Royals blow numerous chances, give one away to Red Sox

The Royals' really sloppy defense came in to play in the sixth -- including a dropped ball by Alex Gordon that  set up the Red Sox's winning rally. 

Charles Krupa/AP

All season long, the Royals have talked about being a big "second-half team" and that no one should worry about their scuffuling through the first half.

But the second half started out almost identically to the first, with an agonizing 5-4 loss to the Red Sox in Boston on Friday night.

The Royals squandered a 4-1 lead and had a chance to bust the game wide open early and put the lowly Red Sox away. The Royals didn’t, and then some defensive miscues led to a four-run Boston sixth that put the Red Sox up, 5-4.

And as Royals fans have seen way too often this year, that was the game. The Royals simply do not rally if they are down going into the late innings.

In fact, the Royals have won only four games all season when trailing after seven innings (not a typo, fans). And they’ve won only two games all season when they trail after eight.

In other words, if the Royals fall behind late, game over.

And with this excruciating loss, the Royals fell into a tie for second place in the AL Central as Cleveland demolished the Tigers to pull even with Kansas City.

3 UP

— Need more Eric Hosmers. The one guy in the lineup who is producing is Hosmer. He had three more hits and drove in two more runs. He now has a career-high 14-game hitting streak and is pretty much the only player — other than Omar Infante — the Royals can count on. Hoz also got a bad break in the first when he rifled a ball off the left-field monster that was about two feet short of a homer.

— Lucky break. The Royals did get lucky early on when Boston’s David Ortiz hit a towering pop up on the infield. Several Royals crowded around it but no one wanted to catch it. Finally, Hoz tried to catch it, and completely whiffed. But the ball skipped off his glove and, miraculously, skipped into Mike Moustakas’ chest, who hung on for the out.

— James Shields did his part. Yes, the line score won’t look that good for Shields, who gave up three runs in less than six innings — 5 2/3 innings, eight hits, three earned runs. But with a little better defense, Shields likely could have gone seven innings. He threw well with a very tight strike zone and kept the Red Sox off-balance until his defense abandoned him.

3 DOWN

— The decision. Manager Ned Yost decided to go out and get Shields in the sixth inning with the tying run on second and two out, even though Shields had made Jackie Bradley Jr. look silly in two previous starts. Yost brought in lefty Scott Downs, but Yost had to know that the Red Sox would counter — and they did — with righty Jonny Gomes.

"They’d only pinch-hit before the seventh inning a few times all year," Yost said on the FOX Sports Kansas City postgame show. "They did this time."

Gomes blasted a two-run homer that won it. "I gambled and I lost," Yost said.

LET’S GO ROYALS: Check out these photos of fans and the excitement around Royals baseball.

The odd thing was, left-handed hitter Brock Holt was to hit next, but the Royals still decided to pitch to Gomes with first base open. Yost wasn’t asked why he didn’t walk Gomes. Naturally, Gomes walloped a homer off Downs (remember, Royals fans, clutch hitting is perfectly legal). And as we know, the Royals do not rally late, so the game ended in the sixth inning.

"It’s almost as if we played right into (Boston manager John) Farrell’s hands there," former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery said on the postgame show.

— Poor defensive plays. We all know that the Royals are built on pitching and defense, which is another way of saying they can’t hit. And nothing was more evident of that than Friday night’s loss as the Royals had numerous chances to blast the game open and couldn’t do it. To be fair, the offense no doubt believed it did its job the first few innings. The Royals built a 4-1 lead that should have been enough. In fact, slumping shortstop Alcides Escobar threw away a routine grounder that allowed the Red Sox to get a run in the second. But the really sloppy defense came in the sixth.

With one out and no one on, Daniel Nava got jammed and blooped a ball to short left field. Alex Gordon was there and looked to have a relatively easy sliding catch. But Gordon, who bobbled a routine play earlier, bobbled this one as well and dropped it, which set up the Red Sox’s winning rally. Xander Bogaerts followed with a two-run homer to center. Then Stephen Drew lifted a routine fly to right-center between Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki. Cain might have thought Aoki had it — it was routine — but suddenly Cain made a last-ditch effort to catch it and dropped it. Two batters later, Gomes won it with a homer.

— Don’t let up. The Royals had a great chance against starter Clay Buchholz to blow the game open, but they failed. The Royals were up 3-1 with runners on first and third and none out in the fourth. It looked like the Royals were going to put this one out of Boston’s reach. But Billy Butler hit a one-hopper to third and the Red Sox got a force at second as the runner on third held. Then Moustakas, needing only a fly ball, dribbled a grounder to first and the Red Sox got an out at home. Then Escobar, in a big slump, popped out to short left.

The Royals had another great chance in the eighth — Gordon was on third with one out with Moustakas up. Again, Moose had a horrible at-bat. On a 2-0 pitch, he swung at a pitcher’s pitch and hit a weak dribbler to second as Gordon had to hold at third. Then Esky, once again with a chance to redeem himself, instead hit a weak grounder to shortstop and was thrown out easily. With two out in the ninth and the tying run on second, Hosmer hit a weak grounder to second to end the game.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.