BOSTON -- Aaron Cook starting on three days' rest. Scott Podsednik batting leadoff. Cody Ross hitting fourth. Ryan Lavarnway as the designated hitter. Mauro Gomez the first baseman. Pedro Ciriaco at third. Che-Hsuan Lin at the plate in the 10th with a chance to win the game and the fans on their feet. Exactly how you envisioned the Red Sox in late August when you had high hopes in mid-March.
Of course, none of that is true, and some of the altered look is due to the megadeal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to Los Angeles. Still, one thing that is always easy to envision, no matter who plays for Boston, is the Sox beating up on the Royals on a beautiful night at Fenway. It's like the wildebeest crossing the Mara or Monarch butterflies fluttering their way to Mexico. Happens every season.
And for a moment it looked as if the trend would continue, Boston racing to a 9-3 lead after four innings and carrying that same advantage into the seventh. Then we were reminded that Saturday marked the official beginning of a new era at Fenway, one which will be littered with lineup cards that have Aaron Cook starting on three days' rest and Scott Podsednik batting leadoff and, ah, you get the point.
Boston, version 2012.2, lost every bit of that six-run cushion, blew a couple of late scoring opportunities and fell for the 16th time in 23 games, this time handing a 10-9 decision to the Royals. The Sox are now 25-11 at home against Kansas City since 2003.
Sparing the pen: With Cook pitching on three day's rest and with Felix Doubront and Daisuke Matsuzaka both coming off the disabled list to pitch the next two games, it is fair to say that the Red Sox rotation was on shaky ground. As if he anticipated a bad scene getting worse, manager Bobby Valentine said before the game began Saturday that the bullpen would be "stressed."
When Cook gave up four straight hits to start the game, giving the Royals a 3-0 lead, it looked as if the stress level would rise. Give Cook credit not only for getting out of the first inning without further damage but also cruising through the next five innings. He allowed just three singles and a walk over those last five frames and left with a six-run advantage.
A six-run seventh inning by the Royals tied the game and essentially forced extras, forcing Valentine to use every available reliever. Still, Cook's effort could prove valuable in the coming days, especially in light of the Alfredo Aceves situation.
The Alfredo Aceves situation: It was announced midway through the game that Aceves had begun serving a three-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. Aceves gave up five runs in the wild 14-13 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday. Andrew Bailey got the last four outs in a 4-3 win over Kansas City on Friday. Aceves angrily left a meeting with Valentine after that one and was a tad testy Saturday afternoon when reporters were crowding near his locker to try to get into a scrum with Clay Buchholz, who was positioned aside Aceves.
Of course, Valentine's "stressed" line may have been an allusion to the Aceves scenario, although nobody knew that at the time.
Like sands through the hourglass ...
First one for the first baseman: Mauro Gomez is not the long-term fix for the Red Sox at first base. He is little more than a stopgap. Still, the 27-year-old made the most of his latest opportunity Saturday night, hammering his first career home run and finishing 4-for-6.
The one negative for Gomez came on the bases. He was thrown out twice at second base, both times trying to stretch a single.
Heads up: A scary moment and an almost-scary moment came on consecutive pitches in the top of the seventh.
First, a foul ball caught home plate umpire Jerry Layne square in the facemask, causing him to stumble. If not for Jarrod Saltalamacchia's quick hands, a dazed Layne might've hit the ground. Saltalamacchia bounced up and grabbed Layne's forearm as the ump listed to one side.
After a delay to make sure Layne was OK, the batter, Eric Hosmer, lined the next pitch right back through the box for a single. The shot buzzed inches past the head of Andrew Miller, who lost his hat.
Miller struck out the next batter but then unraveled. He walked two men to load the bases and then gave up a two-run single to Alex Gordon, the start of the six-run outburst.
An Iglesias sighting: Red Sox fans likely hope to see plenty more of Jose Iglesias in September. He'll probably be a call-up, setting the stage to take over the starting shortstop job in 2013.
On Saturday they had to settle for a pinch-running appearance in the bottom of the ninth, and it came for Lavarnway, which means Iglesias did not get to play the field. He did remain as the DH, hitting into a double play in the 11th.
And when Iglesias is your DH in the 11th: You know that David Ortiz was not available. Ortiz, who returned from the disabled list Friday to get two hits in four at-bats, was not in the starting lineup and apparently in need of more evaluation after his bothersome right Achilles flared up.
With no Ortiz, the Sox essentially played this game with 23 available players, only 11 of whom were position players.
No longer King of the Royals: After everything that has occurred in the past couple of days, the most notable has to be the fact that Dustin Pedroia has lost the distinction of owning the best average of any major leaguer ever against Kansas City. Right?
With a 1-for-5 showing Saturday, Pedroia is now hitting .379 (61-for-161) vs. the Royals. He fell behind Scott Rolen, who sits at .383 (44-for-115).