KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -Big Papi is getting big hits again and it couldn't come at a better time for the Boston Red Sox.
David Ortiz homered and drove in four runs, and Josh Beckett allowed two runs over six innings to lift the Red Sox to a 9-2 win over the Kansas City Royals 6-2 Wednesday night.
Hitting so poorly early in the season that people questioned his eyesight, Ortiz is back is back to blasting balls out of the ballpark as the Red Sox move closer to the postseason. Despite a measly .234 average, Big Papi has a respectable 25 homers and 88 RBIs - just as manager Terry Francona predicted back in May.
``I remember saying look up in the end, his batting average is going to be lower and he has to live with that,' Francona said. ``As long as he doesn't walk to the plate looking at that, he'll be OK. That's what has happened.'
Ortiz drove in one run with a single in Boston's six-run fifth inning, then added a three-run homer off Carlos Rosa to give the Red Sox three players with 25 homers in the same season for the first time since 2003.
Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury each drove in two runs and Beckett (16-6) limited the damage from 12 hits with seven strikeouts, giving Boston 90 wins for the third straight season.
``Everything's based on results this time of year,' Beckett said. ``That's just the way you have to look at it.
The difference for the Royals came down to a few pitches. Boston took advantage of its chances against Hochevar, Kansas City didn't against Beckett.
Yuniesky Betancourt had a run-scoring triple among his three hits and Mitch Maier also had three hits, but the Royals stranded 12 runners to see their six-game home winning streak end.
``It's just a matter of making pitches in key situations,' Royals manager Trey Hillman said. ``Unfortunately, when you're facing a lineup like that and when you miss even by a little bit, it comes back to bite you.'
Wanting to get more pop in the lineup, Francona had Victor Martinez behind the plate instead of Beckett's usual battery mate, John Varitek. He tried it once before and it didn't work out too well: Beckett allowed seven earned runs in 5 1-3 innings against Toronto on Aug. 18.
Francona was willing to try it again with Varitek struggling - .156, one homer since the All-Star break - and Martinez on a career-best 21-game hitting streak.
Martinez did his part with the bat, extending his hitting streak with a single in the fifth inning. He wasn't bad behind the plate, either, helping guide Beckett through some shaky moments.
The right-hander had trouble from the start, allowing two runners in each of the first three innings. Beckett wriggled out of those jams, then gave up two runs in the fourth on Betancourt's triple and a flare RBI single to right by David DeJesus.
The next half inning changed everything.
Held to one run over the first four innings, the Red Sox unloaded on Hochevar in the fifth, scoring six runs on seven hits to go up 6-2. Ellsbury drove in two with a triple and Bay had the biggest blow on the softest hit, floating a two-run single into short left field with the bases loaded.
Pitching with a cushion, Beckett had his first perfect inning in the bottom half, then got Billy Butler on a fly to right with two on to end the sixth. He was done after that, leaving with a 6-2 lead, another win against the Royals and something to build on with Martinez.
``We're still feeling each other out,' said Beckett, 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA in seven career starts against Kansas City. ``Obviously, we're not going to go out there and be like Jason and I have for three years, but it was good.'
Hochevar, coming off a three-hitter for his first career shutout, gave up six runs on eight hits in five innings. He's allowed at least three runs in an inning 13 times in 23 starts this season.
``I've got to stop that somehow,' Hochevar said of big innings. ``I've got to find a way to stop that and keep us in the ball game.'
NOTES: Royals 3B coach Dave Owen left the team due to a family emergency and it's unclear when he'll return. He was replaced by Triple-A Omaha manager Mike Jirschele. ... Kansas City pitchers have 1,090 strikeouts this season, breaking the record of 1,085 set last year. ... Francona tied Mike Higgins for second on Boston's all-time wins list with 560. He's still a long way away from the record of 1,071 set by Joe Cronin from 1935-47.
The Associated Press News Service
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