BOSTON -- The defending World Series-champion Royals look like a team that doesn't want to miss the thrill of another October. Inconsistent for much of the season, Kansas City has played terrific baseball of late, continuing with Friday night's 6-3 victory over the Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Backed by a five-run first inning that included home runs by Eric Hosmer (three-run drive) and Alex Gordon (two-run shot), the Royals rolled to their 11th win in their last 12 games and 16th in their last 19.
Boston's third straight loss, combined with Toronto's 15-8 win over Minnesota, dropped the Red Sox one game back of the first-place Blue Jays in the American League East. The Royals, meanwhile, pulled to within three games of the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot.
For the Red Sox, a 15-hit attack led by a 5-for-5 performance by Mookie Betts and a 4-for-4 night from Dustin Pedroia went for naught.
"Yeah, when you look up and you see 15 hits on the board and a couple of walks mixed in, you'd think that's going to be a pretty good number of runs on the board," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We got a couple of base hits, and we'd strand them with a key strikeout. That's an odd line."
Right-hander Ian Kennedy earned the win, scattering nine hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings while notching eight strikeouts. Steven Wright made his first start for the Red Sox since Aug. 5 but couldn't recover from that tough first inning. The righty lasted six innings, allowing seven hits and five runs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A familiar sight: Hosmer has had some first-inning success against Wright. He hit a two-run homer off Wright back in May at Kauffman Stadium and greeted Wright again in the first inning on Friday night with a drive to the opposite field for his 18th homer this season (one shy of tying his career high). That home run gave the Royals a quick 3-0 lead.
"With the knuckleball guys, you see something up and you swing hard and hope the ball doesn't break," Hosmer said, smiling, "or if it does break, it breaks into your bat."
Added Yost: "The offense started it off with five in the first. I had a little bit of a feeling with Steven Wright coming off the DL and not pitching -- the knuckleball is a feel pitch. My thought was, 'Well, maybe it's going to take him an inning or two to settle in.'"
Wrong start for Wright: In his first start since spending time on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury, Wright hoped to give the Red Sox an immediate lift. Instead, he put his team in a 5-0 hole before it took its first swing. In all, Wright threw 40 pitches in the opening frame, and although he settled down nicely from there, the damage had already been done.
"I was a little antsy -- too much adrenaline that first inning," Wright said. "The walks killed me. Hosmer gets one that gets up in the air and it gets out, and right there, it's three runs. If I would have been able to hold it to that, it would've been good, but to give up the other home run, start off a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome for any offense." More >
Gordon stays hot: After Gordon's 11-game hitting streak ended earlier this week, he has hit in four straight. Gordon, whose homer was his 14th this season, has hit in 15 of his last 16 games, going 21-for-59 (.356) with six homers in that span.
Bradley ice cold:Jackie Bradley Jr., who was the hottest hitter in the Major Leagues while putting together a 29-game hitting streak earlier this season, has gone ice cold of late. The center fielder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Friday and is hitting .165 with 34 strikeouts in his last 97 at-bats. Bradley stranded five runners in his first two at-bats against Kennedy.
"There have been some pitches up in the strike zone that he's not getting to," said Farrell. "There have been times he's really expanded below the strike zone on some offspeed pitches. He's working extra with [hitting coaches] Chili [Davis] and Vic [Rodriguez], trying to get it right. He's been kind of all or nothing now with what's been taking place at the plate."
Papi's latest milestone: In a farewell season full of memorable hits, David Ortiz churned out another in the third inning, passing Hall of Famer Hank Aaron for sole possession of 10th place on the all-time doubles list with No. 625. Next on the list is Honus Wagner, who hit 640.
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The Red Sox's offense was top-heavy in this one. The Nos. 1-4 hitters were 13-for-19, while the 5-9 hitters went 2-for-21.
The Red Sox lost their leadoff baserunner, Betts, in the seventh inning. Betts originally was ruled safe on a pickoff attempt by Young. The Royals challenged, and the play was overturned, sending Betts back to the dugout. Royals replay coordinator Bill Duplissea improved to 24-10 this season in challenges, best in the Majors.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (11-1, 2.66 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT as this three-game series continues. Duffy, who has won 10 straight decisions, got the win last Sunday over the Twins upon allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings.
Red Sox: Left-hander David Price, who has won his last three starts, will try to stay hot for Saturday's start. Price is 7-3 with a 4.25 ERA at Fenway this season.