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Notes: A battle for Buchholz

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The only real positive Clay Buchholz could take out of Sunday's 8-6 Red Sox win over the Royals was the decision, his first win of 2010.

Otherwise, it was frequently a painful exercise to watch him labor despite the luxury of a 4-0 lead before he took the mound. Buchholz gave up a hit to the leadoff man in all five innings he pitched, including a home run by Jose Guillen. Buchholz threw 94 pitches, and despite radar-gun readings that hit 97 (highly suspect), whiffed just one.

“Kind of bend but not break,’’ manager Terry Francona said of Buchholz’s performance. “He was pitching out of the stretch a lot. But giving up hits, if you don’t walk people they have to get hits to beat you. I’d much rather see that, much rather have him attack the zone. That’s OK.

“I thought there were some good things, too. A couple of times, he was a hit or two away from having a tough inning, a hit or two away from it being a lot closer than it was.’’

Buchholz, who had tried to stay sharp by throwing a simulated game last week, said he was generally pleased with how he felt.

“It was a battle,’’ he said. “It’s not how I planned it out, but we still got the win, so everything else that went into it was all worthwhile.’’

Buchholz's outing was undoubtedly monitored from afar by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went five scoreless innings in Pawtucket on Saturday but may need a crowbar to pry a spot in the rotation unless Buchholz disintegrates.

Drew ready for Monday

J.D. Drew, who did not start because of neck stiffness, but was pressed into action after Jacoby Ellsbury’s injury in the ninth, said it will be time “to get the heartbeat going” and return to the lineup Monday. “It’s playable,’’ said Drew, who said the stiffness began for reasons unclear to him last Monday and worsened the last couple of nights. “Weird, I can turn my head to the left and right,’’ he said, “but I was feeling it with every step I took. At least I could move it. Other times when I’ve had it, I could hardly move.’’

Ellsbury hurt his ribs after taking a knee from Adrian Beltre in a collision with the Sox third baseman. Ellsbury was in foul territory, calling for a ball hit by the Royals’ Mitch Maier, when a backpedaling Beltre hit him forcefully with his knee.

X-rays proved negative, but don’t expect to see Ellsbury in the starting lineup Monday when the Red Sox help the Minnesota Twins open their new ballpark, Target Field. For more on Ellsbury, click here.

Making it interesting

Reliever Ramon Ramirez lengthened Francona’s day beyond what it should have been, when he went single, single, Guillen home run to the only three batters he faced in the eighth, allowing the Royals to draw within a pair, 8-6.

Daniel Bard, making his fifth appearance in six games, and Jonathan Papelbon had to be summoned to put down the Royals. Manny Delcarmen threw better, according to Francona.

Top heavy

The first three batters in the Sox order combined for eight hits. Ellsbury and Victor Martinez each had a single and double, while Dustin Pedroia had four hits, the 13th game of his career in which he has had four or more hits.

Knocking on Doerr

Bobby Doerr leads all Red Sox second basemen with 223 home runs, among Bostonians who played at least 70 percent of their games at second base. With three home runs in the season’s first six games, including one Sunday, Pedroia is within two of tying for second place. Can you guess whom Pedroia is within striking distance of? (Answer below.)

Pedroia’s four-hit game came a day after being hit in the posterior by a fastball from Zack Greinke.

How did Pedroia manage to get his hands inside and on top of a high and tight fastball from Gil Meche and drive it into the left-field seats?

“He did it in that video game,’’ Francona said.

Scutaro sits

Marco Scutaro also was hit by Greinke, in the left elbow, and did not play Sunday, though Francona said he’d intended to give Scutaro the day off anyway. Scutaro had an icepack on his left wrist and hand. “It’s like the pain spread down here,’’ Scutaro said. “The elbow is still sore too. I was wearing an elbow pad, but it felt like I had nothing on.’’

More struggles for Papi

Josh Beckett was grazed in the back of the head by a line drive hit by David DeJesus Saturday night, which had David Ortiz howling in disbelief Sunday. “That was close as you can come to being killed,’’ said Ortiz, which reminded him of the time he nailed Kyle Snyder in the backside with a line drive. The 6-foot-8 Snyder was pitching for the Royals at the time before his stint with the Red Sox.

“He told me later he was so mad at me,’’ Ortiz said. “He said, ‘I tried to get out of the way, because I have no ass.’’’

But there was no laughter emanating from Big Papi’s locker after the game, not after he whiffed four more times, giving him nine punchouts in his first 18 at-bats, his average dropping to .118. On one of his whiffs, he was ahead in the count, 3-and-0. On his last at-bat, he had the count at 3-and-1 and wound up taking a called third strike.

A morose-looking Ortiz shook his head when asked to talk after the game.

“I mean, it was a tough day,’’ Francona said. “We scored a bunch of runs, [but] he had a tough day. He worked hard yesterday. I give him credit. He was in the cage all day. But he’s just in between. Couple of cutters, a coupe of fastballs got by him, just a tough day.

“When you’re going good, it’s so easy. When you’re not going good, it’s so hard.’’

Square deal for Beltre

Beltre had three more hits Sunday, giving him a .400 average, best among Sox regulars, after the first week of the season. “He’s squared up more balls than anybody,’’ Francona said. ... Bill Hall made his first start this season, at short, and dropped a ball in left field that should have been caught by Ellsbury. The left fielder later explained he was camped under the ball but lost it in the sun and did not call off Hall. ... The day after hitting two home runs, Jason Varitek was in the bullpen before the game, doing catching drills with bullpen coach Gary Tuck. ... Three things that draw people to Kauffman Stadium: Greinke, the water fountains and the condiment races. Very tough place to be a baseball fan. ... Quiz answer: Mike Andrews, with 47 homers.