BOSTON (AP) — J.D. Martinez had an RBI single in the eighth inning and the Boston Red Sox rallied late to beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Friday night.
Martinez’s single to left was just the third hit for Boston, which had just tied it up when reliever Scott Barlow walked Jason Verdugo with the bases loaded after Dylan Coleman (4-2) issued two walks to start the inning.
“We didn’t get too many hits but we had a lot of traffic. For him to get that hit was big,” manager Alex Cora said.
Garrett Whitlock (4-2) gave up a hit in the eighth and Matt Strahm got the last three outs for his fourth save.
Boston had lost six of eight, including a two-game sweep by the Yankees at home this week and nearly fell to the struggling Royals.
Kansas City, which has lost four straight and eight of 10, led 1-0 after MJ Melendez opened the sixth with a triple and easily scored on a single by Salvador Perez.
The Royals finished with eight hits — all coming from different players. Only Nicky Lopez, who batted eighth, failed to get a hit. But Kansas City also issued eight walks, half of them in the eighth when both Devers and Verdugo walked on only four pitches.
“Couple big spots, we could’ve used some pitches that were really good pitches but they didn’t get called. You’ve got to fight your way through it,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “The free bases hurt you in games like that.”
Jonathan Heasley started and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings for the Royals, allowing two hits and striking out five.
Michael Wacha went seven innings for Boston, giving up one run and seven hits while striking out four.
Melendez led off the sixth with a drive deep to center, where Kiké Hernández leaped high at the base of the wall but couldn’t quite reach the ball. Melendez was already well around second before Tommy Pham ran over from left and got the ball back to the infield.
Coleman started the eighth for Kansas City and issued back-to-back walks. Barlow loaded the bases by walking Rafael Devers, struck out Xander Bogaerts, but walked Verdugo on four pitches with Hernández trotting home for the tying run.
Martinez was next and lined a single to left that easily scored Abraham Almonte, who pinch-hit for Kevin Plawecki and drew the second walk of the inning. After seeing Verdugo walk on four pitches, Martinez said he went to the plate fully intent on taking the first pitch — until he saw it.
“He just kind of left it over the middle and I was like ‘all right, we’re swinging.’” Martinez said.
Boston squandered an opportunity in the fifth after a pair of walks and a single by Arroyo loaded the bases with one out for Hernández, who grounded into a double play.
Despite the loss, the Royals showed they have some talented young players and reason to be optimistic. Melendez, Bobby Witt Jr. and Heasley are all rookies who helped the Royals nearly pull off a win in Boston.
Witt robbed Bogaerts of a hit with a diving stop in the fourth, Melendez set up the go-ahead run with his 35th extra-base hit of the season and Heasley looked strong and undaunted in his first appearance at Fenway Park.
“Best start we’ve seen from him in the big leagues without a doubt. He was attacking with everything,” Matheny said. “Everything was right how he wanted it to be. You couldn’t ask him to do any more than what he did.”
Some baserunning mistakes caught both clubs early in the game. Devers singled for Boston with one out in the first, but strayed way too far when Bogaerts hit a soft fly that Witt caught and easily made the throw to double-up Devers.
In the third, Dozier led off with a liner off the Green Monster for the Royals’ first hit, but attempted to stretch it into a double and was easily caught by Pham’s throw from left.
Royals: Witt fouled a ball off the top of his left foot in the sixth and needed a few minutes before stepping back into the batter’s box. Matheny and a member of the Royals’ training staff came out of the dugout to make sure the star rookie SS was OK.
Red Sox: 2B Trevor Story was out of the lineup for the third straight game since injuring his left heel on a base Sunday at Baltimore. Cora said Story is improving and could return to the lineup this weekend.
Royals RHP Brady Singer (8-4, 3.21 ERA) faces veteran LHP Rich Hill (7-6, 4.56) for Boston on Saturday in the second of the three-game series.