Postgame, Red Sox 8-3: The Sox had gone five days without a win, and some of the losses were a bit on the ugly side. Seven strong innings by Josh Beckett, contributions from the bench and an impressive power display right the ship Saturday in Kansas City.
Beckett took a line drive off his head in the seventh. Yes, his head. But even that turned out OK for the Sox as it just barely glanced off him and caused no harm.
His effort allowed the bullpen to get some rest, and it will be all hands on deck Sunday when Clay Buchholz goes against Gil Meche. First pitch is 2:10 p.m. and NESN will be your guide as Boston goes for its first series win of the season.
Final, Red Sox 8-3: The way Zack Greinke looked early on it seemed unlikely the Red Sox would put on such a hitting display. But five home runs and 12 hits later, the three-game losing streak is history.
Jason Varitek goes yard twice and three others add homers to support an effective seven innings for Josh Beckett.
The rubber game of the three-game set is Sunday afternoon. Clay Buchholz will oppose Gil Meche.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 8-3: The first Red Sox player to reach two home runs this season is, of all people, Jason Varitek. And he needed only a few innings of playing time to get there. The second is Dustin Pedroia, who gets his second home run just minutes after Varitek does his.
The two bombs in the ninth came off Luis Mendoza and give Boston five home runs on the night.
Jonathan Papelbon was warming in the pen, as was Ramon Ramirez.
End 8th, Red Sox 5-3: Now on pace to make 130 appearances this season, Hideki Okajima tosses a perfect eighth. We’ll get to see Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning attempt to wash away some of the sting from Thursday’s loss to the Yankees.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-3: Kevin Youkilis hits his first home run of the season and the third of the night for the Sox, who now hand it to a bullpen that has seen its fair share of issues this week.
End 7th, Red Sox 4-3: The Royals get two runs in the seventh but the Red Sox have to be breathing a sigh of relief after a line drive goes off Josh Beckett’s head but doesn’t injure the righty. Inches to the right and it could’ve been an ugly scene, but the ball off the bat of David DeJesus just barely glanced off Beckett as it went into center field. The Red Sox starter was unharmed, but man was that close to something really nasty.
In addition to the scare, Beckett gave up four hits in the frame. A double play in the middle of it all helped prevent an even uglier frame.
Daniel Bard is likely not available after appearing in the first four games for the Red Sox. The bridge to Jonathan Papelbon will consist of Hideki Okajima, who threw just six pitches Friday.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-1: Jose Guillen leads it off for the Royals. He might not want to dig in too much.
Zack Greinke has plunked two Red Sox hitters tonight: Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro. Neither was intentional, in all likelihood, but Josh Beckett may put one in someone’s back just to even the score.
The Scutaro HBP comes back to bite Greinke when Jacoby Ellsbury follows with an RBI double and Pedroia drives in Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly.
Beckett has thrown only 73 pitches.
End 6th, Red Sox 2-1: The leadoff man gets on with a double, and Josh Beckett begins his usual slowdown. But the righty finally retires Rick Ankiel on a rare pop fly to the pitcher.
Having thrown 93 pitches, the seventh inning may be Zack Greinke’s last.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-1: In the hours after hinting that he might hang them up after this season, Mike Lowell has made a pair of solid defensive plays and records his first hit of 2010 off Zack Greinke in the sixth.
Greinke fans Jeremy Hermida to leave Lowell at first, but the Red Sox third baseman has to feel good about his debut.
End 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Josh Beckett has put the struggles of his first start behind him. Not to take anything away from his effort, but that’s what can happen when you go from the Yankees to the Royals.
Beckett has allowed two hits and no walks since the first inning.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: The Royals hit home runs on consecutive pitches Friday night. The Red Sox return the favor, and do so with unlikely parts.
Zack Greinke was in complete cruise control before Jeremy Hermida turns a hanging curveball into his first home run of the season. Jason Varitek deposits the next pitch over the wall in right.
Tek actually has two home runs in nine career at bats against Greinke.
The Sox were threatening for more with runners on the corners and just one out, but for the second straight night, Victor Martinez hit into a rally-ending double play.
End 4th, Royals 1-0: They give Rick Ankiel a double on a ball that glances off the glove of J.D. Drew (he should’ve had it) and the Royals center fielder has hits in his last eight at bats.
In case you are wondering, the all-time record for consecutive hits is held by Walt Dropo, who had 12 in a row with Detroit in 1952.
Josh Beckett is able to strand Ankiel with help from two more assists by Mike Lowell at third base.
