The Red Sox look to avoid losing five straight games to the Royals for the first time in more than nine years when they continue their three-game series Saturday.
Boston (75-66) trails the New York Yankees by nine games in the AL East and Minnesota by 6 1/2 games for the wild card. The Red Sox are just 10-23 since Aug. 5, and on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
“Things haven’t been going well right now,” Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis said.
Over the past month, Boston has lost four straight to Kansas City (53-89), including a 10-9 defeat Friday. The Red Sox scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a one-run lead, but the Royals’ Joey Gathright answered with a go-ahead, two-run double with two outs in the ninth off Mike Timlin.
“It was a huge win for us,” the Royals’ Mike Sweeney said. “When we get down in the ninth, usually we crumble. I got the boys fired up and told them, ‘Hey we’ve got to keep charging, this is our game to win.’ And we got some big hits.”
Sweeney, who homered and had three RBIs, is hitting .353 (12-for-34) with six doubles and eight RBIs in his last nine games.
Boston has not lost consecutive games to Kansas City at Fenway Park since April 10-11, 2002, and has not lost five straight to the Royals since May 5-July 31, 1997.
David Ortiz, who had gone hitless in two games since returning to the lineup Tuesday after missing eight games with heart palpitations, had four RBIs and was a home run short of the cycle.
Ortiz leads the AL with 125 RBIs, but is batting just .105 (2-for-19) in his career against Mark Redman (9-8, 5.26 ERA), who starts for Kansas City.
Redman has won his last two starts, allowing one run and nine hits over 16 innings. He gave up one run and four hits in seven innings of a 7-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, and credits his recent success on the development of a new pitch.
“It’s the cutter,” Redman said. “I’m using it and trusting it, and I think it opened up a lot more of the plate away. And you can make a mistake on a changeup away and it’s not going to get hammered as much. They’re not leaning out over the plate as much because I’m throwing that cutter inside.”
The veteran left-hander won five straight starts from June 4-25, but had gone just 2-4 with a 6.41 ERA over his next 11 starts before turning things around.
Redman has been dreadful against Boston in his career, though, going just 1-8 with an 8.00 ERA in 11 games. He is 1-4 with a 7.50 ERA in six games at Fenway Park, with his only win coming July 5, 2002 while with Detroit.
The Red Sox start Josh Beckett (14-10, 5.11), who is just 1-5 with a 6.04 ERA in his last eight starts but one victory shy of tying his single-season high in wins.
He has dropped two straight starts, and gave up three runs and five hits in five innings of a 6-1 defeat to Toronto on Sunday. He left early in part because he warmed up twice before the game and a 68-minute rain delay at the start.
After winning his first five decisions in his first seven home starts, Beckett has lost four straight there, allowing 24 runs in 22 2-3 innings.
The right-hander has pitched well in his two starts against the Royals this season, his first in the AL, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA.