single and Xander got hit by a pitch. With one out, JBJ grounded out to bring home Moreland and then Vazquez singled to plate Devers. The Sox were within a run but the rally couldn't keep going as Nunez smoked a ball to deep center that was caught to end the game. Kimbrel got hit with the blown save, Johnson got the loss, Kelvin Herrera picked up the win and Brian Flynn earned the save. The teams would play the rubber match the next day at 1 p.m.
Luckily for Boston, Mookie Betts was back in the lineup for the series finale. He certainly would make his presence felt. But first, it was time for another Sox starter to put the offense behind early. Drew Pomeranz was on the bump for Boston and he walked Merrifield to start the game. After the walk it was a double for Soler and a sac-fly for Perez to make it 1-0 after the top of the inning. In the second, Pomeranz started with a strikeout but then gave up singles to Jay and Gordon. Butera drove them both home with a double to right and it was 3-0.
Pitching for Kansas City was Danny Duffy, who like most of the Royals pitchers, was struggling. He looked decent for a few innings before Boston got him in the fourth. Mookie cracked his ninth homer of the year to center field to lead off the inning and after a strikeout, Hanley walked and Martinez went over the Green Monster for his sixth long ball. The game was tied rather quickly. An inning later, Betts hit another homer for his second of the day and 10th of the season. It looks like his injury wasn't bothering him at all.
Entering the seventh, Pomeranz was out of the game and frankly I thought it was a miracle he lasted that long. His line was six innings, three runs on eight hits, two walks and three punchouts. Duffy was still in come the bottom of the seventh, but Betts blasted his third homer of the day and 11th of the year to chase him and put Boston up 5-3. Duffy had gone six and two thirds innings while allowing five runs on 10 hits, one walk and six Ks. Cheslor Cuthbert smacked a homer in the eighth off of Barnes to pull his team within a run, but this time Kimbrel shut the door in the ninth. Duffy took the loss, Pomeranz grabbed the win and Kimbrel got the save. Boston had won the series and now sits at 22-8 and still in first place in the American League East and in the MLB.
The Sox are now out in Texas taking on the Rangers in the first game of a four-game series. It's also the first of ten straight road games to begin the month. David Price is on the mound and we'll have updates to come!