After watching closer Jeff Reardon give up a one-out homer in the ninth inning to George Brett to wipe out their 2-1 lead, and after surviving a scary top of the 11th last night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox ended their two-game losing streak in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win.
Tom Brunansky’s liner over Kansas City right fielder Jim Eisenreich’s head with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 11th ended a 3 hour 52 minute marathon in which the Red Sox left 14 men on base, but got clutch pitching most of the night.
Manager Butch Hobson tried a new order for the 67th time and a new -- well, almost -- starting pitcher in Greg Harris, who had a no-hitter through five while filling in admirably for the injured Roger Clemens.
There was also a new wrinkle in the first RBI by a Red Sox pinch hitter this season, Bob Zupcic’s seventh-inning single that put the home team up, 2-1.
But it was nearly the same old story, except for Brunansky, who made a winner out of Danny Darwin (5-4) and a loser out of Rusty Meacham (4-2).
“The count was 2 and 1 and I felt he was going to come at me with a fastball,” said Brunansky, who got one where he wanted it.
“When I first hit it I thought the game was over,” he said, “but then I remembered there were two outs and they’d be playing normal depth. I looked at Eisenreich and saw the ball take off.
“It looked kind of bad for a while. We were pretty deep into our bullpen the Sox used five pitchers and it was nice to get one.
“Every time we come to the park, it seems like a toughie. We’d enjoy scoring a bunch of runs and having a relaxed game once in a while, but we probably wouldn’t know how to accept it.”
Two outs away from what would have been a well-earned victory over Royals’ ace Kevin Appier, the Sox watched Reardon instead get tagged with his fourth blown save of the year when Brett launched an opposite-field shot into the screen for his first Fenway homer in eight seasons.
KC’s first hit was a homer by Gregg Jefferies to lead off the sixth and it signaled the end of Harris’ night.
Zupcic, who is nursing a sore left ankle after fouling a pitch off it Monday night, drove in Steve Lyons with what appeared for a time to be the game-winner off reliever Neal Heaton.
“It feels a lot better than it did last night,” said Zupcic, who has now hit safely in 13 of 15 games (19 for 49, .388). I got three pitches low and kind of fished at them, but Heaton came in with a fast ball and I got it through the hole.”
Boston escaped disaster when Tony Fossas walked Kevin McReynolds with one out in the 11th, gave up a rope single to Brett to put runners at first and third and, after striking out Eisenreich, gave way to Darwin, who fanned pinch hitter Bob Melvin.
Tony Pena (three hits and all three runs scored) singled to deep short to lead off the 11th, Jody Reed doubled off the wall and Phil Plantier was walked intentionally with one out.
Wade Boggs, who was scratched from the starting lineup because of a nagging hip injury, pinch hit for Tim Naehring and popped to short left, setting the stage for Brunansky’s heroics.
The Red Sox left 11 men on base through 10 innings -- including two in the fifth, seventh and ninth.
The heart of their order stopped beating for the most part. No. 2 through 4 hitters Plantier (2), Mo Vaughn (2) and even Brunansky (3) accounted for seven strikeouts as Appier was strong through six-plus innings, striking out a career-high 10.
But Harris, who hadn’t started a game since last September, and Tom Bolton, who pitched three shutout innings, was equal to Appier.
“After six, that was going to be it, no matter what, even if Harris had a no-hitter,” said Hobson. “We wanted 75 pitches out of him and we got 74.”
He also got a water torture of a win. “It was a struggle,” said Hobson, who has been used to them (29 of the team’s 38 victories have been by three runs or fewer).