"The starting pitching sets the tone, and Sanchez again really struggled to command his fastball. His secondary stuff was decent enough, but he just struggled to command his fastball," manager Ned Yost said. "He got his pitch count way up early."
Sanchez lasted just one batter into the fourth inning, and it marked the second straight early exit by a Royals starter, following Luke Hochevar's loss to the Yankees on Sunday. Sanchez made a whopping 73 pitches and just 35 were strikes.
Collectively, the starting pitchers have struggled this season. Might there be changes afoot for the Royals' rotation?
"We're not there yet," said Yost. "We're trying to get through it, but there's going to come a point in the very, very near future where we're going to have to start seriously thinking about it, but we're not there yet."
David Ortiz hit a leadoff homer in the third to right field, and when Kelly Shoppach opened the fourth with a triple that sent left fielder Alex Gordon leaping against the left-field wall, Sanchez's outing was over.
"It's a ball I should have caught. I kind of lost it in the twilight again. It's been playing tricks with me. It just kind of hit my glove off of the wall and bounced. I should've made the play, but I didn't do it," Gordon said. "It's a play I should have made to help out [Sanchez]. And then obviously the next pitch, or next couple pitches, [Dustin] Pedroia hits a home run. So it was unfortunate, but a play I need to make."
Reliever Nate Adcock surrendered a two-run homer to Pedroia, a drive to right-center field, and the Red Sox were ahead, 7-4.
Gordon made up for the missed catch, though, in the seventh when he dove for an inning-ending catch with two runners in scoring position.
Going against lefty Felix Doubront, the Royals picked up two runs in the second after Jeff Francoeur walked and Mike Moustakas doubled. And they added two more in the third. Jarrod Dyson bunted safely and Gordon's broken-bat dribbler went for a single and was thrown away by Middlebrooks. Dyson scored on the error, and Gordon eventually crossed home when Eric Hosmer grounded out.
Dyson had three hits to boost his average to .326, Gordon had two more and is at .477 in his last 11 games and Moustakas also had two and upped his mark to .313.
"The offense is coming around, we just need to get that starting pitching settled in and we're going to be OK," Yost said.
Middlebrooks' first homer, off Sanchez, was just inside the right-field foul pole, an opposite-field drive for the right-handed batter.
"I felt like he was going to go away. I watched a lot of video on him, and I felt like that's how he approached guys," Middlebrooks said.
Sanchez thought the rookie connected on a good pitch.
"I made a good pitch to the guy that hit the three-run home run. That was a good pitch," Sanchez said. "He didn't know where it was; he got lucky and got the [ball fair]."
Middlebrooks' second homer, a two-run shot in the eighth inning against left-hander Tim Collins, banged high off the left-field foul pole. Middlebrooks hits to all fields: In the seventh, he doubled to deep center against Adcock.
So the Royals were soundly beaten and went off into the night with a 9-19 record.
Yost says he sees no signs of his young team getting unduly discouraged, not even Hosmer, who is in a 0-for-12 skid and is batting just .179.
"It's frustrating, but you've got to continue to take it day by day, and hopefully before you know it you'll be out of this," Hosmer said.
"Everyone's still real positive in here, and we know how good we can be. And we feel like we haven't put it all together yet. It's baseball. It takes a couple things to go our way in a certain game and this whole thing can turn around real fast."