The Royals capped a solid day of Sunday baseball by winning their first double header in Boston since 1971 after Greg Holland struck out the side in the bottom of the tenth to secure a 5-4 victory.
That the Royals even got the lead took some doing – Jeremy Guthrie had a rough start, struggling with his command and giving four runs on eight hits and four walks in six innings. He benefited from some key defensive plays and a little luck to hold Boston to only four runs. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the game, then threw a wild pitch to send him to second. Daniel Nava lined out to Eric Hosmer and Ellsbury had broken for third too soon and got doubled up.
Two innings later, Ellsbury doubled leading off the third and scored on a one-out Dustin Pedroia single. Pedroia then got thrown out trying to steal second by George Kottaras (in his first start of the year). That was key, as Mike Napoli (who had homered earlier off Guthrie) launched a shot to deep center that went off the wall. Pedroia would have scored easily. Instead, it was a two-out shot. Napoli was then thrown out in a rundown trying to advance after a hard grounder from Jarrod Saltalamacchia ricocheted off Eric Hosmer and landed in the glove of Elliot Johnson. Napoli was caught in the middle of third and home as Johnson threw to the plate and Napoli was tagged out in a 3-4-2-5-2-6 putout.
Guthrie settled down, though, and managed to get through six innings.
Meanwhile, the Royals were struggling against Allen Webster in his major league debut. Webster mixed his pitches well and demonstrated great stuff. Royals hitters were off balance for much of the night, but he had given up a double off the Green Monster to Alex Gordon on his first pitch, then saw him score when Pedro Ciriaco turned an infield single from Alcides Escobar into a throwing error as his throw went into the front row behind the Boston dugout.
Webster gave up two homers in the fifth when Kottaras put one over the right field wall and Alex Gordon put one over the Monster after a Johnson strikeout. That tied the score at 3-3. Boston regained the lead in the fifth after Daniel Nava walked and scored after Pedroia and Napoli singles.
It took a homer from Billy Butler in the eighth off Koji Uehara to tie the score. Butler got a high fastball over the plate to work with and deposited it deep in left-center over the Monster. Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth inning after, then got out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth to keep it tied. Ellsbury hit a one-out single, then stole second base. Ned Yost chose to intentionally walk Dustin Pedroia after a Nava strikeout put two outs on the board. The move worked, as Mike Napoli flew out to deep center. Yost was gambling on Napoli (career batting average of .259) making an out over Pedroia (.303 career average). A single would have scored Ellsbury, so it was an odd move (since Napoli had crushed everything all game) but strategically fine.
Andrew Miller opened the top of the tenth by striking out pinch-hitter Miguel Tejada, but gave up a single to Gordon, then walked Escobar. After Butler struck out, Hosmer went the other way and singled into shallow left on a grounder (which was stopped by a diving Ciriaco) to load the bases. Lorenzo Cain came up and laid off Miller’s offerings for a 3-0 count, then faked a bunt as Miller wound up on the fourth pitch. Miller wasn’t sharp anyway but the extra move may have threw him off even more and the ball went wide outside, sending Cain to first and Gordon home with the go ahead run.
Greg Holland came on for his second appearance of the day after closing out the afternoon game. Holland had thrown just 11 pitches in the first game so Yost didn’t hesitate to put him back in, though there would have been second guessing had Holland given up the lead after warming up, pitching, sitting for a few hours, warming up, then pitching again. (To be fair, there would have been second guessing had Yost went to Tim Collins and he’d have blown the game, as his closer wouldn’t have been in.) Holland made the whole idea moot, however, as he overwhelmed the three Red Sox he faced, striking out Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks, and Mike Carp. After his struggles in the first week of the year, today was a very encouraging day. Holland threw 18 of 25 pitches for strikes and looked dominant in the process.
That gives the Royals a one game lead over the Minnesota Twins as Monday offers another Kansas City off day while they move on to an intriguing series in Detroit. There were concerns about how this road trip would turn out for the Royals and what it may say about the team. So far, they’re 3-2 on it after a split in a two-game series in Atlanta and a series win in Boston. One win in Detroit assures a .500 road trip, which is fine for the competition they’re facing. If they can sneak an extra win (or two) in there, that’s an encouraging trip.