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Closing time: A pair of Red Sox streaks snapped in Game 1 loss to Royals

04.21.13 at 4:30 pm ET
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The Red Sox‘ 16-game stretch in which no starter gave up more than three earned runs ended Sunday, as Ryan Dempster allowed four on six hits over his seven innings, as the Red Sox saw their seven-game winning streak halted in a 4-2 loss to the Royals in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The season-opening streak tied an AL record held by the 1981 and 1978 A’s.

Dempster’s outing was a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, he struck out eight, seven swinging, including three punchouts of Jeff Francoeur. In each of his first four starts with the Red Sox, he has struck out at least seven hitters. Only Pedro Martinez, who did it in five straight starts, had a longer such streak to open his Boston career.

Dempster also lasted seven innings, retiring the Royals in order in the seventh to ease the bullpen’s workload. However, he didn’t work particularly efficiently, frequently falling behind hitters in the count and throwing 69 pitches through the first four innings. He recovered fairly well from a first-inning solo homer by Alcides Escobar, but a long fourth inning hurt him, as he gave up three runs on four hits in that frame.

After Lorenzo Cain doubled in the tying run, it was a single that Salvador Perez poked just out of Stephen Drew‘s reach that put the Royals on top, 4-2. With the Red Sox bats falling silent on Sunday afternoon, that proved enough to send the Sox to their first loss in 10 days.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Drew’s cold start at the plate continued, as he struck out three times and went 0-for-4. He is now 3-for-30 on the year, with his early offensive struggles making the absence of Jose Iglesias‘ incomparable defense more difficult to overlook — particularly given that the decisive play of the game was on a line drive that was inches out of his reach and to his left. Drew did have one of his best swings of the year, smashing a liner to the warning track in deep center field, but Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain tracked it down.

– The Sox didn’t get much from the lower half of their order in general. The only time one of their 6-9 hitters reached base was on a second-inning single from Will Middlebrooks. Jonny Gomes, making a rare start in left field, went 0-for-4 in the ninth spot in the order. Indeed, Royals starter Ervin Santana retired 11 straight batters in one stretch between the second and sixth innings.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in the pivotal at-bat of the game, negotiated a 2-0 count with the bases loaded, two outs and the Sox trailing by two runs in the bottom of the eighth. However, he squibbed a 94 mph fastball from reliever Aaron Crow for a comebacker that smothered the Sox’ last rally of the day. Saltalamacchia was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on the day, and in his last eight contests, he’s 3-for-24 (.125) with 10 punchouts.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

David Ortiz has made an immediate impact in the Red Sox lineup, going 3-for-4 with an RBI Saturday and driving in the first run of the game for the Red Sox on Sunday. Ortiz also doubled to right in the sixth inning, although he was stranded on third when Saltalamacchia struck out swinging. He got his first significant baserunning test, both in reaching second base on the double and then advancing from second to third on a fly ball to right, without apparent incident.

Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the second inning. However, the streak has been a relatively modest one, as he’s hitting .289 with no walks and just two runs batted in during that stretch. Still, he’s been a table-setter, scoring 11 runs during his hitting streak.

Dustin Pedroia singled and scored in the second inning and has now reached base in all 17 games to start this year. Going back to last year, that streak extends 27 games in total.

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