KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Terry Francona was hoping that Andrew Miller could give him about 75 pitches. Francona didn’t know how far that would take the Boston Red Sox, and he certainly wasn’t sure how effective Miller would be.
He was happy with both answers.
Miller lasted into the sixth inning despite the pitch limit and allowed the only run that the Kansas City Royals scored in Boston’s 7-1 victory Friday night. Jarrod Saltalamacchia pounded out a three-run homer before the rest of the Red Sox piled on in the later innings.
“You do well and you can say you were fresh. You struggle and you say you’re rusty,” said Miller, who made his first start since July 31 after two relief appearances. “Fortunately, I was able to say I felt fresh tonight.”
Miller (5-1) wound up throwing 83 pitches, allowing three hits and a pair of walks in 5 1/3 innings. He was rarely in trouble against the Royals’ feeble offense, winning for the first time since July 20 and giving himself a tremendous dose of confidence.
His manager, too.
“He started out, balls up a bit early in the game. Then he kind of started getting comfortable, worked down, used all his pitches and kept him off the scoreboard,” Francona said. “We’re plenty happy with how far he got in the game. We were thinking 75 pitches or so.”
Alfredo Aceves went the final 3 2/3 innings for his second save.
Adrian Gonzalez added three hits and a sacrifice fly for Boston. Jed Lowrie had a hat trick of singles, and Darnell McDonald had an RBI triple as the Red Sox piled up 13 hits.
Jacoby Ellsbury was hit in the back by a pitch from Royals reliever Everett Teaford in the eighth inning. Ellsbury walked gingerly to first base but remained in the game, and rounded the bases on Mike Aviles’ RBI double. He was removed in the bottom half of the inning.
“He’s sore,” Francona said. “We’ll check on him in the morning, but he’s sore.”
Boston (76-48) remained a half-game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East after roughing up Jeff Francis (4-14), who has just one win in his last 11 starts. The lefty was responsible for five runs on 11 hits and two walks in five innings, his second straight miserable start.
Francis gave up six runs in 3 2/3 innings last Sunday against the White Sox.
“I’ve been through rough patches before,” he said. “I’m not going to waver on the approach I take. I try to go after hitters, put the pressure on them to hit the ball. That’s certainly what they did tonight — 11 hits in five innings. They put some good wood on the ball.”
Rookie DH Ryan Lavarnway, who went 0 for 4 in his debut Thursday night, grounded out in the first inning and flied out in the third, leaving the bases loaded each time. He finally singled for his first big league hit in the fifth, and the Royals made sure the ball got back to the Boston dugout.
“I have all the balls that I broke college records with,” said Lavarnway, who played at Yale. “This one is obviously a little bit better.”
The Royals, with the youngest lineup in the major leagues, are certainly experiencing some growing pains against the beasts from the East. The Yankees won two of three against them earlier in the week, and Boston has taken the first two games of their four-game set. Kansas City (51-75) has lost 10 of 12 overall and fallen a season-worst 24 games below .500.
The Royals struck first for the second straight night when Mike Moustakas doubled into the gap in left field leading off the third inning. He moved up to third on Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice bunt and scampered home on Alex Gordon’s flyball to center.
Once again, the lead was short lived.
Carl Crawford doubled leading off the fourth and scored on McDonald’s triple, and he gave Boston the lead when he came home on Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly.
Boston gave its pitching staff some breathing room in the fifth. Lowrie singled for the third straight time, Lavarnway followed with a base hit, and Saltalamacchia ripped Francis’ 0-2 pitch over the Royals bullpen in left field for his 12th homer of the season.
“Saltalamacchia’s home run kind of put it away for them,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The ball Saltalamacchia hit wasn’t a horrible pitch. It was down and he went down and got it. “
NOTES: The Royals were careful with Dustin Pedroia, who entered 12 of 22 against them this season, intentionally walking him twice. He reached on an error that scored Aviles in the eighth. … The Royals have lost four of five against the Red Sox after beating them July 25. … Tim Wakefield (6-5) pitches for Boston on Saturday night. He’ll face Felipe Paulino (1-5).
Yankees 8, Twins 1
MINNEAPOLIS — Phil Hughes allowed two hits in 7 2-3 innings and Russell Martin hit two home runs to lead the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins.
Hughes (4-4) gave up one run, walked three and struck out two in his longest outing of the season. Martin hit a solo homer in the third and a two-run shot in the sixth for his fourth career multihomer game.
Mark Teixeira had two hits and three RBIs for the first-place Yankees.
Kevin Slowey (0-1) gave up six runs and nine hits with four strikeouts for the Twins.
Trevor Plouffe hit a solo homer in the first inning, but Hughes was excellent the rest of the way.
Rays 3, Mariners 2
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist both had run-scoring singles with two outs during the eighth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays beat Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners.
Hernandez (11-11) took a one-hitter in the eighth before the Rays’ put together the late rally. An out after pinch-hitter Sam Fuld lined an one-out, opposite-field single to left, Johnny Damon had an infield single before consecutive RBI hits by Longoria and Zobrist put Tampa Bay ahead 3-2.
Juan Cruz (5-0) got two outs in the eighth for the win. Kyle Farnsworth pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
Hernandez allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings. The 2010 AL Cy Young winner had nine strikeouts and two walks in his fourth complete games this season.
Tigers 4, Indians 1
DETROIT — Max Scherzer pitched seven strong innings and the first-place Detroit Tigers hit three homers in a 4-1 victory over the second-place Cleveland Indians.
The Indians could have taken over the AL Central lead with a sweep of the three-game series, but now trail Detroit by 2½ games.
Scherzer (13-7) allowed one run, five hits and a walk while throwing a career-high 127 pitches.
Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde finished, with the latter pitching the ninth for his 36th save in as many opportunities. Valverde was coming off Wednesday’s loss to the Twins, where he allowed two ninth-inning runs in a tie game.
Josh Tomlin (12-6) took the loss, giving up four runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.