Mid 4th, Royals 1-0: If one game and four innings in April are any indication, you can hand the MVP to Rick Ankiel right now. Already 5-for-5 in the series, he robs Victor Martinez of extra bases with an over-the-shoulder running catch against the wall in center.
It was the only real hard hit ball the Sox have had against Zack Greinke. All three of Boston’s singles have been soft liners or well-placed grounders.
End 3rd, Royals 1-0: If you missed it, do your best to find footage of Scott Podsednik’s swing and miss in the bottom of the third. I haven’t seen such ugliness at the plate since I flailed at a pitch that hit me in the gut back in Little League.
Josh Beckett gets his third strikeout on the “swing,” and has set down seven in a row.
Mid 3rd, Royals 1-0: It’s safe to say Zack Greinke has settled in nicely. Seven straight Red Sox hitters have been sent down since Kevin Youkilis’s excuse-me single with two down in the first.
End 2nd, Royals 1-0: It looks as if Mike Lowell flashed a wry smile after making a diving stop to the backhand in the second. Don’t blame him.
Lowell looked like the third baseman of old when he nabbed Yuniesky Betancourt’s hard grounder down the line, rose to his feet and fired across. No range issues there.
Mid 2nd, Royals 1-0: Mike Lowell’s first plate appearance of the season results in a grounder to second. Jason Varitek’s results in a strikeout, part of a 1-2-3 second for Zack Greinke.
End 1st, Royals 1-0: We’re still waiting for the Red Sox to solve Rick Ankiel.
The Royals center fielder is now 5-for-5 in the series after lining a two-out RBI single into right off Josh Beckett, who got the first two men before hitting a wall.
Beckett gave up a double to Alberto Callaspo and then walked Billy Butler in advance of the Ankiel hit.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis entered a combined 0-for-10 with two strikeouts against Zack Greinke. Both single in the top of the first inning.
Greinke gets out of the jam when he gets J.D. Drew to fly to right. I’ll try to find some numbers to support this, but it seems as if the Sox have left a lot of runners on early in the year.
Here is an interesting note from the Red Sox PR staff: The Sox have had four straight decisions by relievers, the longest such streak since 1989 when five decisions came in succession from John Dopson, Rob Murphy, Lee Smith, Mike Smithson and Bob Stanley.
Coincidentally, the only team in the majors with four decisions by relievers in 2010 is Kansas City.
7:03 p.m.: Zack Greinke will be on the bump in the next few minutes, facing a few Red Sox hitters who have enjoyed success against him.
Victor Martinez, the designated hitter for this one, is 14-for-41 (.341), Marco Scutaro is 6-for-16 (.375) and Mike Lowell is 3-for-4 with a double.
5:20 p.m.: As we watch CC Sabathia flirt with a no-hitter in Tampa Bay, there is some news on the pitching front in Red Sox camp.
Daisuke Matsuzaka threw five scoreless innings in a start for Triple-A Pawtucket. It is the biggest step forward for Matsuzaka since a neck strain hindered him in mid-March.
As I type this, Sabathia has not allowed a hit two outs into the seventh against the Rays.
4:45 p.m.: Those of you itching for a change in the Red Sox lineup will be pleased with tonight’s starters. Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Jeremy Hermida will get their first starts of the season, and David Ortiz is out of the designated hitter spot.
Manager Terry Francona still has yet to make a forced in-game substitution (he put Hermida in Friday night but only after Ortiz was ejected). Here is his new lineup against Royals ace Zack Greinke:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Victor Martinez DH
Kevin Youkilis 1B
J.D. Drew RF
Mike Lowell 3B
Jeremy Hermida LF
Jason Varitek C
Marco Scutaro SS
Kansas City has the same starting lineup as Friday night. It looks like this:
David DeJesus RF
Scott Podsednik LF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Billy Butler 1B
Rick Ankiel CF
Jose Guillen DH
Jason Kendall C
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Chris Getz 2B
9:36 a.m.: Losers of three straight, the Red Sox will test themselves against Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke in the second of three straight games at Kauffman Stadium.
Greinke, who went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA last year, will be opposed by Josh Beckett in a primetime matchup of aces, both of whom have enjoyed success when the two teams get together.
While Greinke has given up just six earned runs in 21 2/3 innings against the Sox, Beckett is 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA lifetime vs. the Royals.
Kansas City rallied from three runs down to defeat Boston in the opener 4-3. Rick Ankiel was 4-for-4 with three RBIs to help spoil a strong debut for Tim Wakefield.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. and it figures to be a great duel.