KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It’s never a good sign when a team has as many errors (3) as it has hits, which is how the Red Sox conducted business through the first seven innings Thursday night.
The Sox never could overcome the routine fly ball missed by left fielder Jonny Gomes in a three-run first inning against Jon Lester, the upstart Kansas City Royals ensuring there would be no late-night heroics at their expense when Billy Butler and Justin Maxwell tacked on prodigious home runs off Sox rookie Rubby De La Rosa in the eighth.
The Royals, trying to persuade a skeptical fan base that after years of losing they’re finally legit, made it 16 wins in 20 games since the All-Star break with a 5-1 blanking of the Sox, who could not solve soft-tossing left-hander Bruce Chen, who pitched for the Sox a decade ago.
The Sox have now split the first four games of a trip in which they’ve fallen behind in each game. Playing without David Ortiz, who was given a night off after 28 straight, and with Mike Napoli dropped to the No. 6 hole in the order, the Sox did not advance a runner to second base until singles by Daniel Nava and Jacoby Ellsbury in the eighth.
Gomes, who slipped while setting up to make a throw on a fly ball hit by Alex Gordon with runners on the corners and one out in the first, made a belated dive for the ball which fell just a couple of feet in front of him. A run scored on the play, and two more would follow after a two-out walk and a two-run single by Mike Moustakas.
The error caused Lester to labor through a 41-pitch first inning, normally the sign of a short outing. But Lester allowed the Royals just two singles and a walk for the next six innings, pitching through errors by Daniel Nava and Stephen Drew, before yielding to De La Rosa, whose first pitch was driven over the center-field wall by Billy Butler. Two outs later, Maxwell followed with a home run into the seats in right-center.
The Sox avoided a shutout in the ninth on a double by Gomes and single by Drew off Luke Hochevar, who had not allowed a run in 18 consecutive innings. Any thoughts that the Sox would repeat their comebacks in Houston expired when Napoli rolled into a game-ending double play.