Royals 12-9, FINAL: The assault on the Yankees takes a pause. The Royals have won 10 of 14 and the Sox send Paul Byrd to the mound against Zack Grienke Tuesday. Not the way to start the final tune-up before the Yankees series.
End 8th, Royals 12-9 Michael Bowden does a nice job with a 1-2-3 eighth, but it's too little, too late from the bullpen tonight. Lowell, Baldelli and Gonzalez are due up against closer Joakim Soria.
Mid 8th, Royals 12-9: Sean Casey talking about his burning desire to partake in a steel cage match is saving what has otherwise been a miserable night of baseball.
End 7th, Royals 12-9: Billy Wagner strikes out the side again, but the clean innings are few and far between lately. Wagner allows a run on two walks and a double, all with two outs. We are getting closer to Wagner's Kryptonite: October.
Mid 7th, Royals 11-9: The Yankees are losing 2-0 in the third in Anaheim, but it looks increasingly unlikely that the Red Sox will take advanage of it tonight.
End 6th, Royals 11-9: That is not a misprint. The Royals destroy Delcarmen, then take their shots at Daniel Bard, scoring three more runs to take a solid lead. This one ranks with the Baltimore as the worst nights of the season, unless the offense keeps it up in the late innings.
10:30 p.m.: Is Manny Delcarmen pitching himself out of the October picture? Delcarmen gets roughed up again, allowing three runs on three doubles and a walk, unable to get the inning's third out. On Saturday, Delcarmen allowed a pair of homers. He has already been marginalized by the arrival of Billy Wagner. You have to wonder when, and if, Delcarmen will ever become a consistent, solid contributor.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 9-5: New pitcher, same result. Yasuhiko Yabuta relieves DiNardo and allows a run on two hits and a wild pitch, with Yabuta failing to cover home. Manny Delcarmen is in for the Sox, trying to hold Wakefield's 12th victory.
End 5th, Red Sox 8-5: Jason Bay saves the day. Terry Francona, in tribute to the courageous outing by Tim Wakefield, gave Wake a very long rope to get through the fifth inning and become eligible or the victory. That meant staying with Wake after a Mike Jacobs three-run homer and the tying run coming to the plate with two outs. Francona allows Wakefield to pitch to Yuniesky Betancourt, who drives one deep to left, But Bay makes the catch up against the fence to keep the Sox in the lead.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 8-2: Time to get DiNardo out of there, too. Victor Martinez, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 20 games, hits a two-out, bases-loaded single to bring home two more runs.
End 4th, Red Sox 6-2: Time to get Wakefield out of there. Wake allows three straight singles with one out, and though he escapes again with a 3-6-3 double play, it's clear he doesn't have much left tonight.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 6-1: The rain is falling hard now. Can the Red Sox get six more outs, and can Wakefield be the one to get them.
End 3rd, Red Sox 6-1: The Red Sox rally may have hurt Tim Wakefield more than it helped him. Wake had to wait 22 minutes between innings, and it showed, as Wakefield hobbled through three straight walks and a passed ball that allowed the Royals their first run. But Wakefield battles through, not allowing a hit and striking out Mike Jacobs to limit the damage.
9:09 p.m.: The rain is starting to fall in Kansas City, and Wake is losing his control, walking two in a row with one out.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 6-0: Lenny is lovlier, the second time around. The Red Sox rock DiNardo, continuing the attack, even after Bay's homer. Baldelli, Gonzalez, Ellsbury and Pedroia connect for four straight singles, as DiNardo gets left to take one for the team.
8:48 p.m.: Jason Bay started strong and slumped in the middle, but the needle has swung all the way back. Bay hits a three-run homer to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead in the third. It's his fourth straight game with a homer and 5 of 7. It also sets a career high with 36 and builds on his career-high RBI with 113.
End 2nd, 0-0: Am I the only one noticing something different with Mike Lowell tonight? He goes first-to-third on a single up the middle with one out. He makes a stop along the line and throws out a fast runner. He ranges deep down the left field line for an over-the-shoulder grab on a foul ball. That's about the most mobile we've seen Lowell all season.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: The Red Sox have already stranded four runners, wasting a first-and-third, one-out situation in the second. Alex Gonzalez has been surprisingly productive at the plate in his Red Sox encore. But he fouled out to first in a big spot that inning.
End 1st, 0-0: When Wakefield has been able to limp to the mound, he's been pretty effective. He was never better than the first inning, needing just eight pitches in a 1-2-3 inning,. all three outs on groundouts to first and back to the mound..
Mid 1st, 0-0: Old friend Lenny DiNardo is making the start for the Royals, and the Red Sox almost greet him with a big inning. After getting two quick outs, Dinardo gives up a pair of singles to Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis, but Alex Gordon saves the day with a diving stop on the homer-happy Jason Bay to end the inning.
7:20 p.m.: Rain appeared to be a factor tonight, but skies are clearing over Kansas City, and we should start on time. Hopefully, the mound area and infield are dry enough not to give Tim Wakefield any more trouble than he already has trying to move around.
4:30 p.m.: The wild-card race is close to the finish line, but who cares about the silly wild card? We've got a division race to talk about, and I don't mean Twins-Tigers.
With 14 games remaining, the Red Sox remarkably find themselves back within striking distance of the Yankees in the AL East. Such a scenario seemed fanciful after Daniel Bard gave up those homers into the New York night six weeks ago. But the Yankees have fallen on some hard time recently while the Red Sox have won 9-of-10 and now the lead is down to five games — four in the loss column.
Best of all, the Red Sox go back to the Bronx this weekend for three games. Because the Red Sox need only to win one game to win the season head-to-head, the Red Sox need to only tie the Yankees in order to win the division: Just like 2005, only in reverse. As much as the Red Sox feel they own the Angels and Justin Verlander would make a formidable opponent in a five-game division-series, wouldn't you love to embarrass the Yankees, take away their home-field advantage, and send them to Anaheim?
Tim Wakefield takes the ball tonight, as he tries to gut it out and contribute despite debilitating leg pain. When he has pitched, he's still been effective, and every little bit helps as the days to October dwindle.