By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY As the injuries pile up for the Red Sox and the dog days of August begin to weigh down heavily on key players that are still healthy, it takes a little bit of everything to keep the Boston train rolling.
It requires Herculean performances by great players, like the One Man Gang act pulled off by Dustin Pedroia Thursday night, and sometimes it takes gobs of contributions from unexpected places, like the ones put forth across the board in Friday nights 7-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Playing in the middle of a 14-of-17-game stretch on the road without two of your marquee players is a time for a baseball team to show the clichd buzz words that are always getting tossed around: character, toughness and resolve. The Sox have had all of those in the last two games since getting owned by the Tampa Bay Rays starting staff earlier this week, and theyll need it to continue.
Its tough losing Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but one of the great things about the Red Sox is that we have enough good players who can pick up the slack, said Josh Beckett.
The Sox have basically spit on the notion of curling up into a pity-filled ball by putting up back-to-back wins while keeping pace with the Yankees, and some even chastised the doubters after the game was over.
You guys already ready to hit the panic button? said one Red Sox player in jest to a group of reporters following the victory. Weve got a long way to go.
The Sox continue to get excellent performances all across the board . . . like spot starter Andrew Miller and jack-of-all-trades reliever Alfredo Aceves combining to hold the Royals to four hits and a single run. Miller hadnt started a game for the Sox since July 31 and could have been excused if he was a rusty, out-of-sorts mess on the mound, but instead the lengthy lefty was on point with his delivery and fastball command.
You do well and you can say you were fresh. You struggle and you say you're rusty," said Miller, who made two relief appearances for the Sox following that last start. "Fortunately, I was able to say I felt fresh tonight.
The win lifts Miller's record to 5-1 on the season and also gives Aceves eight wins and a pair of saves during a season when hes owned the Julian Tavarez will do anything out of the bullpen role.
Given the injuries in the rotation, the Sox would already be in deep trouble if both hurlers hadnt gone high and above expectations for this season. Aceves and Miller are a combined 13-2 this season for the Sox, and might just be viewed as the difference should the Sox finish above New York when the standings are final.
Its a lot to ask, said manager Terry Francona of Aceves' performance Friday night. "Normally when you bring a guy out there in the sixth inning hes not going to finish the game. But he goes out there and puts up zeroes, and is efficient enough where he can stay out there and save the bullpen.
The Royals decided they werent going to let Pedroia beat them for a second straight night and twice intentionally walked the slugging second baseman when trouble was brewing for the Sox offense. It seemed like it might work when Jed Lowrie couldnt make Kansas City pay despite singling in both instances, and Ryan Lavarnway left the bases loaded twice in the first three innings of the game.
Instead it was a pair of underperforming outfielders that got things going in the fourth inning when Carl Crawford (hitting .248) and Darnell McDonald (hitting .170) both unloaded for extra-base hits and ended up producing the tying run. One inning later it was Lowrie and Lavarnway getting on base and Jarrod Saltalamacchia coming through with the three-run bomb way over the left field fence on an 0-and-2 changeup from Jeff Francis.
All that matters is that we won, said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. In football during a season when theres only 16 games then every game matters, but here youre going to through spans where you dont feel good and when you feel great. You need to keep yourself as even as you possibly can.
Its a deep team. We dont depend on just one or two guys. Salty has been unbelievable since the first month and weve got a really good lineup one through nine. Its not just one through four here. You take a couple of guys out, and a couple of other guys step up.
Sure, Gonzalez had three hits to bust out of an 0-for-14 slump, Jacoby Ellsbury managed a run and an RBI, and Pedroia was on base three times despite going hitless in the game. But it was the unsung heroes in the lineup that managed to pull them through on a nondescript Friday night in Kansas City that will be long since forgotten when the excitement of October baseball arrives.