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Red Sox rookie Henry Owens exceeded all expectations in his fourth major league start.
Owens allowed four hits in eight innings in the longest appearance of his young career, overcoming an ominous beginning while helping the Red Sox to a 7-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
"It was a special night for him," Boston manager Torey Lovullo said.
Owens relaxed after walking the first batter he faced on four pitches. He retired the next nine and didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning.
A 23-year-old lefty who is one of Boston's top pitching prospects, Owens (2-1) was making his fourth career start since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 4. He pitched well in his first two outings, but gave up seven runs and 10 hits in a loss to Seattle on Sunday.
"He's got great mound presence. We can all see that," Lovullo said. "He makes quality pitches when he needs to. He feels like he's in any count at any time and it's very rare for a young pitcher to be able to do that."
Owens didn't allow an earned run until Alcides Escobar hit a solo homer to center in the sixth, cutting Boston's lead to 5-2. The Red Sox got that run back and added another in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run homer by Josh Rutledge.
That was one of 14 hits for the Red Sox, who tied a season high with their fourth win in a row.
"I have confidence in this lineup coming out and getting 10-plus hits every single day," Owens said. "I'm just going to try and roll with it."
Blake Swihart had four hits and Mookie Betts three for the Red Sox, who gave Johnny Cueto his worst start since coming to Kansas City just before the trading deadline.
Cueto (2-2) had allowed just six runs in four previous starts for the Royals. He allowed six earned runs and 13 hits on Friday, striking out three before leaving after six innings. The Royals also committed two errors, leading to another run.
The Red Sox got to Cueto for three runs in the second inning, two in the fourth, and two more in the sixth. Swihart was in the middle of all three rallies, with a double and two singles.
Rutledge's homer was his first of the season.
Lovullo said the Red Sox were hoping Owens would reach the eighth inning. Owens not only lasted that long, he cruised through the eighth and retired the Royals in order. Owens had never pitched more than six innings in the majors.
"I don't even know how many times I've done it in the minors. It's the first time I've done it here and it felt great."
The Red Sox will try for their first five-game winning streak of the season Saturday against the defending American League champions, who still hold the best record in the AL at 73-48. The Red Sox have won six of eight and improved to 56-66, Boston's best record since being 42-52 exactly one month before.
Royals: 2B Omar Infante returned to the lineup after missing three straight games with back spasms.
Red Sox: RHP Clay Buchholz, who received a plasma-rich platelet injection in his elbow after the All-Star break, has not been cleared to resume throwing, Lovullo said.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura (7-7) makes his 20th start of the season. Ventura went seven innings in his previous start, allowing two runs and five hits and struck out seven for the Royals in a 4-3 win over the Angels in 10 innings Sunday.
Red Sox: RHP Matt Barnes (3-3) is set to make his second major league start after getting rocked in his first. Barnes allowed six runs over five innings in an 8-2 loss to Cleveland on Monday.
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