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Royals edge Red Sox in 4-2 win for Jason Hammel

Hammel delivers the quality start as the Royals take the lead late to defeat the Red Sox

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals
Hos dong.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Though both teams managed to put runners aboard more often than the score might have suggested, the Royals and Red Sox offenses were mostly kept in check by tonight’s starters Jason Hammel and Hector Velázquez.

Hammel went seven strong innings, working out of jams in the second, sixth, and seventh innings to allow just two earned runs on the evening. Those two runs came in the top of the fourth immediately after Eric Hosmer put the Royals on top with a monster two-run dong to left-center. Spotted two runs, Hammel left one in the heart of the plate for Jackie Bradley Jr., who followed a Hanley Ramirez leadoff single with a shot into the stands in right.

Other than that big mistake, Hammel limited the Boston attack to just seven hits in seven innings of work, striking out four, walking none, and hitting two batsmen.

Boston’s starter, Hector Velázquez, made just his second major-league start in his first year of affiliated ball. The 28-year-old rookie pitched the last seven years in the Mexican League, fared much better against the aggressive Kansas City lineup than he had in his only other start for Boston this season—a six-run drubbing at the hands of Oakland back on May 18.

Tonight he threw 77 pitches over 5.1 innings, including a quick fourth and fifth innings of fewer than ten pitches each frame. He struck out three and walked none—allowing the two runs on Hosmer’s mammoth dong—but stranded the three other Royals baserunners he put aboard.

With Hammel’s night looking to be done with 91 pitches through seven and one down in the home half of the seventh, Drew Butera drove a sinking liner to left center, where Bradley laid out into a full dive—trying to keep the game knotted at two runs apiece—but failed to make the play. The ball continued to the wall, where Andrew Benintendi eventually fielded it and threw it back to the cutoff man, but not before Butera had himself the always delightful triple from a catcher.

Red Sox reliever Blaine Boyer pounded the zone for seven pitches against Whit Merrifield before getting precisely what he wanted, a grounder with the infielders drawn in, but Merrifield’s grounder found a hole in the defense, and plated pinch-runner Ramón Torres. 3-2, Royals.

Merrifield was off on a one-out hit-and-run and glided safely into second as Jorge Bonifacio chopped a grounder to second. Blaine Boyer stayed in to face Lorenzo Cain, and Cain stroked a slider into right for a single, plating Merrifield to put the Royals up 4-2. Robby Scott entered in relief of Boyer and, after uncorking a wild pitch and walking Eric Hosmer, was bailed out by Mike Moustakas who tried to hold up on the first pitch he saw but nubbed a soft grounder to Pablo Sandoval to end the threat.

With just a two-run lead to protect, Ned Yost turned to Mike Minor, who coaxed a routine fly to left from Mitch Moreland before Hanley Ramirez got jammed on a fastball in and blooped a single to shallow right. Bradley followed with a ground-ball single back up the middle before Minor attacked Josh Rutledge with his change for the punch-out. To make things interesting, Minor missed inside on four straight pitches—three sliders and a fastball—to pinch-hitter Chris Young (not that one), but Cuthbert delivered a laser beam throw on a soft grounder to third and barely got Christian Vázquez at first to allow Minor to escape a bases-loaded jam of his own creation.

The bottom of the Royals’ order managed just an Escobar single and stolen base in the bottom of the eighth, and Kelvin Herrera entered with a two-run lead to hold. Facing the top of the Sox order, he induced a fly out from Mookie Betts to center for the first out, but Andrew Benintendi sent a fly to the wall in center that gave Lorenzo Cain fits, turning him around at the wall before hitting the padding and missing the ball. Benintendi cruised into third with a triple, but Herrera got a fly to the warning track in left where Gordon put an end to the threat.

The win puts the Royals a game back in the Wild Card race and keeps pace with Cleveland, who also won tonight, trailing them by 3.5 games. They are also just one game under .500, which seemed an impossibility at the end of April.

Tomorrow the Royals face familiar foe Chris Sale, who is in the midst of his best season yet.