Well, they are the world champions. So, yes, the Royals should have figured their first victory this season over the Boston Red Sox would be a squirmer right to the last pitch.
In the end, closer Joakim Soria had just enough Monday night to close out a 4-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium. The Mexicutioner retired Sean Casey on a line drive to right field with the bases loaded.
Soria’s 32nd save rewarded Gil Meche for another stellar performance.
Boy, it wasn’t easy, though.
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The Royals had a 4-2 lead when Soria opened the ninth by yielding a single to Coco Crisp. Soria then caught a break _ a deserved one, replays suggested _ when he struck out J.D. Drew on a check-swing appeal on a 3-2 pitch.
Dustin Pedroia followed with a single that dropped in front of left fielder Esteban German. It was Pedroia’s third hit of the game and moved Crisp to second.
David Ortiz’s grounder to first produced the second out but moved both runners into scoring position.
An intentional walk to Kevin Youkilis loaded the bases and reduced the game to Soria vs. Jason Bay, the outfielder acquired last week from Pittsburgh in the trade that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.
For the moment.
Bay hit a soft grounder to the left side that turned into an RBI single when third baseman Alex Gordon and shortstop Tony Peña collided.
Soria then jumped ahead of Casey 0-2 before Casey whacked a curveball to right field that Teahen ran down for the final out. Soria responded by raising his arms in exultation.
Meche, 10-9, pushed his extended roll into a fourth month by limiting the Red Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings. It was his fourth straight quality start and his 14th in 24 outings.
The hot, muggy conditions took a toll, though. Meche had nine strikeouts and a season-high five strikeouts, which pushed his pitch count to 109 pitches before he handed a two-run lead to reliever Ramon Ramirez in the seventh inning.
Meche is 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA in his last 11 starts. He lowered his overall ERA to 4.17; it stood at 8.00 after his first five starts.
Ramirez retired five straight hitters before yielding two-out singles in the eighth to Sean Casey and Jed Lowrie. In came Ron Mahay, who threw three straight balls to Jason Varitek before battling back to win a nine-pitch battle with a strikeout.
All nine pitches were fastballs.
Who knew the drama was only starting?
The Red Sox won all four games when the teams met May 19-22 in Boston. Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter in the opener, and that sweep started the Royals on a 12-game skid.
This amounted to a small bit of payback.
Boston starter Clay Buchholz, 2-7, allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. He struggled, really, in only the third inning, when the Royals turned three singles, two walks and a hit batsman into three runs.
The Royals finished with eight hits after setting a franchise by getting 19 in each of their two previous games. Alex Gordon hit a homer and drew two walks in four plate appearances. José Guillen had two doubles and a walk, while Billy Butler delivered his 20th RBI in 17 games.
The loss kept Boston, 64-49, three games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East Division. The Royals won for the seventh time in eight games and improved to 53-60.
The game didn’t start well for Meche and the Royals. Drew worked a leadoff walk, and Pedroia followed with a drive to deep right that confounded Teahen, who turned completely around before the ball fell untouched for a double that sent Drew to third.
Drew scored on Ortiz’s grounder to first before Youkilis lined an RBI double to right for a 2-0 lead _ nothing Teahen could do on that one. The double extended Youkilis’ hitting streak to 11 games.
The Royals got one run back on Gordon’s 13th homer of the year, a one-out drive in the second down the right-field line into the seats.
Teahen atoned for his defensive misplay with an RBI single that fueled a three-run third inning.
Mike Aviles and Esteban German started the rally with one-out singles, although the Royals caught a break when Lowrie couldn’t handle German’s sharp grounder to short.
A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third before Teahen poked his game-tying single into short left. Buchholz loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk to Guillen.
Butler followed with a sacrifice fly to right that scored German for a 3-2 lead.
Buchholz reloaded the bases by walking Gordon before forcing in a run by hitting John Buck with an 0-1 fastball. That proved to be the winning run.