A day after being held hitless by Jon Lester, the Royals lost again to the Red Sox, 2-1, on Tuesday night as a sellout crowd of 37,486 fans watched at Fenway Park. This time a pack of five pitchers, headed by rookie Justin Masterson, did them in.
This is old stuff for the Red Sox. They are 15-5 against the Royals at Fenway since 2003.
This game came down to the eighth inning, when Sox reliever Hideki Okajima, who used to pitch for Royals manager Trey Hillman's Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, served up a juicy chance.
David DeJesus opened the inning with a double and Okajima got two outs, but he also doled out two walks to load the bases.
"It was a little surreal," Hillman said. "The last time I saw him pitch, we were winning a championship with him over in Japan in '06. He gave us a chance."
With Billy Butler coming up, Red Sox manager Terry Francona waved in closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"First and third, then we end up bases loaded and they bring the big boy in," Hillman said. "Billy was right on a couple of fastballs and fouled them off, and then he threw a nasty slider."
Swish. Butler struck out.
"He's one of the best closers in the game for a reason," Butler said. "I had a couple of pitches to hit and missed it, and got to his pitch and I didn't hit it."
The Red Sox nicked Royals starter Gil Meche for their two runs in the second inning.
Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew hit one-out singles, and Jason Varitek walked to load the bases. Julio Lugo lofted a sacrifice fly to right. Coco Crisp banged an RBI double to right field before Meche closed the inning.
Meche took his sixth loss, but he was reasonably satisfied with the way he pitched. He went seven innings for the third time in his past four starts.
"I think maybe it was the best one of the year," Meche said. "I felt like I had control of the strike zone from the beginning. I got away from it a little bit in the second, got some offspeed pitches up that they could handle."
Meche struck out a season-high eight and walked two while throwing 119 pitches.
"The last four starts, my stuff is really coming back," Meche said. "I'm pretty pleased with the way I pitched, but I want to win games."
Masterson was called up to make this start, and afterward, he was headed back to the Minors and Triple-A Pawtucket. Because he's pretty new to all of this, Francona lifted him in the seventh. He'd walked Mark Teahen and got one out and, at that point, his shutout was intact.
All three hits off Masterson were by Alex Gordon, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles and also drew a walk.
Lefty Javier Lopez relieved Masterson and struck out Ross Gload. Manny Delcarmen relieved Lopez, and John Buck singled home Teahen with the Royals' lone run.
It was their first run in 18 innings.
Masterson, however, got his first victory in his second Major League start.
"He has a very deceptive sinker and he was pretty good. It's not like it was overpowering," Buck said. "I've seen bigger. But his body motion and his angle were real deceptive.
"He's one of those guys, after you see 'em once or twice, you kind of get used to 'em, and you have some better at-bats against him."
Not this time, though.
"I had some things going my way," Masterson said. "DeJesus hit some balls decently, and Gordon was 3-for-3. I thought I made a couple nice pitches and he hit them well, [but] it just didn't really hurt us today."
The Royals had opportunities, but they left eight runners on base, five of them in scoring position.
"We just needed to make some contact and we didn't make contact," Hillman said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.