Felix Doubront didn't play the stopper, but the Red Sox won all the same, taking a solid 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals to end their losing streak at just two games.
One thing the Royals have done extraordinarily well against the Red Sox so far this series is building up pitch counts early--typically the M.O. of the Red Sox themselves. Tonight was no different. Even before he started walking batters, Doubront had thrown 17 pitches to get two outs in the first. A pair of free passes would bring him up to an even 30, and only a line drive snagged by Jacoby Ellsbury prevented an early disaster.
The second and third innings, while ultimately harmless, would still be inefficient on the whole. Despite allowing just one baserunner in the second, Doubront needed 24 pitches to get his three outs. Another 17 in the third left Boston's starter with 71 on his arm just one third of the way through the game.
Still, the Royals had not scored, and that left the Red Sox free to strike first. While Jeremy Guthrie had avoided damage through the end of the third, he'd given up a few baserunners, and didn't seem unhittable like a few pitchers the Sox have faced recently.
In the fourth, the Sox would cash in on that vulnerability.After Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia set the stage with a walk and single, Stephen Drew knocked a sinking liner into right field, sending Justin Maxwell into an ill-conceived, clumsy-looking dive. Not only did Maxwell fail to make the catch, but with the ball ending up behind him Drew was allowed to cruise into second. Behind him, Will Middlebrooks worked the count to 2-0 and then slapped a drive low down the right field line, picking up a single that was big not only for the two runs it drove in, but for how much of a relief it must have been for Middlebrooks.
By this point, Jacoby Ellsbury had already been having quite the game, picking up singles in both the first and third innings and swiping his 42nd bag of the season. Guthrie's third attempt to get Ellsbury out, however, would be his least successful yet, with Ellsbury doubling to right field, bringing Middlebrooks home to score, and leaving the Red Sox with a 4-0 lead.
The bottom half of the inning provided Doubront his first reasonable inning of the night, going 1-2-3 on 12 pitches, but that was perhaps the calm before the true storm. Doubront would walk his fourth batter of the night to start the fifth inning, and then came the hits, with Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler slamming a pair of doubles to quickly cut the gap to 4-2. Then, in a case of bad situations getting worse, Alex Gordon blooped a single to left field, and Felix Doubront's night was done.
Once again in need of plenty of outs on this road trip, John Farrell turned to Brandon Workman. The stage, frankly, was set for disaster. Felix' sudden implosion had left the bullpen unprepared, and given Workman's transition from starter to reliever, the lack of warmup time could have easily resulted in plenty of runs.
Instead, Workman allowed just a single up the middle, inducing a pop-up and striking out two batters to keep the Sox in the lead, if just barely. He would return in the sixth for one more out after Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbur again combined for a run in the sixth, then handed the ball off to Craig Breslow with a runner on first. Six pitches later, and Breslow had a double play, sending the game into more typical bullpen territory.
From there, it was just a matter of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara taking care of business. While Tazawa would give up doubles with no outs in the seventh and one out in the ninth, a pair of strike outs helped him escape the first situation, and the second just nseeded one in the ground and one in the air, though that one in the air required Ellsbury to make a great play coming in. Koji Uehara never let the Royals get on base, and the Red Sox extended their lead over the Rays to three games in the East.
Read more Red Sox:
- The transformation of Red Sox prospect Alex Hassan
- On Daniel Nava and baseball players as people
- Red Sox system loaded with pitching prospects, from top to bottom
- It's time to bring Xander Bogaerts up to the Red Sox
- Steven Wright's spot start an important moment for Red Sox pitching depth