Boston — John Smoltz finally felt as if he contributed to the Boston Red Sox. He doesn’t expect it to be for the last time.
Smoltz got his first win for Boston and Kevin Youkilis hit two home runs to lift the Red Sox over the Kansas City Royals, 15-9, Saturday night.
“I feel like I’ve checked in,” Smoltz said. “It has been a long time, but this is not a feel-good story. I believe this team will be in position to win every time I go out there and the best is yet to come.”
Smoltz (1-2) struck out seven over five innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out four batters in a row over the second and third inning, capped off by called third strikes that painted the corner on Miguel Olivo and Tony Pena.
Coming off shoulder surgery that cut his 2008 season to six appearances, the 42-year-old Smoltz didn’t make his first start until June 25 against Washington. He struggled with an 0-2 record and 6.60 ERA in three previous appearances.
“If you told me seven or eight years ago that I’d be helping John Smoltz get a win, I probably wouldn’t believe you. That was awesome,” Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard said.
Gil Meche (4-9) left with two outs in the fourth inning with back spasms after he had allowed seven runs — five earned.
“Stuff-wise, I thought I had great stuff,” Meche said. “After the second pitch to Pedroia in the fourth inning I felt a twinge in my lower back and it was a bad muscle spasm. It’s a good thing the All-Star break is here.”
Jason Varitek and David Ortiz also homered for Boston while Youkilis, who had been in a 3-for-30 slump, drove in four runs and scored four as well.
The only real trouble for Smoltz came in the fourth inning after he gave up back-to-back singles to Billy Butler and Mark Teahen, but he retired the next three batters.
“You sit here for four starts hearing me say that it’s going to happen, but people want to see it,” Smoltz said. “The patience they have had with me is vital to what I believe is going to be a very successful run.”
The Red Sox scored three in the first and took advantage of four Kansas City blunders.
David DeJesus misplayed Dustin Pedroia’s triple, then Tony Pena misplayed Jason Bay’s grounder and failed to force out Ortiz at second allowing Youkilis to score and Ortiz to advance to third. Jacoby Ellsbury then hit a deep fly to left and Jose Guillen thought it was the final out and initially began running in before remembering that Ortiz was tagging up at third. Catcher Olivo made the final mistake when he was charged with a throwing error.
Youkilis’ two-run homer capped a three-run second before Varitek tied his 2008 output with his 13th home run to make it 7-0 after three.
“It’s just one of those nights where we had to keep battling,” Youkilis said. “You’re going to have times where the hitting is better than the pitching, but we need our pitching to be better than our hitting over the long haul.”
Meche struck out six. Since a four-hit shutout against Arizona on June 16, he is 0-4 with a 8.39 ERA in five starts.
Ortiz increased Boston’s lead to 9-0 when hit a two-run homer off reliever Ron Mahay, who then retired seven straight.