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Rapid reaction: Red Sox 4, Royals 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It all boiled down to whether the Red Sox offense could finally snap out of a baffling funk, and whether Josh Beckett could make whatever support he received hold up.

The Red Sox struggled mightily at the plate the past week, including recording just three hits in each of their last three games. And Beckett, battling his own issues recently, hadn’t been able to keep the ball in the ballpark in his last five starts.

It wasn’t an offensive explosion against the Royals, but it was enough for a 4-3 win. And it was enough because Beckett wobbled at times -- he allowed his eighth homer in his last six starts -- but he mostly kept a young Royals offense in check.

The Sox fell behind for the ninth consecutive game and gave up a first-inning run for the seventh time in that stretch. But they answered in the second with a Jason Varitek RBI-single and again in the third with a two-run, two-out single by Dustin Pedroia.

And yet, when it looked like the Sox might bury Luke Hochevar and the Royals, Beckett gave up a two-run homer to Alex Gordon that tied the game in the third. Beckett wasn’t sharp to the touch in allowing seven hits. But he lasted seven innings and limited the damage to those three early runs in 110 pitches.

He was just like the Sox offense: Far from his performances of earlier this year, but good enough.

The Sox managed eight hits in the first five innings, which is when they scored all four of their runs. They matched the number of hits they recorded in their last three games -- nine -- in the eighth inning Thursday night.

Pedroia, who batted in the cleanup spot for the eighth time this season because of injuries to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, delivered the decisive blow. Facing another two-out situation with a runner in scoring position in the fifth, Pedroia again produced a hit, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead that Beckett and the bullpen combo of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon turned into a win.

NOTES:

-- Papelbon converted his 24th straight save opportunity for his 29th save this season.

-- Pedroia led the Sox with three hits and three RBIs.

-- In his first major-league game, Ryan Lavarnway went 0-for-4 filling in at DH.

-- Jacoby Ellsbury stole second in the first inning for the 169th steal of his career, making him third on the Red Sox all-time stolen-base list. He entered the game tied with Carl Yastrzemski and is now behind only Harry Hooper (300) and Tris Speaker (267). It was his 33rd steal of the season.