BOSTON — Billy Butler doubled in the go-ahead run in a four-run fifth inning and the Kansas City Royals battered Julian Tavarez for a 6-5 victory over the struggling Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night.
After managing just one hit in the first three innings, the Royals scored twice in the fourth, then went ahead 6-4 in the fifth when they chased Tavarez after his third straight poor performance.
In his past five starts, Tavarez is 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA and has allowed 42 hits in 23 1/3 innings. He didn’t make it past the fifth inning in four of those outings. In his previous seven starts, he was 3-0 with a 3.07 ERA and gave up 37 hits in 44 innings.
The loss cut Boston’s AL East lead to 7 1/2 games over the New York Yankees, pending the result of their game against Toronto. It’s the Red Sox smallest lead since they were 7 1/2 ahead after the games of June 12.
They are 3-7 since July 5, when their lead was 12 games. Nine of their past 11 losses have been by one run.
Odalis Perez (5-8) went five innings, allowing all five Boston runs, to win for the first time in his last five starts. Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 13 chances.
The Royals are in the AL Central cellar but are 12-7 in their past 19 games after winning the series over Boston 2-1. Their next stop is against another division leader when they start a three-game series Friday night in Detroit.
Trailing 4-2 after four innings, Kansas City pounded Tavarez (5-8) in the fifth. David DeJesus led off with a single and scored on Mark Grudzielanek’s double. Mark Teahen reached on third baseman Mike Lowell’s error and Butler followed with a two-run double. Alex Gordon singled in the final run.
Butler also drove in the Royals’ first two runs of their 9-3 win Tuesday night with a double in the fourth.
Manny Ramirez cut the lead to 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth with his 14th home run of the season.
The Red Sox had two chances to tie the game.
With runners at first and second in the seventh, second baseman Grudzielanek made a sliding grab of a grounder headed to right field and threw out Kevin Youkilis at first for the third out.
After Coco Crisp tripled with two outs in the eighth, Julio Lugo flied out.
Kansas City had taken a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Ross Gload’s sacrifice fly and Gordon’s RBI single.
The Red Sox responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Ramirez singled and scored on Jason Varitek’s force play grounder. Lugo doubled in two runs and J.D. Drew added a sacrifice fly.