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Red Sox 4, Royals 3

Red Sox reload on road

Beckett, Pedroia star in trip opener

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / August 19, 2011

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It would’ve been incorrect to say the Red Sox were desperate for a victory when they took the field against the Royals last night. They had an eight-game lead in the American League wild-card standings, after all.

But there were ample concerns. The Sox had dropped five of seven games and were missing three regulars because of injury. Their eight-game road trip started without Kevin Youkilis, who was placed on the disabled list yesterday with a strained back. David Ortiz could join him because of a sore right foot.

For at least one night, the Sox set aside their troubles. Josh Beckett pitched seven solid innings and Dustin Pedroia drove in three runs in a 4-3 victory.

According to manager Terry Francona, the recent issues don’t necessarily weigh on the players.

“We’re so far into the season. I don’t think our guys wake up and feel like that,’’ he said. “They come to the ballpark and I don’t think they worry about stuff like that. Just do their job. Sometimes your margin for error is a little less when you have guys out. But that’s OK.’’

What about the manager, does he wake up worried?

“Well, probably a little bit,’’ Francona said. “But I have a lot of confidence in our ability to win.’’

Beckett (10-5) made that task easier by allowing three runs on seven hits over seven innings. After Beckett gave up three runs in the first two innings, he, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon shut the Royals down.

“I started throwing some breaking balls and throwing them for strikes when I needed to throw them for strikes,’’ Beckett said. “I think they were down more, too. I was missing up a little bit early.’’

Beckett said the bullpen mound was steeper than the mound on the field, which led to him needing a few innings to settle in. He left a curveball up in the third inning that Alex Gordon lined over the fence in left.

Beckett felt responsibility to go deep in the game, knowing that the offense has been struggling to score.

“How can you not be tired with the stuff that we went through the last week and a half?’’ he said. “I don’t know how they do it. There’s been several days where a couple of these guys have played and I don’t know how they did it. I want to pick them up.’’

Bard allowed a single in the eighth, but struck out Jeff Francoeur with a 98-mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning. Papelbon then retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out two.

Papelbon, who has 29 saves, has gone 14 innings without allowing a run. He has given up three hits in that stretch without a walk and struck out 15. The closer last gave up a run July 16.

“He’s been unbelievable,’’ Beckett said.

The Sox had nine hits, matching their total in a three-game series against Tampa Bay earlier this week. Pedroia was 3 for 4 with a double and a stolen base out of the cleanup spot.

“That’s why he is who he is, because he comes through so much,’’ Francona said. “It’s a comforting feeling knowing when he has something to say about the outcome of the game.’’

With the Sox down, 1-0, Jason Varitek had an RBI single in the second inning. Pedroia then grounded a two-run single into center with two outs in the third inning off Luke Hochevar (8-10).

“[Pedroia’s] a good hitter, and he hits the ball where it’s pitched,’’ said Hochevar, who went six innings and allowed four runs. “The base hit up the middle that scored two runs, I was trying to come in off the plate for a ball. I felt I got it in off the plate, and he put a good swing on it. That’s a good piece of hitting.’’

The Sox took the lead in the fifth inning. Jed Lowrie, who had been 4 for 29 since coming off the disabled list Aug. 8, had a one-out double to right field. A struggling Adrian Gonzalez struck out, but Pedroia had an RBI single to center. That was the game-winner.

Pedroia hit cleanup in place of Youkilis, and the Sox are now 6-2 when he hits fourth. Pedroia is 14 of 35 (.400) in those games with eight RBIs.

“We’re just trying to win games right now,’’ he said. “We’re getting close to the end here. We’re all trying to do our jobs. Wherever we hit, you’ve got to try and produce.

“I try and go out there, play the game hard, and help us win. That’s basically it. That’s what everybody is trying to do. Just because a couple of our main guys are out doesn’t mean we change our approach.’’

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

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