The new-look Boston Red Sox try to put their remaining pieces together this afternoon as they play the third of a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.
Already looking to the future since the 2012 campaign appears to be a lost cause, the Red Sox managed to pull off a stunner of a trade on Saturday as they sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, right- handed pitcher Josh Beckett, and infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney and two prospects -- pitcher Allen Webster and infielder Ivan De Jesus -- along with two players to be named later.
"We are absolutely committed to building the best team in 2013 and beyond, and we will do that in the most disciplined way possible," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington at a Saturday press conference. "We have a core of players here, still, that will be a part of our next great team."
Cherington, who admitted that in order to move forward the Sox had to make changes that were more than cosmetic, gave his team a fighting chance in the years to come as he dumped a considerable amount of salary between Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett. While Gonzalez made an immediate impact with his new team on Saturday with a three-run home run in his first at-bat, Boston was not quite as lucky as the squad dropped a 10-9 final to the Royals in 12 innings.
Now seven games under .500 and 13 1/2 games off the pace set by New York in the American League East, Boston squandered a 9-3 advantage after four innings and watched their 20-hit barrage fall short of getting them into the win column for the fifth time in the last six games.
Trying to make up for the loss of Gonzalez, Mauro Gomez stepped in at first base and delivered four hits in six at-bats, including his first major league home run, but even that was not enough to lift the Red Sox out of the doldrums.
Playing without slugger David Ortiz who had just returned from the DL a day earlier but was again sidelined with soreness in his right Achilles tendon, the Sox got three hits from Cody Ross and three RBI from Mike Aviles as the latter connected on his 13th home run of the season.
Originally it was Beckett who was scheduled to make the start for Boston, but with the trade being worked out the hosts opted to go with Aaron Cook, who stepped in an allowed just three runs on seven hits and a walk through six innings. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't keep it together for the Sox and Cook never factored into the decision.
"Today was a crazy day, but it's kind of the business part of it and we realize that things are going to happen throughout the season that we can't control," said Cook. "We came out today, we played really good baseball, we battled our butts off all night. We'll clean up, come back (Sunday) and try to do it all again."
The loss was eventually issued to Junichi Tazawa even though he struck out three of the five batters he faced.
Coming up with the game-winning hit for the Royals in the top of the 12th was Tony Abreu who singled to left to score Jeff Francoeur with two out. Billy Butler logged three of his team's 14 hits, knocking in a pair of runs, and Alex Gordon plated four with his two hits for the visitors as they won for just the second time in the last five outings.
Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie lasted a mere 2 2/3 innings as he surrendered seven runs on as many hits and a couple of walks. The Royals bullpen sent seven hurlers into the fray, with Francisley Bueno finally picking up the win, the first of his brief career.
Seeking his first win since the middle of July, Felix Doubront heads to the mound for the Red Sox this afternoon. The left-hander, already with one victory against Kansas City this season, is 0-2 in his last four starts and hasn't pitched since clashing with Cleveland on August 9, after which he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee contusion.
In that meeting with the Tribe, Doubront gave up four runs on seven hits and a couple of walks, striking out four over the course of 4 1/3 innings in a 5-3 setback on the road.
Rookie hurler Will Smith gets the call for the Royals to close out the series. Unable to find much consistency from one start to the next, Smith is currently 4-5 with a 5.40 ERA.
The left-hander last took the mound on Monday when he was pulled after 3 2/3 innings due to the fact that he had surrendered four runs on eight hits and a couple of walks. Smith struck out four in the contest, giving him 38 in his 10 games thus far, but at the same time he has issued 20 bases-on-balls and allowed nine home runs in just 56 2/3 innings.
Sporting a 3-2 road record with a 4.64 ERA in six tests away from home, this marks the first-ever matchup for Smith against the Red Sox.