Bats come to life in chilly KC
Youkilis, Drew, Beckett pace Sox to first victory of season
KANSAS CITY -- Did somebody say something about it being cold at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night? As Red Sox manager Terry Francona aptly noted before the game, "If we're winning, it will be warmer."
So just like that, the Sox created some early heat, scoring three runs before Josh Beckett threw his first pitch en route to a methodical 7-1 thumping off the Royals.
Just like that, the sour taste of Opening Day vanished and the Red Sox were in the win column for the first time in 2007.
"Our bullpen did a great job. We swung the bats well," said third baseman Mike Lowell, who made a career-high three errors. "It's a good win. Hopefully we can win the series tomorrow and keep moving on."
By the time the temperature got down to the 30s in the middle innings, the Red Sox had the game under control. Beckett went five innings (two hits, four walks and five strikeouts on 94 pitches) for the win and the bullpen solidified it by mowing the Royals down the remainder of the night.
It was a group effort for the 'pen, with Javy Lopez (two-thirds of an inning), Kyle Snyder (1 1/3), J.C. Romero and Joel Pineiro (one inning each) getting the job done.
"Beckett had a high pitch count," Francona said. "Again, he made some pitches and he got us through five, and we thought that was plenty. Our bullpen did a great job. Snyder came in and put up some zeroes. We added on."
Kevin Youkilis allowed everyone to breathe easy in the seventh inning by hammering a two-run homer to left that expanded the Boston lead to five runs.
The offense that was so dormant on Monday got off early against Royals starter Odalis Perez. After a walk to David Ortiz and a single by Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew slammed an RBI double to right field. Lowell followed with a two-run double to left and Beckett had some breathing room from the outset.
"It's huge," said Beckett. "It's kind of like a mental breather for you."
Still, the cushion was put in peril in the third when Lowell, probably Boston's best defensive player, made errors on back-to-back plays. But Beckett bailed his teammate out of the predicament by getting Mark Teahen looking on a 94-mph heater and Mike Sweeney on a liner to right-center that Drew made a terrific running catch on.
"I thought he made a great catch," said Francona. "Hopefully that will be something that doesn't go unnoticed. At the time of the game, that was a huge play."
Without that catch, perhaps it would have been a different kind of night for Beckett, not to mention Lowell.
"J.D. got an unbelievable jump on it," Beckett said. "It's one of those deals where I wanted to pick Mike Lowell up so bad because I know how many times he's been there for me."
Lowell, who has long appreciated Beckett's work from the mound, instantly became a big fan of Boston's new right fielder.
"I almost kissed J.D. Drew after he made that play in the gap," said Lowell. "I can deal with the errors. That's part of the game. But when runs come in after that, you really feel bad."
The Royals did get one off Beckett in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to left by Jason LaRue. Shut down in mid-game by Perez, the Boston bats came back to life in the sixth. Ramirez drew a one-out walk and Drew hammered a single to right. A walk to Lowell loaded the bases, setting Jason Varitek up for a sac fly to right, giving the Sox a 4-1 edge.
For Beckett, who is hoping to have a breakthrough year after his 5.01 ERA in 2006, this was an auspicious start.
"All in all, I felt good," Beckett said. "I want to take this as a new season. Every start is a new chapter for the year. For me, I just want to be more consistent. I pitched out of some jams. It was a big win for us."
Beckett admitted after the game that the cold weather made gripping his pitches tougher than usual. But the end result was more than enough for a win.
"He's got great stuff," said Lowell. "You see his stuff. You see how he can dominate teams. Hopefully he can continue to do that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.