Final, Red Sox 5-4: Boston started the second half with a win.
The Red Sox used a four-run sixth inning to take down the Royals 5-4 in Friday’s series opener at Fenway Park. Xander Bogaerts and Jonny Gomes drilled a pair of two-run homers.
The Royals jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Brock Holt answered with an RBI single in the second, but Kansas City built a 4-1 lead by scoring two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
The sixth inning changed the complexion of the game, though. Bogaerts crushed a home run to pull Boston to within a run, and Jonny Gomes catapulted the Red Sox in front with a pinch-hit blast off lefty Scott Downs to straightaway center field.
Closer Koji Uehara retired the side in the ninth to earn his 19th save of the season.
Clay Buchholz went six innings en route to earning the win. The right-hander allowed four runs on 10 hits while striking out three. He threw 104 pitches (67 strikes) and again didn’t issue any walks.
End 8th, Red Sox 5-4: The Red Sox squandered an opportunity to add to their lead in the eighth inning.
Xander Bogaerts and Stephen Drew began the inning with back-to-back walks. David Ross then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position.
Neither Jonny Gomes nor Brock Holt could do any damage, though. Gomes struck out swinging and Holt flied out into the right field corner.
Koji Uehara will enter in the ninth-inning with a one-run edge.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-4: The Royals stranded the potential tying run at third base in the eighth inning.
Alex Gordon led off with a single into left field. Junichi Tazawa then threw away a pickoff attempt, allowing Gordon to move up into scoring position with no outs.
Billy Butler lifted a fly ball down the right field line. Daniel Nava, who shifted to right field with Jonny Gomes in the game, ranged over toward the corner to make the catch. Gordon tagged up and advanced to third base.
The Red Sox pulled the infield in. Mike Moustakas hit a hard ground ball right at Dustin Pedroia, who looked Gordon back before firing to first base for the second out.
Alcides Escobar hit a chopper over the mound that sneaked past Tazawa. Fortunately for the Red Sox, shortstop Stephen Drew was able to make the play and fire a strong throw on the run to end the inning and preserve Boston’s one-run lead.
End 7th, Red Sox 5-4: The Red Sox couldn’t capitalize on David Ortiz’s one-out double.
Ortiz ripped a line drive into the right field corner. He hustled his way to a two-bagger, sliding in just ahead of the throw.
Mike Napoli hit a high chopper back to pitcher Kelvin Herrera. Herrera jumped up to grab it while Ortiz took off for third base. Herrera immediately turned and fired to third, where Ortiz was tagged out.
Daniel Nava grounded out to end the inning.
Junichi Tazawa will pitch the eighth inning for Boston.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 5-4: Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller combined for a scoreless seventh inning.
Badenhop started the inning. Lorenzo Cain grounded out and Omar Infante reached on a throwing error by Xander Bogaerts before John Farrell turned to Miller with the left-handed-hitting Eric Hosmer digging in.
Bogaerts made a nice pick on Infante’s hot shot to the left side. He bounced his throw, though, and Mike Napoli was unable to scoop it. It was a weird, in-between hop that was nearly impossible for Napoli to scoop.
Miller struck out Hosmer and Salvador Perez. Perez chased a filthy slider in the dirt.
The Red Sox made some defensive changes before the seventh inning. Jonny Gomes, who pinch-hit for Jackie Bradley Jr., remained in the game in left field. Daniel Nava shifted to right field and Brock Holt shifted to center.
End 6th, Red Sox 5-4: No one needed the All-Star break more than Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts, who limped into the break struggling mightily, hit his first home run in 90 at-bats in the sixth inning. It was a two-run shot to straightaway center field.
Daniel Nava set the table for Bogaerts’ two-run blast with a line drive into left field. Alex Gordon, who is one of the game’s best defensive outfielders, made a dive at it, but the ball popped out of his glove for a single.
The Red Sox weren’t done.
Stephen Drew followed Bogaerts’ homer with a deep drive to right field. It landed on the warning track and bounced up into the Red Sox’s bullpen for a ground-rule double.
Royals starter James Shields struck out David Ross to cap his outing. The Royals turned to lefty Scott Downs, and John Farrell countered by calling upon Jonny Gomes to pinch-hit for Jackie Bradley Jr. The move worked out perfectly for the Red Sox.
