BOSTON -- As usual, turmoil bubbled around the Red Sox. Just after a wrenching extra-inning loss extended their futility and rumors swirled about a blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, a dose of distractions loomed over Fenway Park.
Yet the Red Sox were able to keep their focus and came from behind to snag a 4-3 victory over the Royals on Friday night with another sellout crowd of 37,228 fans at the historic ballpark. For the Red Sox, it was only their fifth victory in the last 16 games and snapped a four-game skid.
The Royals, on the other hand, had won 10 of their previous 15 games. But again they were cooled off by left-hander Jon Lester, who holds a career record of 6-2 against them with a 1.64 ERA. And at Fenway, it's 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA and a no-hitter in 2008. The downside for Lester was that he had to leave the game in the eighth inning with a left hamstring cramp.
"I think we swung the bats pretty well against him," said Alex Gordon, who had two of the six hits off Lester. "We definitely piled up the strikeouts [six] against him which we don't want to do. Lester is obviously not having his kind of a year, but he's still got great stuff, so I thought putting up those runs against him was pretty impressive. We just couldn't finish it at the end."
The Red Sox, in effect, finished it with two runs in the seventh that wiped out the Royals' 3-2 lead. Left-hander Bruce Chen, pitching well, was pulled as he began that inning with a walk to Mauro Gomez.
"It was just one of those cases where I tried to overthrow the ball a little bit. We're winning by one run and I don't want to leave one out over the plate after we worked so hard to get the lead," Chen said. "Lester was pitching well and I didn't want to leave something out where [Gomez] could reach out and use that short fence in left field."
Right-hander Kelvin Herrera took over and gave up a bloop single to Mike Aviles. The runners advanced on Scott Podsednik's sacrifice bunt and both scored when Pedro Ciriaco lined a soft double over third base.
"It was tough. The leadoff walk in the seventh and then two 0-2 hits did us in," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
"The pitch to Aviles was kind of up-and-out a little bit, not a great pitch 0-2. The pitch to Ciriaco was actually not a bad pitch but it's 0-2, you just threw him a good fastball and then come back with a changeup kind of down-and-in, and he hit it."
The Red Sox also started the game with a two-run first inning.
Designated hitter David Ortiz, on the disabled list for more than a month, returned to the Red Sox's lineup on the same night that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was scratched amid trade talks with Los Angeles.
Ortiz obviously was ready. Up after Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury each singled and advanced on Dustin Pedroia's tap-out, Ortiz belted Chen's next pitch up the middle for a two-run single.
Considering Lester's success over the Royals through the years, it was with some relief that they tied the score with two runs in the third inning which began with Eric Hosmer's opposite-field home run over the Green Monster in left. It was his 12th homer this season.
"I saw he was getting ahead early with guys and the first time around he was putting them in there and I just told myself to look for a good pitch and, if I see it, just go after it," Hosmer said.
And he did, jumping on a first-pitch fastball.
Hosmer homered for the first time at Fenway last year in the same area and he was taking shots in that direction during batting practice.
"That Monster out there, I like going that way and I'm trying to get my swing going that way for the next three games here. Hopefully I stay living there and hit a couple more balls off the wall or even over," Hosmer said.
After two outs in the inning, Alcides Escobar walked and scored as Gordon banked a double off the Green Monster.
"I get myself a two-out walk and get myself in a little bit of trouble and then a fly ball that's 315 feet," Lester said. "That's the nature of the beast playing here at Fenway. I just tried to minimize the damage from there and was able to do that, just to keep these guys in it, and we did a good job against their bullpen."
The fourth inning held rich promise for the Royals when they loaded the bases on two walks and Brayan Pena's single with one out. Giavotella's infield hit scored the tie-breaking run but there Lester closed them down.
Ahead going into the eighth inning, Lester threw three called balls to Billy Butler and then bent over, obviously hurting.
"Just cramped up on me. I'd been kind of battling with it a little bit since the fifth inning. It got a little worse as the game went on. I probably should have said something after pitch one or my warmups," Lester said.
He left because of the leg cramp and right-hander Vicente Padilla took over. Butler got an infield hit on a ground ball into the shortstop hole and was replaced by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson, who promptly stole second base. But there he stayed as Padilla and two other relievers combined to retire the next three batters.
That was the Royals' last gasp. Lester had beaten them again.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.