Francis Continues to Struggle on Mound as Royal Fall to Red Sox
KANSAS CITY -- Jeff Francis didn't give up a run in the first inning for a change, that was the good news.
The Royals' veteran left-hander was in plenty of danger, though, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally caught up to him with a three-run homer in the fifth. The Boston Red Sox coasted the rest of the way to a 7-1 victory over Kansas City on Friday night.
Francis entered the game having allowed 24 runs in the first inning for a robust 9.36 ERA. Opponents hitting .362 off him, and the Red Sox added to the misery when they loaded the bases in the first inning. Francis (4-14) managed to get out of danger when Ryan Lavarnway grounded out.
Again in the third, the Red Sox filled the bases. Again Francis retired Lavarnway.
The Royals trailed 2-1 in the fifth when Saltalamacchia hit a changeup out to left field, the ball soaring over the Kansas City bullpen and landing on the concrete walkway.
"Jeff really battled to that point," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was in and out of trouble in the first and third innings and able to get out of it unscathed. Saltalamacchia's home run kind of put it away for them. The ball Saltalamacchia hit wasn't a horrible pitch. It was down."
And he went and got it. The homer made it 5-1.
"It was down, an 0-2 pitch where you give the guy an opportunity to put a little more wood on it than you should," Francis said. "That's probably what I did there. He did a good job of hitting the ball."
That was the turning point.
"We had a bunch of hits and didn't have anything to show for it, and that kind of opened it up," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Andrew Miller (5-1) allowed one run on three hits and a pair of walks over 5 1/3 innings, rarely finding himself in any trouble against the Royals' feeble offense. It was his first start since July 31 after a pair of appearances out of the bullpen, and his first victory since July 20 at Baltimore.
He was pulled after just 83 pitches because Francona knew he'd be short on stamina. Alfredo Aceves followed up with 3 2/3 innings of one-hit relief for his second save.
Adrian Gonzalez added three hits and a sacrifice fly for Boston. Jed Lowrie had a hat trick of singles, and Darnell McDonald had an RBI triple as the Red Sox piled up 13 hits.
Boston (76-48) remained a half-game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch from Royals reliever Everett Teaford in the eighth inning. He walked gingerly to first base but remained in the game, and showed no problem rounding the bases on Mike Aviles' RBI double. Ellsbury was removed in the bottom half of the inning.
Lavarnway, who went 0 for 4 in his debut Thursday night, singled for his first big league hit in the fifth, and the Royals made sure the ball got back to the Boston dugout.
The Royals, with the youngest lineup in the major leagues, are certainly experiencing some growing pains against the beasts from the East. The Yankees won two of three against them earlier in the week, and Boston has taken the first two games of their four-game set. Kansas City (51-75) has lost 10 of 12 overall and fallen a season-worst 24 games below .500.
The Royals struck first for the second straight night when Mike Moustakas doubled into the gap in left field leading off the third inning. He moved up to third on Alcides Escobar's sacrifice bunt and came home on Alex Gordon scorcher to right-center that Ellsbury ran down on the warning track.
"It was a phenomenal play," Yost said. "When he hit it, I thought there was no way anybody was going to catch that ball. It wasn't a high flyball. He smoked it. It was a tremendous play."