Gomes smoked a two-run homer into the center field bleachers to give Boston a 5-4 lead.
Mid 6th, Royals 4-1: Clay Buchholz overcame a leadoff single in the sixth inning.
Billy Butler, who looks like a quintessential slow-pitch softball player, singled into left field. Buchholz rebounded for three straight outs.
Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar lined out. Nori Aoki hit a comebacker that Buchholz snagged and underhand flipped to first.
End 5th, Royals 4-1: David Ortiz capped the fifth inning with a double play.
Dustin Pedroia reached on an infield single with one out. Ortiz bounced into a tailor-made twin killing, though, and the Red Sox went down without a fight in the fifth.
Brock Holt started the inning with a groundout.
Mid 5th, Royals 4-1: The Royals have opened up a three-run lead.
Nori Aoki led off with a single into center field. He ended up scoring Kansas City’s fourth run, as Clay Buchholz had a hard time establishing any sort of rhythm in the fifth inning.
Aoki swiped second base as Lorenzo Cain struck out looking. Aoki took third base on a passed ball charged to David Ross with two outs and scored when Eric Hosmer singled up the middle.
Hosmer is 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Salvador Perez extended the inning with a line drive into left-center field that dropped in front of Daniel Nava. Alex Gordon grounded to first base to end the inning.
The No. 2 through 4 hitters in the Royals’ lineup are making life difficult for Buchholz. The trio of Omar Infante, Hosmer and Perez is a combined 7-for-9 with two doubles and three RBIs.
End 4th, Royals 3-1: The Red Sox went down without a whisper in the fourth inning.
The bottom third of the order — Stephen Drew, David Ross and Jackie Bradley Jr. — couldn’t get anything going against James Shields.
Drew and Bradley both grounded out. Ross struck out swinging.
Mid 4th, Royals 3-1: The Royals got to Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning after back-to-back 1-2-3 frames for the right-hander.
Omar Infante led off with an infield single. The ball bounced over the mound and Dustin Pedroia’s throw was a tad too late.
Eric Hosmer, who drove in Kansas City’s first run, yanked a hot shot down the first base line. It shot past Mike Napoli and into foul territory, where the ball girl fielded it. The only problem was that the ball was fair.
The ball girl immediately dropped the baseball upon realizing her mistake. The damage had been done, though, as the play was ruled a ground-rule double, which actually might have prevented a run from scoring.
Infante and Hosmer would each end up scoring in the inning, though. Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon struck back-to-back RBI singles.
The Royals also had a run cut down at the plate in the fourth inning. Mike Moustakas hit a ground ball to first base with runners at the corners. Napoli made the play and went home with it, leading to a rundown in which Perez was tagged out.
End 3rd, 1-1: Mike Napoli has a couple of hits.
Napoli singled into center field for the second time in the third inning. The Red Sox couldn’t cash in on the one-out knock, though.
The bottom of the third started with a very eventful out. David Ortiz hit a popup into the middle of the infield. Third baseman Mike Moustakas, who was shifted over on the right side, and first baseman Eric Hosmer gave chase. Hosmer reached up with his glove in front of Moustakas. The ball ricocheted off the end of Hosmer’s glove and into Moustakas’ chest before landing safely in Moustakas’ glove.
Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts both flied out to left fielder Alex Gordon to end the inning.
Mid 3rd, 1-1: Clay Buchholz breezed through the third inning with three straight groundouts.
Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain each put the ball on the ground. Xander Bogaerts handled the first out. Stephen Drew took care of the other two.
Buchholz continues to show good life on his fastball, sitting at around 93-94 mph.
End 2nd 1-1: Brock Holt is showing no signs of slowing down.
Holt, who capped his impressive first half with a five-hit performance Sunday in Houston, tied the game with an RBI single into left field.
The inning started with a costly miscue by Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Escobar fired an errant throw to first base that allowed Xander Bogaerts to reach.
Stephen Drew followed with a line drive into right-center field. It was a rough first half for Drew, but his timing at the plate seems to be improving as he gets more at-bats.
David Ross hit a rocket to third base after Drew’s single sent Bogaerts from first to third. Mike Moustakas snagged it out of thin air.
Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out for the second out, but Holt made sure the Red Sox, unlike in the first inning, came away with a run.
Dustin Pedroia flied out to center field to end the inning.
Mid 2nd, Royals 1-0: Clay Buchholz enjoyed a nice bounce-back inning in the second.
Buchholz retired Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas in order. Gordon grounded out, Butler flied out and Moustakas struck out.
Moustakas went down looking at a 93 mph fastball. Buchholz has shown good velocity early in this contest.
End 1st, Royals 1-0: The second half already is looking a lot like the first half.
The Red Sox stranded two runners in the first inning. Brock Holt led off with a walk and Mike Napoli singled into center field, but Daniel Nava flied out to deep right field to end the inning.
Dustin Pedroia lined out to left field and David Ortiz popped out behind the plate in the first inning. Nava’s drive sent right fielder Nori Aoki to the warning track.
Mid 1st, Royals 1-0: Back-to-back wall balls gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Clay Buchholz started his outing on a positive note, striking out Lorenzo Cain with a good-looking curveball.
Omar Infante and Eric Hosmer weren’t fooled, though. Infante hit a ball that struck the ladder on the Green Monster and bounced toward the left field line. By the time Daniel Nava corralled it, Infante had himself a one-out double.
Hosmer knocked in Infante with a lined shot off the Monster. He was held to a single by Nava, as the ball was scorched.
Salvador Perez took aim at the left-center field gap, but Nava ranged over to make a nice running catch.
David Ross threw out Hosmer at second base on a stolen-base attempt to end the inning.
7:12 p.m.: The first pitch of the second half is a strike from Clay Buchholz.
6:55 p.m.: Clay Buchholz started the Red Sox’s final game before the All-Star break, and he’ll also start this contest. He is the first Red Sox pitcher to start back-to-back games since Hideo Nomo in 2001, surrounding the September 11 attacks.
6:15 p.m.: David Ross will catch the first game out of the break.
Ross is expected to catch Friday and then again Sunday when Jon Lester toes the rubber. Christian Vazquez presumably will start Saturday’s middle game.
Friday’s outfield will consist of Daniel Nava in left field, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field and Brock Holt in right field. Shane Victorino could return to the Red Sox on Saturday if all goes well in Friday’s rehab game with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Friday’s complete lineups are below.
Boston Red Sox (43-52)
Brock Holt, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Stephen Drew, SS
David Ross, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Clay Buchholz, RHP (4-5, 5.42 ERA)
Kansas City Royals (48-46)
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Omar Infante, 2B
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Salvador Perez, C
Alex Gordon, LF
Billy Butler, DH
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Alcides Escobar, SS
Nori Aoki, RF
James Shields, RHP (9-5, 3.65 ERA)
6 p.m. ET: The Boston Red Sox have reached a critical stage.
The Red Sox enter the second half of the 2014 season nine games below .500 (43-52) and 9 1/2 games back in the American League East. The next couple of weeks will go a long way toward determining the club’s fate. It all starts Friday against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.
Boston’s .453 winning percentage at the break is the team’s worst first-half mark since the 1997 team went 38-48 in the first half. Clearly, the Sox underachieved, especially when you consider the lofty expectations surrounding Boston after last year’s World Series run.
There is hope, though. The Red Sox won four of their final five games before the All-Star break. The stretch featured Boston’s best five-game run differential of the season (plus-17). The Red Sox scored 30 runs in the five contests.
The Red Sox’s offensive outburst is encouraging because Boston’s bats have been the issue all season. Red Sox pitchers rank fourth in the American League with a 3.83 ERA — Boston’s best pre-break mark since 2008 (3.80). The Red Sox’s 56 quality starts rank second in the AL behind the Oakland Athletics’ 61.
Clay Buchholz, who tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout in Boston’s 11-0 win Sunday, will open the second half Friday. The right-hander has made tremendous strides since returning from the disabled list, and it’ll be extremely important for him to continue to build on his progress if the Red Sox are going to jump back into playoff contention. He’ll face Royals ace James Shields in Friday’s second-half opener.
Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Tune in on NESN and follow along with NESN.com’s live blog. The Red Sox are entering a make-or-break stretch, and you won’t want to miss any of the action.