Final: Royals 8, Red Sox 6 The Sox go down in order in the ninth. Hochevar gets the win and Masterson picks up the loss.
Middle 9, 10:35 Bard flirts with 100 mph again, and he strikes out three of the four batters he faced. He was perfect on the night and he's struck out 10 of his last 14 batters he's faced. It's a little empty after the adventure it took to get to him, but the Sox have a chance to make it count for something in these last three outs.
End of 8, 10:28 Green strikes out looking on a Soria curveball. It was his out-pitch, started about eye level right at his shoulder, and ducked into the strike zone. The thing was raw filth, as the kids say.
The Sox only get one run out of a bases loaded situation with one out. If the offense can't dig for a last-inning rally, the loss won't fall squarely on the faulty bullpen after that.
Daniel Bard will return to pitch the ninth and try to keep it a two-run game.
10:25 Kotsay drives a fastball to deep center and flies out. Bay tags at third and scores. Ellsbury moves to third with two down. 8-6, Royals.
Usually lights-out Kansas City closer Joakim Soria will enter for the potential four-out save.
10:19 "Slightly ajar" is now "wide open." The bases are loaded with one out after Jason Varitek reaches on an error. Callaspo ranged to his right and tried to do too much by forcing the double play, but his throw pulled Bloomquist off the bag at second. The crowd is really into this.
Bottom 8, 10:15 Juan Cruz leaves the door slightly ajar for the Sox and walks David Ortiz and Jason Bay back to back.
Top 8, 10:04 On Ramon Ramirez's 40th pitch, Willie Bloomquist singles to deep center, past the dive of Ellsbury, who was trying to keep it from rolling to the warning track. The two-out hit scored Ryan Freel to make it 8-5 Royals. Bard will replace Ramirez, who gave up that one run on three hits and four strikeouts.
Bottom 7, 9:45 Pedroia becomes the second three-hit player of the night with another single. The hit brings him over .300 and knocks Hochevar out of the game. Just gutty.
Top 7, 9:39 The bullpen didn't look particularly sharp in this inning, either, but Ramirez kept the ball on the ground. He gets out of a pair of singles unharmed with the help of another nice Youkilis romp and throw to first. Still 7-5, Royals.
9:17 This is another kind of variation on a theme: David Dejesus thwacks a ball to deep right and, this time, it clears the fence. Justin Masterson would've probably preferred he not break from the script so much. Combined with the bloop single that dropped in front of the waterpark kickslide of Jacoby Ellsbury to score another run, the Royals now lead 7-5.
The Royals will play with fire and leave Hochevar in to start the sixth.
Top 6, 9:10 Manny Delcarmen's outing was a variation on the same theme for tonight: make tough outs, and surrender a run in the process. Alberto Callaspo doubled to right and brought home Mark Teahen again, so Justin Masterson will enter to try to snag a third out. 5-4, Sox.
End of 5, 9:01 The Red Sox absolutely cranked the ball that inning, including two warning track power bombs, the home run and another flyout. In fact, the last seven batters in this game hit the ball deep in the air, and that's why Brad Penny will exit for Manny Delcarmen after five innings.
Here's Brad Penny's livre ferme: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. 97 Pitches, 68 strikes. It's a pretty solid start and -- this is a testament to those starts -- his shortest and easily his worst in his last six outings. The exit seems precautionary and based on those deep fly balls from last inning.
Bottom 5, 8:51 Dustin Pedroia strongarms a Hochevar fastball into the first row of Monster seats. 5-3, Sox. Pedroia didn't want to talk before the game about his wife in labor at the hospital or the All-Star game he might miss to be with her or baseball tonight or baseball any night or anything, really. Which is entirely understandable. He seems to have baseball mode and personal mode right now and that's all he needs to have. His baseball mode seems as focused and as undeterred as possible.
Bottom 4, 8:40 Hochevar's somewhat ballyhooed breaking pitch has a really steep break tonight, but sometimes he's just hanging it over the middle of plate. Nick Green's slapped it to left, but was picked off at first to end the inning.
Top 4, 8:30 The Royals are officially back in this game. Miguel Olivo singled to right on a ball that crawled past Dustin Pedroia, scoring Jose Guillen. Mark Teahen scored when Olivo took second (his third steal of the year) and the throw from Varitek flew over the head of Pedroia. Callaspo then drove a ball high off the scoreboard in left. It's 4-3 Red Sox and the Royals are still rallying with the speedy Callaspo on second. That's the first three-run rally Penny has given up since June 4th.
8:16 Case in point four pitches later: Jason Bay ropes a single to left-center and scores Kevin Youkilis for the second time tonight. 4-0, Sox, and they keep rolling. These fastballs are some nice government cheese for an anemic-but-hungry Sox lineup tonight.
(Do I owe Dennis Eckersley money for saying that?)
Bottom 3, 8:12 Ortiz strikes out and is good-naturedly unhappy with himself. He screamed after missing on a couple of fastballs over the heart of the plate. He probably thinks he could have hit his 301st out on one of those pitches and it seems like all of the Sox are seeing the seams the same way.
Top 3, 8:04 Kevin Youkilis's hard charge on a Billy Butler slow roller to third ends a potentially dangerous inning. Penny had walked David Dejesus and given up a single to Bloomquist with two down.
Bottom 2, 7:50 Nick Green showed off his speed and a nifty slide into second, evading Alberto Callaspo's tag. This turned up nothing, but the Sox are still taking full advantage of Hochevar's breaking stuff.
Top 2, 7:46 Penny flies through the middle of the Royals' order. The best part of the Joe Posnanski link that was shared earlier is that the two largest ads that appear on the page are:
1) a depression hotline, and
2) a PSA about not dying in your hot car while driving on the highway.
Or maybe it was the link to Friday's column, "Royals take all the fun out of a nice Friday," which is something people usually say to their grandkids when they leave the freezer open and melt all the popsicles. They don't usually say this to professional baseball teams. But maybe you say this about the Royals.
End of 1, 7:30 David Ortiz's 300th home run is one of those duck-for-cover blasts. The swing was almost classic Ortiz. Sure, it was a bit inside-out -- it clanged off the sill of the deep part of the Monster then fell back into play. But that pose at the end -- if they had to make a poster out of the silhouette -- you wouldn't have any doubt who it was.
It was a two-run shot. Kevin Youkilis singled in Dustin Pedroia from second a play before it. 3-0, Sox.
The inning is over, but every ball in play that inning was flying off the bat. Hochevar is in love with the middle of the plate right now.
Middle 1, 7:18 Uneventful first for Brad Penny, who leaves the inning with no damage. Willie Bloomquist somehow ended up at third after a steal and a sac fly, but nothing came of it.
Interesting pregame conversation with someone who had just come out of the Royals locker room "because there was nothing going on there." We tried to figure out how many times that sentence was said in that exact way since the early '90s, and decided that it was impossible to count that high. But, hey, they gave us Joe Posnanski. Is there a ring for that sort of thing?