Byline: Paul Jarvey
BOSTON - Kason Gabbard had come a long way to find himself in a place he hadn't been since high school - on the mound celebrating a complete-game victory.
The 25-year-old Red Sox rookie allowed just three singles last night - the same number of elbow surgeries he endured as he started his minor-league journey - and shut out the Kansas City Royals in the first complete game in his pro career.
He was supported with home runs by David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia as the Sox downed KC, 4-0, in just 2 hours, 18 minutes.
The Sox remained nine games ahead of the Yankees with the victory.
Gabbard (3-0) provided the Sox with their second dose of good pitching news on the day. Curt Schilling, who was replaced by Gabbard when he went on the disabled list a month ago, performed well in a two-inning simulated game, a big step in his return.
There was nothing simulated about Gabbard's performance.
He didn't give up a hit until Emil Brown pushed a single to right with one out in the fifth. Brown was just safe on an infield hit in the seventh and Reggie Sanders had a pinch-hit single to start the eighth. That, two hit-batsmen and a walk was all the offense Kansas City could muster.
The Sox turned three double plays and recorded just three outfield outs. Gabbard said he made just one mistake, the pitch Sanders hit.
"That's a well-pitched major-league ball game," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Right from the very first inning, he established a changeup to right-handers, a breaking ball to lefties, commanded his fastball. He attacked the strike zone right from the very first inning. He got them in a swing mode."
Gabbard had a career-high eight strikeouts as he became the first Red Sox rookie to throw a regulation shutout since Roger Clemens in 1984.
He credited catcher Jason Varitek for his performance.
"We went over the hitters before the game like we always do," Gabbard said. "He's so good at that and as a pitcher I think it makes it a lot easier to pitch. I had all three of my pitches working pretty good tonight."
Varitek bounced the praise back to the pitcher.
"It's about them executing the pitches," Varitek said. "I'm not the one with the ball; I'm just an aid."
He said the key to Gabbard's performance was that he was able to consistently get ahead of the Royals.
"Strike one is huge," Varitek said. "Strike one with different pitches is huge, especially with the movement he has."
Gabbard got in trouble only in the fifth...