First off, Cody Ross comes up with a couple big hits off the Monster, pacing the offense.
But really, the story of the game is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who stymies the Royals through seven innings of one- (unearned) run ball, walking only two on the afternoon.
With the win, the Red Sox improve their record to 62-67, while the Royals fall to 56-71. Matsuzaka (1-3) picks up the win, while Hochevar (7-12) gets saddled with the eight-inning, complete-game loss.
Well, that's it for your Red Sox Live Blog. We'll be back with another edition tomorrow, but in the meantime tune to NESN, or stick with NESN.com for all your postgame needs. And, as always, tweet this live blogger at @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-1: Well, you may have heard earlier today that they won't be playing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" at Beaver Stadium anymore in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Nonetheless, that tradition continues at Fenway, and, being a transplant, it's admittedly one this live blogger had to look up to discover the story behind it upon arriving in Boston.
In reality, the story really isn't that interesting, the song was just picked by a former Fenway musical director after having hear it played at other sporting events. However, when the current ownership group bought the team in 2002, they specifically requested that it continued to be played.
The more you know.
End 7th, Red Sox 5-1: So, lost in Matsuzaka's great start is the fact that Hochevar has gone seven innings as well — no wonder the pace of the game has felt so quick.
He clearly hasn't pitched as well as Dice-K, but the damage against him as also been held to a few isolated pockets. Heck, if Cody Ross isn'tin the lineup today this might have been a completely different ballgame.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 5-1: As Matsuzaka came off the field there, the fans behind the crowd and appropriately gave the 31-year-old a standing ovation. Where was the rest of the ballpark on that one?
After 101 pitches and seven innings, it's probably a safe bet that Matsuzaka is done, but holy cow, what a game for him. What a return to form.
In short, Matsuzaka didn't look brilliant throughout his afternoon, but he looked incredibly efficient — at least by his standards — not wasting much time on the mound and, just to beat a dead horse, didn't try to nibble, just going after hitters. After having such an up-and-down time over the last couple seasons (literally, with the amount of time he's spent in Pawtucket), this one has to have some personal satisfaction for Dice-K.
End 6th, Red Sox 5-1: Well, Ross and Loney add to the Sox' lead, as Boston opens a 5-1 advantage over the Royals. Likewise, it looks like Matsuzaka is going to head back out for a seventh inning, so we'll see how he fares with a four-run lead.
Aside from that, let's talk about James Loney for a second. Like Pedro Ciriaco, this live blogger isn't too convinced that he's a major league regular. Of course, the infielder has gotten regular at-bats for years now as the Dodgers everyday first baseman. But that's the problem, Loney's just never showed the power or consistent bat to justify receiving regular at-bats as a corner infielder. He's basically a poor man's J.T. Snow, except both the glove and bat are a half-step below the level of the former Gold Glove first baseman.
Anyway, going off-topic, this is good advice:
— KeithInchierca(@keith_inchierca) August 27, 2012
Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-1: With relievers warming in the bullpen behind him and Gordon on second with a one-out double, credit Matsuzaka with bearing down and getting through the sixth inning with a foul out and a strikeout.
That's the kind of resilience that's often been missing from Matsuzaka's starts, but he certainly has a little something extra tonight.
One more time, there really isn't anything fancy or different that Matsuzaka is doing than any other time out to the hill. He's simply refusing to nibble, being aggressive in the zone and you're seeing the results.
Top 6th, Red Sox 3-1: For those interested, we have a link to the video of Jarrod Dyson's Spider Man-like first-inning catch of Dustin Pedroia's long fly ball.
End 5th, Red Sox 3-1: For his part, Hochevar hasn't looked to shabby on the day, either. Really, he just threw two bad pitches to Ellsbury and Ross, and neither one of them missed it.
At the beginning of this game this live blogger predicted a high-scoring match and, while there's still time, things haven't played out that way thus far. With the warm weather you'd expect some balls to travel well, but credit the pitchers for largely missing the big part of the opponents' bats.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-1: We're a family website, and cursing is not encouraged in the live blog. But if it were, this live blogger would sound like a sailor right now, that's how (pleasantly) surprised he is to see this side of Matsuzaka.
The right-hander has yielded a few hard-hit balls, a couple of those off the monster, but because he hasn't put anyone on base they've all been easily worked around, and the damage has been limited to one Gordon sacrifice fly — an unearned run.
Just to harp on it again, Matsuzaka doesn't look afraid to catch a little too much of the plate, for once. He's just trusting his stuff, relying on his natural movement to carry the ball off the middle of the plate, and he's efficiently — at 70 pitches — motored through five innings thus far.
End 4th, Red Sox 3-1: We're okay folks. The emergency alarm appears to have subsided, and hopefully we can get on with this thing.
So, anyway, Hochevar is certainly reversing his fortunes in day games. When we start bringing up such split stats, it always recalls Bob Uecker in the Major League films, where the intoxicated announcer usually recites the most obscure stats he can come up with.
Nonetheless, for whatever reason, Hochevar has not fared well in the daylight hours — save your vampire jokes — for a large enough sample size that it has to be considered a trend. Nonetheless, he's done alright tonight, save for two bad pitches to Ellsbury and Cody Ross.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-1: Well, then.
Not sure what to make of this, but the emergency alarm just started going off here in the Fenway press box, with an audible message informing us to leave the building.
Should probably look into this…
End 3rd, Red Sox 3-1: Cody Ross has to be one of the streakiest hitters ever to play the game.
When Ross is going well, he is as dangerous a hitter as anyone in baseball, as we all remember Ross' 2010 playoff run, where he practically put the San Francisco Giants on his back through the NLCS.
