BOSTON -- The surging Royals, who have thrived on the big stage in recent years, stunned the Red Sox with an eight-run sixth inning that fueled a 10-4 victory on Sunday night at Fenway Park.
The impressive barrage, led by rookie Raul Mondesi's three-run triple that put Kansas City on top for good, gave the defending World Series champions a series victory and their 17th win in the last 21 games.
The Royals are 5 1/2 games back in the American League Central, but just three behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot. The Red Sox are two back in the AL East, leading Baltimore by a game in the Wild Card standings.
The Royals' push to contention has coincided precisely with the arrival of a pair of praying mantises, giving the club a new mascot, of sorts, credited with fueling rallies. The first mantis lasted less than a week after "debuting" in Kansas City's dugout during an Aug. 6 win over the Blue Jays that snapped a three-game skid. But "Junior" has remained a strong force for Kansas City, which was 51-58 before either mantis burst onto the scene and has shown no signs of slowing since. With Sunday's victory, the Royals improved to 68-62 on the year, after going 17-4 since Aug. 6.
"The two walks inside the sixth inning to get things started for them, and as hot as they are, the momentum they've been able to create, it's just a tough, tough sixth inning when you see them put eight runs on the board," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
The comeback by Kansas City took the sting away from starter Yordano Ventura getting knocked out in the fifth, after allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez helped the Royals get momentum back on their side when he allowed the first three batters to reach in the sixth, two on walks. Matt Barnes came on for Boston and the Royals, backed by Mondesi's laser to the gap in right-center, swiftly chased him.
Mondesi, for a moment, thought he might have a grand slam.
"Wrong spot," Mondesi said. "I got it in that little corner. But that's OK, got three RBIs and helped the team."
"We're starting to get hot as a team," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said, "and it's a good time to get hot."
David Ortiz smashed career homer No. 534 in the fourth, a solo shot, tying Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time list. The Red Sox hit into four double plays in the first five innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rookies to the rescue: Mondesi wasn't the only rookie who had a hand in the win. Rookie left-hander Matt Strahm came in to clean up the shaky start by Ventura. After the Red Sox took a 4-2 lead in the fifth, Strahm entered with one out and one on and Ortiz up. Strahm got Ortiz to roll into a 4-6-3 double play. Strahm then pitched two more scoreless innings.
"[Strahm] really did a good job quieting it down," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I brought him in because I didn't want them to add on anymore, and he shut them down." More >
Papi ties Double X: Ortiz's solo shot to center hit the top of a railing on the Red Sox bullpen, then took a giant hop over the bigger wall in front of the bleachers. Ortiz is just two homers from equaling Mickey Mantle. Foxx hit 222 of his homers with the Red Sox from 1936-42. Only Ted Williams hit more homers for the Red Sox than the 476 Ortiz has since coming to Boston in 2003. Ortiz's 31st homer of the season had an exit velocity of 108 mph and traveled a projected distance of 414 feet, according to Statcast™.
"I thought we had a very good approach against Ventura tonight who's got very good stuff," Farrell said. "We stayed in the middle of the field for the most part, David gets a fastball in the middle of the plate and does what he's done so many times with it." More >
Barnes stumbles: With Rodriguez in trouble in the sixth, Barnes came on with the bases loaded and one out, trying to hold a 4-3 lead. It didn't go well. The righty didn't retire any of the five batters he faced. He left with his team down, 8-4. In eight appearances dating back to Aug. 10, Barnes has been scored on four times, giving up multiple runs in each of those outings. His ERA has gone from 2.98 to 4.45.
"It unfortunately didn't go the way that I had hoped," Barnes said. "I thought I made a good pitch to [Alcides] Escobar. He hit the 30-foot chopper and I didn't have a play on anybody. The next hitter, Mondesi, he jumped a first-pitch heater."
Early miscue: Royals center fielder Paulo Orlando has been so good in center field over the last month that the team has kept Lorenzo Cain in right field as Cain recovers from a pulled hamstring. Orlando had a team-high 66 game errorless streak before he flubbed a fly ball to center by Sandy Leon that sparked a three-run Red Sox fifth.
"When we got the eight-run inning, I thought, 'Oh, my God,'" Orlando said. "I was so happy for that. But the play, I was thinking about the runner on first and just took my eye off. I need to concentrate better."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ortiz is on yet another tear. In his last 18 games, he has six homers and is hitting .390 (23-for-59) with four doubles and 13 RBIs. Ortiz leads the Majors with a .707 slugging percentage and 1.151 OPS in home games.
In the top of the sixth inning with one out and the Red Sox in a tough jam, Cheslor Cuthbert hit a slow dribbler 20 feet in front of the plate. Barnes charged in, attempting to get the runner out at home, but Mondesi was called safe. The Red Sox challenged and after a review, the call on the field was confirmed and Boston lost its challenge.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: The Royals open a six-game homestand starting with the Yankees on Monday night at 7:15 CT. Right-hander Dillon Gee (5-7, 4.55 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals. Gee had an 11-inning scoreless streak stopped in a 3-0 loss to Miami on Wednesday.
Red Sox:Rick Porcello, who has emerged into an AL Cy Young Award candidate, opens a three-game series against the Rays on Monday night at Fenway Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET. Porcello is 12-0 with a 2.96 ERA in 13 starts at home this season.