The Red Sox have started off the second half of the season with a series sweep over the Royals, with Jon Lester providing eight dominant innings of work to lead the Red Sox to a 6-0 shutout victory.
Sunday provided a nice change of pace for a Red Sox team that had to sweat out a pair of one-run victories to start the series. Today they got ahead early and never looked back. Really, they probably should have had an even more comfortable victory the way things started in the first, with Brock Holt and Daniel Nava both staying hot at the plate with leadoff singles, putting runners on the corners before the first out was recorded with the two biggest names in the lineup due to bat.
Said bats didn't exactly pull through. Dustin Pedroia managed a ground ball back up the middle, but it didn't have nearly enough speed to escape the infield, and Alcides Escobar managed to salvage an out at second after making an awkward stop. The Red Sox would get a run on the play as Brock Holt came in from third to score--a fact which was made all the more important when David Ortiz hit a weak grounder into the shift for an easy double play, ending the inning.
Still, a lead was a lead and Jon Lester wasn't about to give it away. He looked a little shaky in the first, hitting Eric Hosmer and surrendering a single to Danny Valencia with two outs, but gave away only an infield single in the second, getting four ground balls in the process. When the third rolled around and the top of the Kansas City lineup went down 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts, the message was clear: the Royals had missed their chance to get to Lester.
The Red Sox, however, would still have a few good opportunities off of Yordano Ventura. David Ross and Jackie Bradley Jr. started off the bottom of the third with a walk and a single respectively before moving to second and third on Brock Holt's ground out. This provided a big opportunity for Daniel Nava, who hit a line drive down the right field line which kicked up and into the stands, plating both runners and giving the Sox a 3-0 lead.
The worst, however, was yet to come for Ventura. While the first three innings had seen him falter, the fourth saw him come completely off the rails. Shane Victorino led off with a double then scored when David Ross turned on an inside fastball and deposited it in the Monster seats for a two-run shot. Clearing the bases didn't even help to stop Boston's momentum, either, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt each singling, setting up Nava for an RBI sacrifice fly to make it 6-0.
That would be the last time the Red Sox cashed in, wasting a bases loaded, zero out situation in the very next frame and stranding a few more baserunners throughout. But with Jon Lester in his usual dominant form, even just the first-inning run might have been enough, particularly with the infield flashing some impressive leather behind him. Lester had the Royals swinging at air and pounding the ball into the ground all day, leaving little chance for Kansas City to mount any sustained offense. He would hand the ball off after eight shutout innings to Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica, who combined for a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Red Sox are now 7-1 since designating A.J. Pierzynski for assignment. Long live the streak!