It was one of those nights for the Red Sox. Don't hit at all. Don't pitch as well as the other guy. Don't field the ball.
Sometimes it's just that simple, especially when those struggles come against a club that's now won 14 of its last 16, and has outscored its opponents 77-35 over that stretch. If it weren't for the Tigers' ridiculous run that's now up to 12 straight wins, the Royals would be regarded as the hottest team in the American League, so it's no surprise that they capitalized on the Sox' struggles -- and there's no time for the Sox to dwell on Thursday. They've got to come back Friday and play better, lest a four-game series really start to get away from them.
Fortunately for Boston, it's got a track record of doing that, at least offensively. Led by lob-ball starter Bruce Chen, Thursday night marked the 17th time the Sox have been limited to one run or less this season -- they've been shut out nine times -- and after the previous 16 instances the Sox have responded nicely the next time out.
In those follow-ups, Boston is averaging 6.1 runs and 10.2 hits. Ten times they've erupted for at least five runs in their next game, and nine times the Sox have totaled double-figures in hits. On a couple of occasions they've been shut down in consecutive games, but other than one four-game stretch last month where they were limited to one run or less three times, a drought of that degree hasn't lasted more than a couple days.
During that span, which ran from July 22-26, the Sox faced Matt Moore, David Price and Chris Tillman -- two 2013 All-Stars and the 2012 AL Cy Young honoree. And while they aren't likely to encounter such a difficult sequence often, the trio of arms the Royals throw the next three nights will be no picnic. Ervin Santana takes a 2.97 ERA into Friday, Saturday starter Jeremy Guthrie has yielded just three runs in his last three starts, and the always-tough James Shield takes the ball Sunday.
That's formidable, especially given how hot the team around them is at this time. Confidence is high at Kauffman Stadium as Kansas City attempts to measure itself against one of the best -- but the Sox needn't worry about that. Their focus is more introspective and simpler: Just play better.
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||2-for-4, K: He followed Wednesday's 0-for-5 with a couple of hits, though after the first he was picked off by Chen when he left too early in a steal attempt. It was the fourth time this year he's been caught stealing.|
|Shane Victorino, RF||0-for-4: The Sox finally got a runner to second base in the eighth, and Victorino represented the tying run with two outs -- but he popped up to third, taking his first 0-for in 10 games.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||0-for-3, BB: His five-game hitting streak came to an end, though he did see a team-high 18 pitches and worked the lone walk.|
|Jonny Gomes, LF||1-for-4, R, 2B: He doubled late, but his misplay of a ball in left led to two unearned runs that put the Sox in a hole in the first.|
|Stephen Drew, SS||2-for-4, RBI: Moved up to fifth in the order, he stayed on a roll and knocked in Boston's only run. He also committed an error, though -- his fourth in 353 chances this season.|
|Mike Napoli, DH||1-for-4, K: Dropped down to sixth in the order for the first time as a Red Sox, he delivered a single -- but he also struck out and hit into a double play, which he's doing too often of late.|
|Daniel Nava, 1B||1-for-3: Back from the paternity list, he recorded his first hit as a father -- and his first error, too, booting a ball at first base.|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||0-for-3: He went without a hit, but also without a strikeout for the seventh time in 11 games. After whiffing 34.4 percent of the time over Boston's first 100 games, his strikeout rate is 15 percent since.|
|Brock Holt, 3B||0-for-3: He had a hit in eight of his first nine games with the Sox -- and is 3-for-25 since.|
|Jon Lester, SP||7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K: All in all, an encouraging start, as after the first he allowed just two hits without a walk over six innings. It was a good response after his struggles against Arizona.|
|Rubby De La Rosa, RP||IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 HR: After his encouraging debut, he surrendered a couple of solo homers in his second appearance. No reason to run from him, but a reminder that he's had control issues at Triple-A, and is still a work in progress in terms of his command.|
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