Right now he looks to be in one of those streaks, consistently peppering the Green Monster with high-arcing fly balls. In fact, Ross owns a .967 OPS over his last 27 plate appearances.
Mid 3rd, 1-1: Matsuzaka continues to do the impossible and attack the zone and be aggressive after the Royals hitters.
Through the first three innings here, it's hard not to speculate that this is the pitcher the Red Sox have been hoping to see for years now. As we said before, Matsuzaka easily has good enough stuff to not have to be as fine as he tries to be, but trying to tow the line of the strike zone has been his M.O. for years now.
Mid 2nd, 1-1: Who is this Matsuzaka guy?
This has been a rarity from the Japanese right-hander thus far, as Dice-K, aside from the first batter of the game, has actually been attacking the zone thus far. He clearly has the stuff to get away with doing just that — some nice defense from Ellsbury there also doesn't hurt — but far too often resorts to nibbling and trying to get hitters to chase.
Well, through two innings that hasn't been the case, and it's rather heartening to see. Let's just see if it lasts throughout the course of the game.
End 1st, 1-1: Well, that was a pretty ugly swing on the part of Ross to end the inning there, but Ellsbury sure put a sweet stroke on the ball.
That's definitely the piece of the center fielder's game that's been missing since he rejoined the team back in July — power. Few likely foresaw the 32 home runs Ellsbury hit last year, and that may not be a realistic total from year-to-year going forward, but the 28-year-old is also definitely not the prototypical leadoff hitter — although, of course, he isn't leading off today.
Mid 1st, Royals 1-0: That ends up being an unearned run on Matsuzaka there, as the official scorekeeper did well to call that error on Pedroia rather than Saltalamacchia.
No one's ever going to mistake Salty for Ivan Rodriguez any time soon, and though the throw down to second probably wouldn't have gotten Dyson, it also appeared that Pedroia didn't really need to jump to catch it. Rather, it looked like the second baseman simply took his eye off the ball for a moment and plain missed it. That's unfortunate, as if he's able to keep it in front of him this is still a scoreless game.
Given the troubles that Matsuzaka has had, you would like to see the defense provide some support behind him, especially in the first inning.
1:37 p.m.: We have first pitch! And, for those wondering, the gametime temperature is 84 degrees with 45 percent humidity and winds from the south at nine miles per hour.
1:30 p.m.: Coworker Dan Duquette usually has a lot of fun leading NESN Nation for Red Sox games. If you're not aware, you can join the conversation by tweeting at NESN Nation during the games and using a unique hashtage each for each game.
So, what do they have in store for us today? Well, check out the tweet below to follow NESN Nation and discover today's hashtag as the game is about to get going here momentarily.
— NESN Nation (@NESNNation) August 27, 2012
1:25 p.m.: So does anyone have any idea what to expect from Matsuzaka today? Because we sure don't.
Despite his reputation for unpredictability, the right-hander was actually pretty decent during his five rehab starts down in Triple-A Pawtucket, yielding two or fewer runs in three of those outings, including the seven innings of scoreless, one-hit ball he threw back on the 21st — his last time on the hill.
Nonetheless, Matsuzaka did walk four in that outing, which is clearly more true to form. Let's hope he has it together today, though. With Hochevar's penchant for giving up a lot of runs in day game, this one has the makings of a high-scoring, long-afternoon contest.
12:45 p.m.: Well, in case you haven't heard, David Ortiz has been sent back to the disabled list, meaning the Red Sox lineup will likely be much less powerful going forward.
That being said, the existant offensive group isn't exactly lacking for decent hitters, with 2-3-4 of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Cody Ross looking fairly formidable. Likewise, James Loney makes his second start for the Sox since making the trip from the west coast, and he'll be batting fifth and will be back at first base.
Aside from that, Pedro Ciriaco continues to get regular at-bats, so it looks like he's right in the midst of a serious audition for 2013. He likely won't see much time at third base beyond this season, with Will Middlebrooks having entrenched himself there for the next several years, but he could well be an option at shortstop for the Red Sox next year.
Check out the lineups for both teams, below:
Scott Podsednik, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Cody Ross, RF
James Loney, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Mauro Gomez, DH
Mike Aviles, SS
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP
Jarrod Dyson, CF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Alex Gordon, LF
Billy Butler, DH
Salvador Perez, C
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, RF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Johnny Giavotella, SS
Luke Hochevar, RHP
8 a.m. ET: It's not often that afternoon games fall on consecutive days, but such are the oddities of baseball, and such is the case as the Boston Red Sox (61-67) wrap up their four-game set with the Kansas City Royals (56-70) on Monday.
For the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-3, 6.65) makes his first start since July 2, when he was removed with a neck injury after giving up five runs and two home runs in just one-plus inning of work in a loss in Oakland. The Japanese right-hander should be plenty good to go, however, as Matsuzaka made five rehab starts with Pawtucket working his way back from the neck issue.
Along with all the salary Boston just shed with its recent blockbuster trade, Matsuzaka's pegged to be another chunk of change coming off the books, as the 31-year-old's contract expires after this season. That means Matsuzaka may well be auditioning for another look next year, as he'll undoubtedly receive some free agenct interest around baseball, despite all his injury issues the last two seasons.
Matsuzaka will be opposed by Luke Hochevar (7-11, 4.95), a 28-year-old right-hander who, incidentally, is 1-5 with a 8.27 ERA in eight starts in day games in 2012.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET, but you can tune into NESN starting at noon with Monster Monday, and be sure to stick with NESN.com for the rest of your pregame needs. This very live blog will have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, "all the stats and stories" in the hours leading up to the game.
Additionally, this live blogger will be reporting and blogging live from Fenway Park on Monday, so be sure to follow @ZachStoloff to chat Red Sox and all things MLB.