KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The miserable season record can just go jump in the lake. After two games in Kansas City, these Boston Red Sox are feeling much better about themselves and their prospects.
Young players are getting key hits and making pitches and keeping their focus. Veteran closer Koji Uehara returned after a week off and pitched a crisp, 1-2-3 eighth inning. And following Friday night's 4-2 victory, the Red Sox, for the first time in team history, have beaten the Kansas City Royals the first five times they've met in a season.
Maybe the lone sour note belongs to fans hungering to see Cuban defector Rusney Castillo make his major league debut. With the Pawtucket Red Sox going deep into extra innings on Friday night in Game 4 of the Governors' Cup finals (eventually winning 4-2 in the 13th to force a winner-take-all Game 5 versus the Durham Bulls), manager John Farrell decided to stick with his original plan and have Castillo, and perhaps others from the Triple-A club, meet the Red Sox in Pittsburgh, where they'll start a three-game series on Tuesday. He had been toying with the idea of bringing Castillo to Kansas City.
Otherwise, it's all been good for the Bostonians these first two games in K.C., where the Royals have kicked the ball around for two nights in a row and dropped half a game behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
"We're getting key hits, playing good defense, pitching the ball well. It's just a collective thing," said right fielder Mookie Betts, who had two hits, an RBI and a run scored Friday night. "We're facing some good arms. They [the Royals] are in the hunt, so they're going to try to get their wins. But I think we're battling them really well. The pitching staff, the way they've been throwing these last two games, the clutch hitting, we're running the bases well."
The Royals, trying to break an embarrassing 28-year playoff drought, have made four errors in the two games. Still, beating a contender has special meaning for Red Sox players who tumbled all the way from World Series champs to last place in the AL East.
"I'm sure it does," Betts said. "Since we're not in it, we might as well put everybody else out of it that we can. But I think we're just going out and playing the game and enjoying ourselves."
Allen Webster, one of the youngsters who hopes to compete for a rotation spot in 2015, went six innings and allowed only four hits and two runs -- on a two-run smash when a changeup drifted too close to the heart of the plate against Eric Hosmer.
"I thought he was ahead in the count a little more frequently, and he had a very good changeup against left-handers to slow them down," Farrell said. "With the exception of the one changeup that stayed up to Hosmer, he was efficient, he was powerful, and it was encouraging to see the overall command of the strike zone. The bullpen has been outstanding these two games."
After Edward Mujica earned the save for the second night in a row, Farrell said he still plans to ease Uehara slowly back into his closer role.
"It was good to see Koji get back on the mound for us and attack the strike zone, which he's done for a long period of time," Farrell said. "But just to get him back in the flow of things was a positive here tonight."
One of many.