Story by HOWARD ULMAN
(BOSTON, AP) — David Ortiz returned to the lineup, Adrian Gonzalez left it and the Red Sox broke a four-game losing streak.
It was an eventful night for Boston’s top two hitters.
Ortiz was back after missing 35 games with a right Achilles strain and had two hits and two RBIs on the first two pitches he saw, sparking Boston to a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
But Gonzalez was pulled from the lineup minutes before the game amid reports that he was part of a major trade being discussed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We talked for a little bit,” Ortiz said. “He’s shocked, like we are a little bit. Adrian wants to be here, that’s why he came here, and help this ballclub to win a World Series.”
Ortiz already has done that twice, in 2004 and 2007. But the Red Sox went 13-22 while he was sidelined as they dropped to 59-66 before beating the Royals
“David was awesome,” said Andrew Bailey, who earned his first save after being sidelined all season until Aug. 14 following right thumb surgery.
“You can’t say enough about that guy. And for him to come off the DL and to be such a sparkplug in our offense, he was huge tonight.”
Pedro Ciriaco’s two-run double in the seventh inning put Boston ahead 4-3, and Jon Lester continued his surge from a poor first-half of the season with seven solid innings.
Lester (8-10) has won his past three starts and seemed fine after leaving with a cramp in his left hamstring with no outs in the top of the eighth. He had thrown three pitches in the inning, all balls.
“I should have said something after pitch one or my warmups,” he said.
Lester, who allowed three runs and six hits, felt improvement in his pitching even before his current winning streak.
“I’m just winning. Winning cures everything,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good with the adjustments that we’ve made. … I feel like I was headed in the right direction probably five or six starts ago.”
Ortiz started the Red Sox scoring with a two-run single in the first off Bruce Chen that drove in Ciriaco and Jacoby Ellsbury, who both singled. Then he doubled with two outs in the third but was stranded.
“He’s looking good,” Chen said. “I just try and make good pitches, but, obviously, he’s one of the best hitters in the American League.”
The Red Sox needed Ortiz with Gonzalez not playing.
“I had 10 minutes” before the game to redo the lineup, Boston manager Bobby Valentine said.
In Los Angeles, first baseman James Loney was pulled from the lineup against the Miami Marlins. Gonzalez was leading the Red Sox with 86 RBIs, 145 hits and 37 doubles and was first in the majors with a .398 batting average with runners in scoring position.
They would be involved in a trade that was being discussed that would send right-hander Josh Beckett, left fielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles, a baseball official informed of the discussions said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcements were made.
Beckett (5-11) was scheduled to pitch for Boston in the second game of the four-game series Saturday night.
Ciriaco continued his surprisingly hot hitting since being called up on July 6 from Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 4 for 6 in a 14-13 loss on Thursday night to the Los Angeles Angels, his third four-hit game of the season, and went 2 for 4 on Friday night.
Trailing 3-2, Boston began the seventh with a walk to Mauro Gomez, who started in place of Gonzalez. Kevin Herrera (1-2) replaced Chen and gave up a single to Mike Aviles, sending Gomez to second. Scott Podsednik than sacrificed the runners to second and third before Ciriaco blooped his double into short left field.
“The leadoff walk in the seventh and then two 0-2 hits did us in,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The pitch to Ciriaco was actually not a bad pitch, but it’s 0-2, you just threw him a good fastball and you come back with a changeup down and in and he hit it.”
The Royals had tied the game at 2 in the third on a leadoff homer by Eric Hosmer, his 12th of the year, and an RBI double by Alex Gordon. They went ahead 3-2 in the fourth on a bases-loaded infield single by Johnny Giavotella after a walk to Mike Moustakas, a single by Bryan Pena and a walk to Hosmer.
“He’s obviously not having his kind of a year but he’s still got great stuff,” Gordon said of Lester. “I thought putting up those runs against him was pretty impressive. We just couldn’t finish it.”
Notes: Jeremy Guthrie (2-3) is scheduled to pitch for Kansas City on Saturday night. … In their past 16 games, Boston is 5-11 and Kansas City is 10-6. … The win was Boston’s first in a one-run game at home since June 21 when it beat Miami 6-5.