Welcome return, but ugly finish

July, 26, 2011

BOSTON –- The Red Sox gladly welcomed pitcher Jon Lester back to the starting rotation Monday night against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

The left-hander, who had been on the disabled list with a lat strain since July 6, showed no ill effects and worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

He threw 89 pitches (55 for strikes) and had to settle for a no-decision. Lester exited with the game tied at 1-1 and it remained that way until top of the 14th inning when Kansas City pushed across a pair of runs en route to a 3-1 victory.

The start of the game was delayed 2 hours 21 minutes due to inclement weather and it ended with the Royals playing small ball to produce the winning runs.

Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer led off the 14th inning with a double to left and reached third on a single by Jeff Francoeur. With runners on the corners, the Royals’ Mike Aviles provided a sacrifice bunt that resulted in the winning run. Kansas City added an insurance run on Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice fly.

The Red Sox could not respond in the bottom of the 14th.

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: Boston had a golden opportunity to end it in the bottom of the 12th. The Sox’s Josh Reddick led off with a single to right, and with one out, he reached third on a two-base error by Royals reliever Louis Coleman, who threw the ball away trying to pick Reddick off first.

This is where it gets interesting.

[+] EnlargeJosh Reddick
AP Photo/Charles KrupaJosh Reddick was the victim of Marco Scutaro missing a suicide squeeze sign in the 12th.
With the potential winning run 90 feet away, Red Sox manager Terry Francona called for a squeeze play. Reddick broke for home on a pitch that was a bit inside on batter Marco Scutaro, but it appeared Scutaro missed the sign and Reddick was caught 2-5.

"We just missed a sign," Francona said. "Thought it was an opportunity after action like that. We got half of it right, but we didn't get the whole thing right. Red got it and Scoot didn't. We had some other opportunities too. We kind of let them off the hook. I know there won’t be much sleep, but it'll be a tough one tonight."

"I didn't see the sign. It's my fault. Just missed the sign," Scutaro said.

"It just feels bad, man. It feels like your teammates, manager, the fans, just want to kill you. It's a bad feeling. But just come back tomorrow and win the game."

Scutaro followed with a two-out single, but was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit to end the inning.

INJURY WATCH: Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was removed in the top of the eighth with right hamstring tightness. He was replaced with Yamaico Navarro. Youkilis suffered the injury in the sixth attempting to leg out an infield hit, but was thrown out 6-3. He limped into the dugout and immediately sat on the bench and was examined by team trainer Mike Reinold and Francona. Youkilis hobbled out to his position in the top of the seventh, but did not return after that.

Youkilis was examined after he was removed from the game.

“The exam was really good,” Francona said. “We’re fortunate. His heel hit the bag and it kind of gave way a little bit. He felt it in his hamstring and I think we’ll stay away from him [Tuesday]. It hopefully won’t be more than that. He had full range of motion, so he should be OK. He’s just beat up in a lot of areas.”

Navarro had an opportunity to end the game in the 13th inning with one out and the potential winning run on third base, but he popped out in foul territory to Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

K-RAWFORD: Carl Crawford entered Monday’s game with a four-game hitting streak, going 7-for-15 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs during that stretch. But he went 0-for-6 against the Royals, including four strikeouts. Crawford struck out with two runners on in the ninth and 11th innings.

DEFENSIVE GEM: Right fielder J.D. Drew is scheduled to land on the disabled list Tuesday, but replacement Josh Reddick has been spectacular of late both offensively and defensively. He turned in the defensive play of the game with a highlight-reel diving catch in the top of the 10th to rob the Royals’ Alcides Escobar of a base hit. Escobar lifted a lazy pop up to shallow right field just out of the reach of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Reddick came charging in and made the dramatic grab.

CATCH 22: Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a two-out single to right-center field in the bottom of the third. He finished the night 1-for-6. He’s now 36-for-97 (.371) with 16 RBIs during the streak.

MORE ZEROS: Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard extended his scoreless streak to 25 innings. The right-hander allowed one hit, was called for a balk, but retired the side in the top of the eighth. He’s allowed only 16 baserunners and 10 hits, while posting 24 strikeouts during his streak.

UP NEXT: The Red Sox send lefty Andrew Miller (4-1, 4.65 ERA) to the hill on Tuesday against Royals southpaw Dan Duffy (2-4, 4.58). Miller went 5 2/3 scoreless innings and earned the win in his last outing, a 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles last Wednesday. He allowed only two hits with six walks and three strikeouts. Despite Monday's 14-inning game, Francona believes the Sox will be fine from a pitching standpoint on Tuesday. Reliever Alfredo Aceves, who did not pitch on Monday, can be stretched out to fill the void if necessary.

Joe McDonald

ESPN Staff Writer



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