The Red Sox picked an opportune time to snap a four-game losing streak to the Royals, dating back to April. With Boston’s (71-48) 5-3 win over Kansas City (60-54) Saturday at Kauffman Stadium, the Red Sox gained a game in the AL East on the Rays, Orioles and Yankees who all lost earlier in the day. Jacoby Ellsbury (2 doubles, 2 RBIs, stolen base) led the offense with his 11th career four-hit game and Will Middlebrooks (batting ninth and playing third base) was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs in his first game in a Red Sox uniform since June 20.
Felix Doubront was the third Boston starting pitcher in a row to struggle with a high pitch count due to a lengthy first inning (34 pitches). As a result, he was done after 4-plus but the combination of Brandon Workman (W, 3-1), Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara teamed up for five scoreless innings of relief. Of note, Tazawa successfully went two innings for the second consecutive game (first time since 2009) and Uehara mowed down Kansas City with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 12th save of the season.
Jeremy Guthrie might have changed teams a couple times but Boston still knocked him around like he was on the Orioles (back when they were hopeless). He was tagged for five earned runs on 10 hits. The Red Sox did most of their damage in a four-run fourth inning: Stephen Drew had an RBI double, Middlebrooks’ bloop single scored two and Ellsbury produced his first RBI double. The Royals battled back with three runs in the fifth on Eric Hosmer’s (2 hits) RBI double, Billy Butler’s (3 hits) RBI double and Miguel Tejada’s (yes him) RBI single. Ellsbury’s run-scoring double in the sixth was some valuable insurance.
Boston goes for the series split tomorrow afternoon (2:10, NESN) and Kansas City tries for a series win (3-1) with another AL East alum on the mound: James Shields (6-8) formerly of Tampa Bay faces John Lackey (7-9).
What they'll be saying: You couldn’t have realistically drawn up a better return for Middlebrooks after almost two months in Pawtucket (Triple A); he got a couple hits and didn’t make any errors. It’ll be interesting to see if he stays batting ninth tomorrow and manager John Farrell waits a little longer to start moving him up in the order. Mike Napoli was back to his old tricks with three strikeouts in four at bats so maybe his three-run double on Friday was a total mirage. With his 19th hold of the season, two more strikeouts and an ERA down to 2.50, Tazawa has solidified a missing part of Boston’s bullpen: reliable setup man for Uehara. Now let’s just hope that neither of their precious right arms fall off before October.
Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate