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Red Sox 2, Royals 4: Another rough one for the lineup

Jackie’s dive and an offensive no-show contribute to a loss.

Boston Red Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Red Sox came into this game looking to take sole possession first place in the American League and build off any momentum created with their series victory in Houston. It was a tough task on the road against a red-hot Royals team, and the first game didn’t go Boston’s way.

It was really hard to know what to expect from Hector Velazquez in this game. After a major-league debut in Oakland in which he looked horrific, the former Mexican League star came out in a relief appearance last week and was phenomenal against the Phillies. Boston didn’t need him to be a world beater in this one, but with the way the offense has been struggling of late (and for large chunks of the season), they needed him to keep the team in the game. Fortunately, the Royals are the worst offenses in the American League, at least by runs per game.

Fortunately, the righty was able to do very well. As we’ve seen from him in his limited major-league time, his stuff isn’t what he’ll ever rely on to have success. That was certainly the case in this one as he only racked up three strikeouts over his 6 13 innings of work. However, he made up for that with strong command against an aggressive Royals lineup that is trending in the right direction, even if their overall numbers are still poor.

With that strong command, Velazquez was able to limit any rallies put up by the Royals all night. He did give up a couple of singles in the first, but stranded runners on the corners without allowing a run. After a scoreless second, he made his only mistake of the night in the third. That inning started with the weakest of hits as Whit Merrifield reached on a swinging bunt up the third base line. However, after a couple of quick outs Velazquez threw a sinker to Eric Hosmer that didn’t sink. Instead, it stayed up over the middle of the plate and the Royals first baseman didn’t miss it. He launched it into the seats in center field and just like that the Royals had a 2-0 lead. Velazquez settled down from there, retiring the next seven batters he’d face heading into the sixth.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of things, it was another frustrating night for the Red Sox offense against a pitcher they should have a field day against. Jason Hammel has been a solid pitcher in the past, but things had been trending down in a big way this season. Unfortunately, the Red Sox haven’t been able to have success against starting pitching this year and that is the trend that continued on Monday night.

They simply didn’t really get many rallies going in this one. Boston did get one baserunner in the first and third innings and managed to get two in the second, but there was never a real threat at a run in any of those innings. That leads us to the top half of the fourth right after the Red Sox had just fallen behind after Hosmer’s home run. As they looked to pick up their rookie pitcher, Hanley Ramirez started things off with a little bloop single to right field. That would pay off after Jackie Bradley destroyed a hanging slider in his next at bat. Just like that, the Red Sox were tied at two after another big swing from Bradley, who has recovered and then some from his slow start.

After that, they slowed back down. In the fifth the Red Sox went down 1-2-3, and although they were able to get a couple on in the sixth, nobody scored.

This brought us to the bottom half of the sixth, with Velazquez coming back out. Farrell hadn’t expected to get much more than five innings from his starter, but he was at fewer than 80 pitches and really cruising. He’d get a quick first out, and that was the end of his night. It seemed as if he had enough to keep going, but Kansas City was sending out a pair of tough lefties in Hosmer and Mike Moustakas so Farrell turned to Fernando Abad. The southpaw couldn’t get the job done, walking Hosmer and allowing Moustakas to reach on a bunt single. After that, the book was closed on Abad as Blaine Boyer came in to clean up and was able to keep the score tied.

In the top half of the seventh, the Red Sox were once again able to get a runner on, but once again they failed to get anything going. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the Royals in the next inning. With Boyer still on the mound and one out recorded, Drew Butera ripped a line drive out to center field. Bradley thought he had a beat on it and dove, but he came up short, allowing the ball to roll to center field and Butera to get in with a one-out triple. It was a rare and costly defensive mistake from Bradley, who should have gotten behind it and let it fall in for a base hit. It’s hard to question the effort, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think he’d catch it, but it came back to bite them. The Royals wouldn’t waste this chance as Merrifield knocked the runner in with a single, and he’d come around to score himself on another single later in the frame. With the 4-2 deficit, the Red Sox called upon Robby Scott to end the inning and he was able to do so.

In the top of the eighth, the Red Sox started to get a little rally going with Hammel out of the game. Lefty Mike Minor was in, and after getting a quick first out he allowed back-to-back singles to Ramirez and Bradley. From there, Josh Rutledge struck out and Farrell decided to pinch hit Chris Young for Pablo Sandoval despite Boston having no backup infielders available on the bench. If you needed an idea of how little this team trusts Sandoval right now, there you have it. Young drew a walk to load the bases, but the rally was squandered as Vazquez couldn’t beat out a chopper down the third base line.

In the bottom half, Austin Maddox came in for his second career appearance and the Red Sox had Vazquez playing the hot corner. The Royals didn’t score in the inning, but Boston similarly failed to score in the ninth despite an Andrew Benintendi triple and that was the game.

The play that will be remembered in this game will probably be Bradley’s diving miscue, which is fair. That was a huge moment and a key mistake. However, the more important takeaway was that this was yet another rough day for the offense against a hittable pitcher. Hopefully, they can cut that out with Sale on the mound tomorrow as they look to even the series.