BOSTON — Getting just four hits and still beating the Red Sox at Fenway Park? Think the Royals had a little bit of help Thursday night in opening this four-game weekend series with a 4-3 victory?
How about eight walks in less than five innings by Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka? Five of those walks came in a three-run fifth inning. And, sure, that was a factor. Probably the main factor.
But don't overlook three killer innings from the Royals' bullpen. Robinson Tejeda, Blake Wood and Joakim Soria each produced a three-up and three-down inning while protecting a one-run lead.
"That's exactly how it's supposed to look," starter Brian Bannister said. "I've been here four years, and that's as pretty as it's looked. The starter gives a quality start, and you have three really good arms coming out of the pen, and they each do their jobs."
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Bannister (4-3) did his job, too. He mostly scattered nine hits in limiting the Red Sox to three runs in six innings for his seventh quality start in 10 outings.
Manager Ned Yost went to his bullpen relay with full confidence. Why not? The unit has a 2.80 ERA in his 13 games.
"Robby has been throwing great," he said. "Woody has been throwing great. And I feel pretty good every time Soria gets in that game. Once Banny got us through six, I thought we were all right."
It wasn't that long ago that the bullpen regularly torpedoed the Royals. Five blown saves in the first 15 games; seven in the first 20 while compiling a 6.61 ERA.
Well, look now.
Tejeda has recovered from a rough start by allowing just one earned run in 15 2/3 innings over his last 11 appearances. Wood has a 1.04 ERA in eight games since arriving from Triple-A Omaha.
Kyle Farnsworth didn't pitch Thursday but put him that mix — Yost does. Farnsworth has a 2.79 ERA overall and has permitted one earned run in 10 innings over his last eight outings.
And then there's Soria, who has 12 saves in 14 opportunities.
"We have that feeling like everything is coming together," Soria said. "The guys have been working hard and preparing themselves. It's been good."
The Royals built leads of 3-1 and 4-2 for Bannister, who walked none and struck out four while throwing 104 pitches. Walking none stood in sharp contrast to Matsuzaka, who was the wild thing personified.
Matsuzaka (3-2) allowed just two hits while throwing 112 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. But those eight walks included five in a three-run fifth inning. He also hit a batter and threw a run-scoring wild pitch.
The Royals turned those opportunities into just three runs. They stranded two in the first inning and left the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth.
They did enough, though. Just enough.
"They held a one-run lead in the seventh, eighth and ninth," Bannister said, "in a park that is notoriously tough to pitch in. That was a beautiful thing, and it's a fun way to win a ballgame."
Right fielder David DeJesus returned to the lineup after a two-game paternity leave and paced the attack with an RBI single in the fifth against Matsuzaka and a two-out RBI double in the sixth against ex-teammate Joe Nelson.
That run against Nelson proved to be game-winner.
DeJesus joined the club earlier in the day after spending an additional night with wife Kim and David Jr.
"It's been a really long two days," he said. "I was up all of the time with him, but it's one of those things — you don't want to go to sleep. I had a 4:15 wakeup call to get here by 1 o'clock, and I came right to the field.
"It's been a long day, but I was able to stay loose."
"I'm telling you, good times are coming."