KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Boston's five home runs would seem insignificant if a certain line drive single had twisted a couple of inches to the left.
That ball would have smashed into Josh Beckett's head instead of merely grazing the back of his noggin during an 8-3 victory Saturday night over Kansas City.
Edes: What Really Matters
Father's illness adds another layer to Jason Varitek's year of transition, writes Gordon Edes. Story
"I've had some line drives hit back at me and stuff. I've been hit in the legs before," said Beckett, who was making his first start since signing a four-year, $68 million contract extension. "But never anywhere else."Jeremy Hermida and Jason Varitek homered on consecutive pitches from Zack Greinke and the Red Sox went deep five times altogether while stopping a three-game losing streak.Varitek added a second homer and Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia also connected, helping Beckett remain unbeaten against Kansas City.It was in the seventh when David DeJesus whistled a single up the middle that brushed the back of Beckett's head.He made sure the near disaster did not rattle him."I was thinking about how many runs we were going to score," said Beckett (1-0). "It didn't hit me very hard. I wasn't too worried about it."Beckett allowed three runs and nine hits in seven innings. He had one walk and four strikeouts while beating the Royals for the fifth straight start. In eight career starts against the Royals, Beckett is 6-0.Greinke (0-1) had a 1-0 lead after four but Hermida hit a 1-1 pitch leading off the fifth for his first home run. Varitek then slammed Greinke's next delivery into the Royals bullpen, marking the first time in Greinke's career the right-hander had allowed home runs on consecutive pitches."Those were just two bad pitches," said Greinke. "I hope they take it, but they both swung at it. Those were as good as pitches to hit as they'll ever see again."Varitek, making his first start of the year, homered off Luis Mendoza in the ninth. Three batters later Pedroia hit a two-run shot, giving him three RBIs. Youkilis led off the Boston eighth with a solo homer off Dusty Hughes."My focus obviously was Josh and what has to go on there," said Varitek, the Red Sox veteran catcher. "It's nice to contribute, absolutely. Both swings, I was able to get the good part of the bat on the ball. The ball was carrying a little bit to the right."Greinke has given up five earned runs in his first two starts- one more than he allowed in his first eight starts en route to the Cy Young award a year ago.In addition to the five home runs, Boston got an RBI double from Jacoby Ellsbury."The two things I can complain about the most today were the two curveballs for home runs and falling behind Ellsbury instead of getting ahead in the count," said Greinke, who yielded eight hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. He also hit two batters, including Marco Scutaro, who scored on Ellsbury's double.Rick Ankiel had an RBI single for Kansas City in the first, his fifth straight hit. Ankiel, who was 4 for 4 on Thursday night, doubled in the fourth to make it six hits in six at-bats before popping up in his next appearance.Beckett said he felt no extra pressure going against one of the game's top starters."I feel like with this lineup we're going to score runs off whoever's pitching," he said. "I really believe in our guys. I'm not too concerned with who they're facing. I just have to get the other guys out."
Mike Lowell, the former gold glover who made his first start of the year at third base for Boston, turned in a terrific play on Yuniesky Betancourt's hard-hit grounder in the second. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched five scoreless innings in a minor league rehab assignment Saturday for Triple-A Pawtuckett. ... Ankiel made a fine running catch of Victor Martinez's drive deep into center.