The Red Sox (89-60) had won 10 of 11 entering this four-game series, and appeared headed to another victory after scoring six runs in the third inning of Monday’s opener.
Kansas City, however, rallied for three runs in the fifth inning and six more in the sixth en route to a 12-9 victory.
“No lead is safe,” said Boston outfielder Jason Bay(notes), who has homered in four straight games to increase his season total to a career-high 36. “You want to get some runs and sort of coast to a win. But obviously, through no particular fault of anybody, we just didn’t get it done.”
After tearing through last September at an 18-8 clip, the Royals (62-88) are at it again with 11 wins in 14 games this month. Monday’s victory moved them one-half game ahead of Cleveland and out of last place in the AL Central.
“We’re just playing better baseball,” Butler said. “We can play with anybody. We showed that tonight.”
Kansas City will try to extend its run by helping Greinke (14-8, 2.14 ERA) win his fourth straight and bolster his Cy Young resume. The right-hander earned a win in Thursday’s 9-2 victory in Detroit despite getting hit with a line drive on his throwing arm in the fourth inning.
He finished with five scoreless innings to lower his major league-leading ERA, limiting the Tigers to three hits while striking out eight.
Greinke, second in the AL with 224 strikeouts, is 20 shy of tying Dennis Leonard’s team record, set in 1977.
He may need one or two more victories in his final three starts to have a chance at the Cy Young Award. The only starting pitcher to win the award with fewer than 16 victories was Fernando Valenzuela, who finished 13-7 in 1981 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Greinke, who has not started against Boston since April 5, 2007, is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in two outings versus the Red Sox. He’ll be tested by a lineup that is batting .322 and averaging 6.8 runs over its last 12 games.
Byrd, who won a career-high 17 games for Kansas City in 2002, is 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA in three starts this month. The 38-year-old right-hander is also 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA in seven starts against the Royals since the start of the 2006 season.