Hits galore, but runs at a premium for KC

Hits don't amount to many runs for KC

KANSAS CITY -- So these are the real Boston Red Sox.

Yep, the Beantown team that cruised into Cowtown with 10 victories in 11 games, only to be submerged twice, suddenly popped to the surface in a 9-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The playoff-bound Red Sox struck for six runs in the fifth inning and notched a 90th victory for the third straight season and the ninth time in 12 years. They are a club to be reckoned with.

Yet the Royals had won the first two games of the series, using a 12-run outburst one night and Zack Greinke's pitching the next. In the process, they were assured of not losing 100 games and furthered the ambitions of their American League Cy Young Award candidate.

But the Royals' fun ride got stopped like the tractor-trailer mishap stopped eastbound traffic on adjacent I-70. They were gassed up with 12 hits and were ready to roll, but Josh Beckett blocked their way.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar, on the other hand, let the Red Sox motor madly to six runs in the fifth inning.

"The comparison between the two guys pitching today: Beckett gave up a lot of hits, but we were unable to get the key hits because he was making quality pitches when he needed to," Royals manager Trey Hillman said.

"They got the six and that's plagued Hoch several times, and it's just a matter of making pitches in key situations. Unfortunately when you're facing a lineup like that and you're missing by even a little bit, it comes back to bite you."

Hochevar does have a tendency to allow the big inning. He had wheeled through the Red Sox for four scoreless innings. And the Royals gave him a 2-0 lead in the fourth.

John Buck led off with a double down the left-field line and scored when Yuniesky Betancourt tripled to center field. David DeJesus looped an RBI single to center, but he was thrown out stealing. Too bad, because Mitch Maier and Billy Butler followed with singles and no runs resulted.

"It certainly cost us a run, because we ended up getting two hits, but anybody that can predict that for me, I wish they'd go ahead and yell it at me and let me know," Hillman said.

Suddenly, Hochevar found himself inundated with hits -- and a lot of runs -- after four scoreless innings.

"I went out and continued to make pitches," Hochevar said. "I didn't think my ball was up in the zone. I was throwing balls over the middle, and I still felt like I was making good pitches and they fell in for hits."

By the time the fifth was over, the Red Sox had rolled up six runs on a walk and seven hits, including a two-run triple by Jacoby Ellsbury and a two-run single by Jason Bay.

And that was the end for Hochevar, who was coming off a three-hit shutout in Chicago, his only victory in his past 11 starts. Another big inning had bitten him.

"I've got to solve that, find a way to stop that and keep us in the ballgame," he said.

Meantime, Beckett labored through six innings, giving up 12 hits but only the two runs in the fourth. He walked just one and struck out seven in improving his record to 16-6.

"He had a pretty good beginning and end," assessed Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "In the middle, I thought he had a little streak there where he got a little hard and flat. He had a stretch there where the ball flattened out and they got a bunch of hits."

That was a reference to the Royals' two-run, five-hit fourth, which finally ended when Brayan Pena bounced out.

"Fortunately, he made a real good pitch to Pena, got out of the inning, and then on the flip side, Hochevar was kind of doing the same thing," Francona continued. "He was going right through us and then he got up and got a little flat, and fortunately, we put some runs on the board."

Sure did, and three more in the ninth, when David Ortiz cranked a three-run homer, a 418-footer, over the right-field wall against Royals reliever Carlos Rosa. It was Big Papi's 25th of the season.

Despite the loss, the Royals still have won 12 of their past 16 games. They still hold fourth place in the AL Central. They're still working their way toward a respectable last month.

But there's no let-up ahead. They have one more game with the Red Sox, six more with the AL Central-contending Twins and three against the mighty Yankees.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.