BOSTON (AP) — John Smoltz finally felt as if he contributed to the Boston Red Sox. He doesn’t expect it to be for the last time.
Smoltz got his first win for Boston and Kevin Youkilis hit two home runs to lift the Red Sox over the Kansas City Royals 15-9 Saturday night.
“I feel like I’ve checked in,” Smoltz said. “It has been a long time, but this is not a feel-good story. I believe this team will be in position to win every time I go out there and the best is yet to come.”
Smoltz (1-2) struck out seven over five innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out four batters in a row over the second and third inning capped off by called third strikes that painted the corner on Miguel Olivo and Tony Pena.
Coming off shoulder surgery that cut his 2008 season to six appearances, the 42-year-old Smoltz didn’t make his first start until June 25 against Washington. He struggled with an 0-2 record and 6.60 ERA in three previous appearances.
“If you told me seven or eight years ago that I’d be helping John Smoltz get a win, I probably wouldn’t believe you. That was awesome,” Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard said.
Gil Meche (4-9) left with two outs in the fourth inning with back spasms after he had allowed seven runs – five earned.
“Stuff-wise I thought I had great stuff,” Meche said. “After the second pitch to Pedroia in the fourth inning I felt a twinge in my lower back and it was a bad muscle spasm. It’s a good thing the All-Star break is here.”
Jason Varitek and David Ortiz also homered for Boston while Youkilis, who had been in a 3 for 30 slump, drove in four runs and scored four as well.
The only real trouble for Smoltz came in the fourth inning after he gave up back-to-back singles to Billy Butler and Mark Teahen, but he retired the next three batters.
“You sit here for four starts hearing me say that it’s going to happen, but people want to see it,” Smoltz said. “The patience they have had with me is vital to what I believe is going to be a very successful run.”
The Red Sox scored three in the first and took advantage of four Kansas City blunders.
David DeJesus misplayed Dustin Pedroia’s triple, then Tony Pena misplayed Jason Bay’s grounder and failed to force out Ortiz at second allowing Youkilis to score and Ortiz to advance to third. Jacoby Ellsbury then hit a deep fly to left and Jose Guillen thought it was the final out and initially began running in before remembering that Ortiz was tagging up at third. Catcher Olivo made the final mistake when he was charged with a throwing error.

Youkilis’ two-run homer capped a three-run second before Varitek tied his 2008 output with his 13th home run to make it 7-0 after three.

“It’s just one of those nights where we had to keep battling,” Youkilis said. “You’re going to have times where the hitting is better than the pitching, but we need our pitching to be better than our hitting over the long haul.”

Meche struck out six. Since a four-hit shutout against Arizona on June 16, he is 0-4 with a 8.39 ERA in five starts.

Ortiz increased Boston’s lead to 9-0 when hit a two-run homer off reliever Ron Mahay, who then retired seven straight.

Even with a 9-1 lead, things got dicey for Boston in the sixth when Justin Masterson allowed five straight batters to reach and gave up a two-run shot to Mike Jacobs.

Manny Delcarmen replaced Masterson and promptly walked DeJesus to load the bases. Ryan Freel followed with a flare to right that J.D. Drew played on the short hop before firing a strike to Varitek to get Olivo for a rare 9-2 force out.

“Bad read – He’s going back to tag up on a low line drive. You can’t go back and tag. … You’re not going to score,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “It’s not a read the third base coach can make for you.”

Billy Butler singled in two more runs to cut Boston’s lead to 9-6 before Hideki Okajima ended the inning with another strikeout of Teahen.

Guillen led off the seventh with a solo shot to pull the Royals to 9-7 and then Okajima gave up a pair of singles before being replaced by Bard, who had retired 19 straight coming in. He struck out Olivo and pinch-hitter Brayan Pena before getting DeJesus to ground out.

Boston batted around in the seventh and eighth adding three runs in each, highlighted by Youkilis’ second home run of the game and 16th of the season with a solo shot sandwiched around two unearned runs by K.C. off Bard.

NOTES: Meche recorded his 1,000th career strikeout when he struck out Bay in the third. … Ortiz recorded his 1,000th hit for Boston when he homered in the fourth. … Smoltz made 708 appearances and won 210 games for Atlanta. … Hillman was ejected after the seventh inning by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor. … Masterson has allowed 12 runs over his last six innings.

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