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Royals 3, Red Sox 1

Sox tripped up by Royals in 14th

Offense squanders chances in loss to KC

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 26, 2011

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The 100th game of the season brought the promise of Jon Lester’s return to the mound following his stint on the disabled list with a strained left latissimus.

With Lester back on the mound, there was every expectation the lefthander would pitch well enough (which he did) to help the Red Sox win their 63d game of the season (which they didn’t) in last night’s 3-1 setback in 14 innings to the Kansas City Royals before 37,727 at Fenway Park.

Lester went 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on seven hits and two walks.

Problem was, Lester’s solitary run allowed the Royals to tie the game in the sixth inning.

The Sox struck first in the second inning on Josh Reddick’s RBI double off Royals righthander Kyle Davies, who gave up one run on five hits and one walk while striking out six over six innings.

The Royals broke the stalemate in the 14th against Randy Williams by pushing across a pair of runs on sacrifices, giving Kansas City a league-leading 39 for the season.

Mike Aviles broke the 1-1 stalemate with his pop bunt over first baseman Adrian Gonzalez’s head that scored Eric Hosmer, who led off the inning with a double to left and advanced on Jeff Francoeur’s single to center.

After Brayan Pena singled to put men on the corners, Alcides Escobar hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Francoeur with an insurance run. It assured a merciful conclusion to a game that took 4 hours 28 minutes to complete after the scheduled 7:10 p.m. start was delayed 2:21 by rain.

Both starters had decent career records against their opposition entering the game.

Lester was 4-1, with a 1.22 ERA against the Royals, including a no-hitter at Fenway May 19, 2008.

Davies was 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA vs. the Sox, both wins coming at Fenway, including his major league debut with the Braves May 21, 2005.

So it stood to reason that both offenses struggled to mount any kind of a threat.

Lester gave up three hits in his first two innings but minimized the damage with three strikeouts. In the first he struck out Alex Gordon, but then Melky Cabrera singled to right. After Billy Butler struck out looking for the second out, Cabrera was caught stealing by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

After they went down 1-2-3 in the first, the Sox got a run in the second. David Ortiz walked with one out, and was erased at second on a Carl Crawford fielder’s choice. Crawford stole second, and scored on Josh Reddick’s double to right-center.

Lester shut out the Royals through five innings.

He allowed only one runner to reach third base in that stretch, when Hosmer led off the second with a single to right. With one out, Hosmer stole second, and after Aviles struck out, Pena hit a single into the hole that was stopped by Marco Scutaro, who saved the run from scoring. Escobar grounded to second to end the inning.

As promised, manager Terry Francona kept an eye on Lester, who was making his first start since July 5, when he departed with a lat strain after allowing no hits through four innings vs. the Blue Jays.

Dustin Pedroia tried to spark the Sox in the third with a two-out single to right, extending his career-high hitting streak to 22 games. But Pedroia was stranded when Gonzalez popped out to center.

Lester, who was on an 80-85 pitch count, allowed back-to-back singles to Butler and Hosmer in the fourth.

But he induced Francoeur to fly to left, Aviles to hit a foul pop to Saltalamacchia, and Pena to ground to short.

Lester got through the fifth on 13 pitches, bringing his count to 73.

Then came the sixth, when Lester faltered a bit. He surrendered the tying run after allowing a single to Cabrera and an RBI double to left to Butler.

Butler was thrown out at third by Saltamacchia after he attempted to advance on Crawford’s throw to the plate.

When Lester walked Hosmer, his night was done after throwing 89 pitches (55 strikes).

Lester departed to a loud ovation.

Matt Albers was summoned and submitted 1 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out two.

Daniel Bard entered in the eighth and extended his streak to 25 consecutive scoreless innings in 24 games, despite allowing Cabrera to single to left-center and reach second on a balk.

The Sox threatened to win it in walk-off fashion with one out in the ninth.

Yamaico Navarro, who entered in the eighth for Kevin Youkilis (right hamstring tightness), singled to right, then went to third on Ortiz’s seeing-eye single up the middle.

But Aaron Crow fanned Crawford (on a check swing confirmed by third base umpire Garry Cederstrom) and got Reddick to fly to right.

Franklin Morales took over for the Sox in the 10th and got some terrific defensive support in a 1-2-3 inning, highlighted by Reddick’s hard-charging diving catch of Escobar’s soft fly to shallow right.

Morales gave up a leadoff single to Cabrera, his fourth hit of the game, in the 11th, then handed it over to Dan Wheeler with two outs after getting Butler and Hosmer to fly to left. Then Cabrera was caught stealing for the second time in the game.

The Sox squandered another opportunity with two aboard in the 11th. Gonzalez singled and went to second on a wild pitch to Ortiz, who wound up drawing an intentional walk. It put men in scoring position for Crawford, who wound up striking out for the third time in the game, stranding both runners.

Reddick singled to center to lead off the 12th and went to third on a two-base throwing error by reliever Louis Coleman on his pick-off attempt to first. Reddick was caught charging toward the plate on a botched squeeze play when Scutaro appeared to miss a bunt signal.

Scutaro singled to left with what would’ve been the winning hit but ended the inning when he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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