|Closing Time: More Pedro Ciriaco late heroics lift Red Sox to 4-3 win over Royals||08.24.12 at 10:08 pm ET|
While many thoughts were focused on Red Sox players who were not playing in Friday night’s series opener against the Royals (namely, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto), the Red Sox remained focused on the field and pulled together a scrappy 4-3 win at Fenway Park.
Neither team’s offense was particularly strong in the game, but the Red Sox pushed across four runs thanks to two-RBI hits from David Ortiz and Pedro Ciriaco.
Jon Lester kept the Red Sox in the game by holding the Royals to three runs through seven innings pitched. However, the lefty left the game due to an apparent injury in the top of the eighth inning.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
• Is there anyone more clutch than Ciriaco? The midseason call-up is enjoying a great first season with the Red Sox, as he has delivered big hit after big hit since getting called up to the majors. This time, Ciriaco delivered a bloop double over third baseman Mike Moustakas in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and one out to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.
In 21 at-bats with the game late and close this season, Ciriaco is batting .429 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and two stolen bases.
While Ciriaco made the clutch hit, it was Scott Podsednik who helped set the table for the runners to score. With Mauro Gomez on second and Mike Aviles on first and nobody out, Podsednik delivered a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line, pushing both runners to scoring position.
• David Ortiz wasted no time before making an impact on the Red Sox offense, converting with a first-pitch two-run single off Bruce Chen with one out in the first inning. Ortiz was not done, as he mashed a double to right field in his next at-bat. The hits extended Ortiz’s hitting streak, which began before his injury, to 12 games.
Ortiz is a welcome addition to the lineup, especially with a potent bat like Gonzalez’s potentially leaving. Without the left-handed hitter in the lineup over the past 35 games, the Red Sox slugging percentage dropped from .441 to .419.
• Lester had some rough patches in Friday night’s affair, but overall it was still an improvement upon what he was showing earlier in the season. In seven-plus innings pitched, Lester only allowed three runs off six hits and four walks while striking out six batters.
Since his 11-run disaster against Toronto on July 22, Lester has been relatively good for Boston. Opponents have a .210 batting average off of him and his strikeout totals have improved. Before the Toronto outing, Lester was averaging 7.49 strikeouts per nine innings. In five starts since that outing thoguh, Lester has averaged 8.73 strikeouts per nine innings.
• Four pitchers (Lester, Vicente Padilla, Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey) combined to escape the top of the eighth inning. Lester, who was hurt in the inning, handed off Billy Butler to Padilla who allowed Butler to reach base. Butler was pinch-ran for by Jarrod Dyson, who stole second to put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. However, Padilla struck out Jeff Francoeur, Miller forced Moustakas to pop out, and Bailey forced Brayan Pena to fly out to center field to end the threat.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
• After a strong first two innings for Lester, things did not start very well for the lefty in the third inning. Lester allowed a first-pitch home run to Eric Hosmer, who hit an opposite-field blast off a sinker to bring the Royals within one. The Royals tied the game on an Alex Gordon RBI double.
With that home run, Lester has now allowed 20 on the season, which is tied for the most he has allowed in a single season in his career. The 28-year-old allowed 20 home runs in 2009 before hitting that mark again last season.
• Lester left the game with an apparent upper leg injury in the top half of the eighth. With starting pitching already an issue for the Red Sox and with Beckett possibly on his way out of town, Lester missing time is not an ideal situation for Boston to say the least.
• Jacoby Ellsbury led off the bottom of the third inning with a seeing-eye single through the third baseman and the shortstop. However, Ellsbury was caught trying to swipe second base while Dustin Pedroia was at the plate, halting what could have been a potential rally for Boston.
Ellsbury, who was caught stealing 15 times in 54 attempts last season, was caught stealing for the first time this season on Friday night.
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