The drama last night in the Fens came in smaller bites. Instead of nine innings of no hits, there was one bases-loaded whiff - by closer Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth inning - that preserved the Red Sox' 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals, their fifth straight win on this homestand.
But rookie Justin Masterson deadpanned that while he and his wife of six months, Meryl, were watching Jon Lester on a TV in their Boston hotel room Monday night, he imagined more colorful scenarios for his second big-league start the next night.
"The announcers said at the end, 'Have fun following that one, Justin,' " Masterson said. "I was so proud of Jon, I consider him a good friend, so there was just so many things going through my mind - perfect game, back-to-back no-hitters.
"Of course, those were gone in the first inning."
Alex Gordon's two-out double in the first took Masterson out of the realm of fantasyland. But the Royals did little to disrupt this assembly line of impressive pitchers that evidently is housed in an unmarked warehouse somewhere in New England, given the way the Sox keep churning them out while other teams go begging.
Masterson, who held the Angels to two hits and a run in his first start April 24, held the Royals to three hits and a run in 6 1/3 innings last night. All three hits were by Gordon, two doubles sandwiched around a single. The run came in the seventh, when Masterson walked Mark Teahen, who came around to score on an infield out and a single off reliever Manny Delcarmen that eluded the short-armed reach of a diving Julio Lugo.
"I felt really good in both of these," Masterson said. "I actually felt better today than in the last one. Today, a little bit, things were going my way."
The suspense came in the eighth, when Papelbon rescued Hideki Okajima from a bases-loaded jam of his own making, one in which he gave up a leadoff double to David DeJesus and walked Gordon and Teahen, both on full counts, pitching carefully rather than giving in, armed with the knowledge that Papelbon was primed to enter.
Papelbon struck out Billy Butler on a slider to end the eighth, which he celebrated with typical fist-pumping exuberance, then whiffed two more Royals in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Papelbon's 13th save made the two runs the Sox scored in the second inning off Royals ace Gil Meche stand up. The Sox loaded the bases on singles by Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew and a walk to Jason Varitek. Lugo's sacrifice fly scored one run, Coco Crisp's ground-rule double accounting for the other.
After the game, Masterson learned he was not returning to Double A Portland, where he began the season, but going to Triple A Pawtucket. Next up in the revised Sox rotation will be Bartolo Colon, who turns 35 this week but is pitching like a reborn kid, throwing six scoreless innings while allowing just one hit in his last rehab start.
"I really am," manager Terry Francona said when asked if he was looking forward to what the former Cy Young Award winner will do in his Sox debut. "We've spent a lot of time getting him ready."
Time, Francona said, is the component the Sox have with Masterson, who in his two starts has left no doubt he'll be back here sooner rather than later, with a heavy sinker that resulted in 11 ground outs last night.
"He threw two pitches," Francona said, "the two-seamer and the slider. To lefties, he didn't throw a lot of changeups tonight, and they were getting out over the plate and looking a little comfortable.
"But he works quick, got a lot of ground balls from righthanders, and got us pretty deep into the game."
Had Masterson known ahead of time that he was headed for Pawtucket?
"Sort of, not really," he said. "They told me to pack up the car and said it might be Pawtucket, might be Portland. So that's what I did, packed it up with my stuff and my wife."
He'd be well-advised to keep the motor idling. A trip back up 95 is in the offing.