Two-out problems sink Royals in 8-2 loss to Red Sox

Two-out blues. That all-too-familiar refrain haunted the Royals again Wednesday night in an 8-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

The Red Sox scored all eight of their runs with two outs, including three — their first three — in the fifth inning after Royals starter Luke Hochevar retired the first two hitters.

Hochevar’s two-out difficulties are a growing concern. Opposing hitters are batting .352 against him with two outs, which is a big reason he is 1-5 with a 7.45 ERA in his last seven starts.

It wasn’t Hochevar, though.

Lefty Ron Mahay encountered his second rough ride in three outings. He allowed two inherited runners to score in the sixth, which extended Boston’s lead to 5-1, before yielding a three-run homer to Jacoby Ellsbury in the seventh.

Mahay allowed three runs last Saturday in one-third of an inning to the White Sox. His ERA has jumped from 1.75 to 2.62.

What made all of this worse, of course, is the Royals mustered little offensively against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, 7-8, and three relievers.

Wakefield limited the Royals to two runs and four hits in six innings. The Red Sox then got one scoreless inning apiece from Manny Delcarmen, Justin Masterson and Jonathan Papelbon.

The Red Sox remained three games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East Division. The Royals have now lost two in a row after winning seven of eight.

Boston again produced a balanced attack, spreading 12 hits among eight players. Jed Lawrie’s two-run double in the fifth broke a scoreless tie. J.D. Drew had two singles and a walk, including a two-run single in the sixth after Mahay replaced Hochevar with two outs and the bases loaded.

The only sobering moment for the Red Sox came in the first inning, when first baseman Kevin Youkilis was hit in the right hand by a Hochevar pitch. Youkilis left the game before the Red Sox took the field, but X-rays revealed only a bruise.

Hochevar fell to 6-10 overall after allowing five runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

The Royals finished with eight hits, including three by Billy Butler, but all were singles. They got their only runs on Ross Gload’s two-run single in the fifth. Gload and Alex Gordon had two hits.

Hochevar pitched out of a base-loaded jam with one out in the first inning — perhaps because he didn’t have to throw a pitch with two outs. He ended the inning by getting Mike Lowell to line into a double play.

Hochevar yielded a one-out single in the second to Ellsbury but then retired 10 straight hitters until Alex Cora punched a two-out single to right in the fifth.

It unraveled in a hurry after that.

Hochevar walked Drew before Lowrie yanked a two-run double over the head of center fielder Mitch Maier. David Ortiz followed with an RBI single up the middle.

That quickly, the Red Sox led 3-0.

The Royals answered with two runs in their fifth after Butler and Gordon led off with singles. The runners moved to second and third on a passed ball before Gload slapped a two-run single through the left side.

Gload took second on the throw home by left fielder Jason Bay, but a diving catch by Ellsbury on Maier’s sinking liner to center allowed Boston to retain a 3-2 lead.

Hochevar exited with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. One-out singles by Bay and Ellsbury preceded a two-out walk to Cora.

Mahay fell behind 3-0 to Drew before yielding a two-run single on a 3-1 fastball. Right fielder Mark Teahen ran down Lowrie’s drive to prevent more damage.

Ellsbury’s homer in the seventh closed the scoring.

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