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Royals 4, Red Sox 3

Sox a bit short

Crawford’s blast lacks the distance

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 29, 2011

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Carl Crawford had won three games with walkoff hits this season. So when he came to the plate with a runner on first base and the Red Sox down by a run in the ninth inning yesterday afternoon at Fenway Park, there was an undeniable sense of anticipation.

The moment was even seasoned with a dash of drama. Crawford was not in the starting lineup because of a sore left elbow and was at the plate as a pinch hitter.

As though following a script, Crawford fell behind Kansas City closer Joakim Soria and fouled off two pitches to stay alive. He then took a solid swing at a slider that was low.

The ball sailed to right field, the deepest part of the park. Crawford’s teammates started to clamber over the dugout railing to see it land in the seats.

You couldn’t blame the Sox for thinking the ball was going to go out. Outside of the first two weeks, it has been a season replete with special moments for them.

But the ball hung up in the wind, just enough to give right fielder Jeff Francoeur a chance. He overran the play, but twisted around and made a basket catch a few feet from a fan in a white shirt who was sure he was going to take home a souvenir.

The ball nearly bounced out of Francoeur’s glove before he secured it. He turned to look at the pitchers in the Kansas City bullpen and smiled at his good fortune.

Soria then struck out Yamaico Navarro and the Red Sox were on the disappointed side of a 4-3 loss.

Manager Terry Francona was among those convinced Crawford had won the game.

“I was getting up to celebrate. I thought he got it plenty and the wind knocked it down,’’ he said. “He took a good swing, went down and got it. I was all ready to be excited. It kind of hurts.’’

Crawford could only watch and hope once he hit the ball.

“Normally when I hit it like that . . . off the bat I felt I hit it good enough,’’ he said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it died or I didn’t hit it as hard as I thought I did or what. I thought I hit it good.

“You always hope something good is going to happen and try and stay positive. You hope for the best.’’

Josh Beckett was not watching Crawford’s at-bat. He had retreated to the clubhouse by that point to stew over his seven innings on the mound.

Beckett had only one bad inning, but it was a 38-pitch disaster as the Royals sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth and scored four runs.

“That was kind of out of character,’’ Francona said.

The Sox had taken a 2-0 lead in the third on a two-run single by Jacoby Ellsbury. That extended his hitting streak to 10 games and gave him a career-best 62 RBIs.

Beckett has lacked run support in recent weeks and having a two-run lead seemed to throw him.

He got ahead of leadoff hitter Alex Gordon, 1 and 2, then walked him. Beckett then walked Mitch Maier after being ahead, 0 and 2. Billy Butler was next and he clobbered a fastball into the covered bleacher seats in center. It was his third home run of the series.

With one out, Francoeur hit a liner to left. Drew Sutton ran the ball down and had it in his glove before it popped out. The play was initially ruled a double before being changed to an error after the game. A double by Mike Moustakas scored Francoeur.

Sutton was playing left field at Fenway for the first time.

“I should have caught it,’’ he said.

In his six other innings, Beckett allowed two hits, one walk, and struck out eight. Not that it mattered to him.

“It’s pretty [expletive] frustrating when your team scores two runs and you walk the first two guys,’’ he said. “I was kind of all over the place . . . It’s bad to walk those two guys. It’s horrible.’’

Beckett (9-4) was 6-0 with a 2.26 ERA in eight previous starts against Kansas City. He had never allowed a home run against the Royals.

Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar (7-8) went seven innings for the win, his first since June 26. Command had been an issue for the righthander in recent weeks, but he walked one and struck out six.

“I thought their guy really pitched well. He threw the ball where he wanted to and when he missed, it was down,’’ Francona said.

Trailing, 4-2, the Sox drew closer in the eighth inning when Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a home run to left field. That helped set up Crawford with a chance to win the game.

“Wrong part of the park,’’ Crawford said. “Not that time.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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