BOSTON — The Royals hit the Hub on a day when the Boston Red Sox blew up their roster. The Royals then went out and scored more runs against long-time nemesis Jon Lester than in all five of their previous encounters combined here at Fenway Park.
And it still wasn’t enough.
Kelvin Herrera surrendered two bloop hits Friday in the seventh inning that proved decisive in a 4-3 loss. Worse, both hits came on 0-2 pitches.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I threw the pitches I wanted to throw, and they got just enough of them.”
Yep, just enough.
This was a frustrating loss that saw Boston’s winning rally blossom from a leadoff walk to Mauro Gomez (who?) after manager Ned Yost chose to send Bruce Chen back to the mound with a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning.
Chen had thrown 92 pitches without walking anyone through six innings.
“I tried to overthrow a little bit,” Chen said. “But we’re winning by one run, and I don’t want to leave one out over the plate. We’d worked so hard to get the lead, and Lester was pitching well.
“I didn’t want to leave something out over the plate where (Gomez) could get (his arms) extended and use the small fence in left field.”
Yost said he never considered not bringing Chen back for the seventh.
“If he doesn’t walk the leadoff guy,” Yost said, “I’m not so sure he doesn’t get us through the seventh inning. We were set up at that point, in my mind, with Herrera, (Tim) Collins and (Aaron) Crow in the eighth, and then (Greg) Holland in the ninth.
“It just didn’t work out.”
Mike Aviles fought off an 0-2 fastball from Herrera for a looping single to right that moved Gomez to second. The runners moved to second and third on Scott Podsednik’s sacrifice bunt, which prompted the Royals to shorten their infield.
Pedro Ciriaco then served an 0-2 changeup just fair into left along the line for a two-run double – and the Red Sox led 4-3.
“The one to Aviles,” Herrera said, “was a fastball up. I left it in the middle. That was my fault. The other one was a good pitch. I’ve got to give (Ciriaco) credit. He just went down and got it.”
Catcher Brayan Peña took the same view.
“The one to Mikey,” catcher Brayan Peña said, “we left it in the middle. There’s no excuse for that one, but the one that Ciriaco hit was down. I was ready to block that baseball.
“Afterward, I second-guessed myself. Should I have gone with a fastball? But that pitch was down. He broke hit his bat but hit a little blooper. It could have gone right at Moose (third baseman Mike Moustakas), and we’d be talking about something else.”
Collins replaced Herrera (1-2) after Ciriaco’s double and finished the inning with no further damage, but the walk and the two bloops were damage enough. Chen got a no-decision after allowing three runs and eight hits in six-plus innings.
Lester (8-10) returned for the eighth but last just three pitches to Billy Butler, all balls, before exiting because of a cramp in his left hamstring. That started a bullpen carousel.
First, manager Bobby Valentine summoned Vicente Padilla, and Butler reached on a single to deep short. Jarrod Dyson replaced Butler as a pinch-runner and stole second on a pitchout when catcher Ryan Lavarnway dropped the ball.
After Jeff Francoeur struck out, the Red Sox brought in Andrew Miller to face Mike Moustakas in a left-on-left matchup.
Moustakas popped to short.
Finally, Valentine summoned Andrew Bailey to face Brayan Peña, who flied out to center. Bailey retired the side in order in the ninth for his first save.
Boston’s victory followed an astonishing trade just prior to the game.
The Red Sox reportedly sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford and utilityman Nick Punto to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney and several minor-leaguers.
The trade has yet to be confirmed, but that appears to be a formality. Boston pulled Gonzalez from the lineup just prior to the game. (That’s what put Gomez in the lineup.) The Dodgers also yanked Loney prior to their game against the Marlins.
But the Red Sox still had Lester, who had yielded just two earned runs to the Royals in 37 1/3 innings in his five previous games against them at Fenway. This time, the Royals nicked him for three in seven-plus innings.
“He’s obviously not having his kind of year,” said Alex Gordon, who had two of the Royals’ seven hits. “But he’s still got great stuff. I thought putting up those runs against him was pretty impressive. We just couldn’t finish it.”
Lester threw a no-hitter here against the Royals on May 19, 2008, so it meant something when Lorenzo Cain opened the game with an infield single.
That came to nothing, and then the Red Sox jumped Chen in their first. Ciriaco led off with a line-drive single to center, and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a single on a dying chop to third.
The runners advanced to second and third on Dustin Pedroia’s topper to the mound before David Ortiz, in his first at-bat since July 16, ripped a first-pitch fastball into center field for a two-run single.
The Royals got one run back when Eric Hosmer opened the third with a homer over the Green Monster. Aviles then booted Johnny Giavotella’s grounder for an error, but Cain grounded into a double play.
And the Royals still pulled even. Alcides Escobar drew a two-out walk and scored when Gordon drove a double, his league-leading 40th of the season, off the Monster.
The Royals grabbed the lead by scoring once in the fourth but missed the chance for a big inning after loading the bases with one out. Giavotella produced the go-ahead run with a slow chop to the right side that turned into a single.
But Lester struck out Cain and retired Escobar on a fielder’s-choice grounder to third.