Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 8, Royals 6

With a major housecleaning complete, the Red Sox are what they are right now, a mediocre (at best) team playing out the string. That’s about the best you can say about the Kansas City Royals, which is why when the two teams meet you’re going to get games like the one Sunday at Fenway Park.

Both starters gave up four earned runs in five innings. Both teams committed two errors. There were 18 runners left on base, eight pitching changes and multiple lead changes. An eighth-inning lead by the hosts rested on the right arm of a New York Mets castoff making his first appearance with the Sox and the ninth-inning advantage was entrusted to Mark Melancon, who entered with an 8.74 ERA after the seventh inning this year.

Somehow it was a winning formula for Boston, which avoided falling eight games below .500 for the first time this year with a less-than-pretty 8-6 victory over the Royals.

Bye-bye, Bobby: Bobby Valentine has had some ejections this year that seemed a bit forced. Not that they weren’t necessary. The team has been in need of a spark since Opening Day. But he brought the heat in an argument with first base umpire Dan Bellino on Sunday, and it was legit.

Replays showed that Dustin Pedroia was safe on a grounder to third with one out in the fifth. Valentine was so peeved with the call that he stumbled and nearly fell in the dirt in front of the Red Sox dugout as he raced out to argue with first base umpire Dan Bellino. The skipper gave Bellino the business, walked away for a bit, then went back in for a little more action from about an inch away from Bellino's face. It was the fifth ejection of the season for Valentine and the 42nd of his career.

Safe to say that the ovation Valentine received while walking off the field was the loudest he has been given since arriving in Boston.

Heating up: If you saw Jacoby Ellsbury on the bases after he doubled in the eighth inning Saturday, you saw a fired-up player. He ripped his shin guard off with flair and later did plenty of dancing off third base, looking like a guy who was, to borrow a Francona-ism, feeling pretty good about himself.

Perhaps Ellsbury is finally feeling himself. The results suggest that’s the case. Ellsbury’s hitting streak is at six games and he is 9-for-20 in his last four games. He singled and scored in the fifth and snapped a 4-4 tie with an RBI single off the glove of first baseman Eric Hosmer in the sixth.

Doubles for Dustin: It was not the hardest hit ball of his career, but Pedroia’s bloop double down the line in right in the bottom of the first gave him 30 two-baggers on the year. It is the fifth time in his career he has reached that mark. Pedroia also homered in the eighth inning, leaving him 11 hits shy of 1,000 for his career.

Pedroia will be the 31st player in team history to reach that milestone.

Another soft hit: Like Pedroia, James Loney picked up a milestone hit in soft fashion. His chopper up the middle in the fifth had just enough to get through for an RBI single, Loney’s first hit in a Red Sox uniform. It tied the game 4-4.

You’d pitch scared, too ... : If Hosmer ripped a line drive as hard as a human being can inches past your head, that is. Hosmer did just that when facing Andrew Miller on Saturday, causing Miller to lose his hat, and laced one past Doubront in this one. Both hits seemed to unnerve the pitchers -- Miller fell apart in what would result in a six-run Royals rally, and K.C. scored four times against a seemingly rattled Doubront after Hosmer’s hit Sunday.

Aside from that, Doubront looked pretty good in his return from the disabled list. Outside of the four-run fourth, which was highlighted by Lorenzo Cain’s three-run homer, Doubront yielded just two singles and a walk. He struck out seven and walked two.

Cleaning ‘em up: Among the notable gaps for the Red Sox with no Adrian Gonzalez and a lame David Ortiz is the lack of middle-of-the-order bats. For the foreseeable future, Cody Ross will do what he can in the No. 4 spot. There just aren’t any other options.

At the very least, Ross is pretty comfortable there. In 14 games as the cleanup hitter this year, Ross is batting .308 (16-for-52) with 4 home runs, 10 RBIs and 9 walks. Those are the kind of numbers you would want in a No. 4 hitter.