Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Royals get whacked in 8-2 loss to Red Sox

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Royals turned in an absolute clunker. But, boy, this qualifies. Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox was like a bad dining experience that got worse with every course.

Boston starter Josh Beckett had lost his last three starts, so the law of averages suggested he was due to dial up the sort of performance he often displays in the postseason.

Close enough.

Beckett, 10-8, limited the Royals to two runs and four hits while striking out seven in 6 2/3 dominant innings. That delighted the heavy Red Sox contingent in the crowd of 22,069.

“He looked great,” Royals designated hitter José Guillen said. “His ball was moving in and out. His breaking ball was unbelievable. He looked like the playoff Beckett.”

Boston backed Beckett with a 13-hit attack that made things easy. Every starter except Mike Lowell had at least one hit, and Lowell still managed to score twice. Mike Timlin and Chris Smith closed out the victory by combining for 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

The loss was just the second for the Royals in nine games.

Royals starter Brian Bannister, 7-10, avoided the big inning but labored through 86 pitches before departing with no outs in the fifth. He gave up three runs and six hits and remains winless in seven starts since June 23.

“Beckett had his swing-and-miss stuff tonight,” Bannister said. “I was just trying to keep it close and give us a chance going into the later innings.”

The Red Sox put the game away by playing whack-a-mole with Leo Nuñez in the sixth and seventh. Nuñez gave up five runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings. Two runs were unearned, but all were deserved.

It made for a long night for bench coach Dave Owen, who ran the Royals while manager Trey Hillman served a one-game suspension imposed earlier in the day for his role in Sunday’s on-field brawl with the Chicago White Sox.

“What about the guy getting suspended on the night that we’ve got to face Beckett?” Owen joked. “Nice going. He picks his spot, doesn’t he?”

Catcher Miguel Olivo and pitcher Zack Greinke received five-game bans along with fines of $2,000 and $1,500. Both plan to appeal, which puts a hold on the punishments until the process plays out.

This one would have been a good one to miss, though.

The Red Sox scored single runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings in building a 3-1 lead against Bannister. Any thoughts of a comeback evaporated when Nuñez took his beating.

Jason Bay paced Boston’s balanced attack with four hits, including two run-scoring doubles. Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis each had two hits. Six different players scored runs; five had RBIs.

“Our offense kept at it,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “It was consistent. Early on, we didn’t have a ton to show for it, but we took some really good swings.

“We hit some balls at people, but we stayed at it and ended up having a really good night all round.”

Bay’s second double came in the three-run seventh and is sure to be a replay highlight. It was nearly an out, then nearly a homer.

Center fielder Mitch Maier reached the deep drive to left-center field, but the ball popped out of his glove as he hit the wall and rolled along the top of the new scoreboard just inches from being a homer.

Left fielder Ross Gload leaped up, knocked the ball back into play and held Bay to a double.

“He did a great job of keeping it in,” Maier said. “If he had not jumped up and grabbed it, if it rolls off the other side, it’s a three-run home run.”

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