KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It was a short-handed collection of Boston Red Sox who arrived Thursday at Kauffman Stadium for the start of a four-game weekend series against the Royals. No David Ortiz. No Kevin Youkilis. No Marco Scutaro.
So Dustin Pedroia slips again into the fourth spot in the lineup and delivers two crucial two-out singles that produce three runs and carry the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Royals.
That was the game, really.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar (8-10) faced Pedroia on three occasions with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Hochevar got a strikeout in the first inning but yielded a two-run single that broke a 1-1 tie in the third, and an RBI single that snapped a 3-3 tie in the fifth. That final run proved the game-winner.
Boston starter Josh Beckett (10-5) and relievers Josh Bard and Jonathan Papelbon blanked the Royals over the final six innings. Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 29th save in 30 chances.
The Royals (51-74) lost for the ninth time in 11 games and fell to 1-3 on this measuring-stick homestand consisting of three games against the Yankees and four against the Red Sox.
The Royals beat Beckett for the first time in last month's visit to Boston, and Alex Gordon single-handedly did sufficient damage this time to keep the issue in doubt.
Gordon doubled and scored in the first inning and hit a two-run homer in the third.
That was it, though.
Beckett worked through seven innings before handing a one-run lead to the bullpen. He gave up three runs and seven hits while striking out four.
Bard worked around a one-out single in the eighth before Papelbon had a one-two-three ninth. The victory kept the Red Sox one-half game behind the Yankees in the American League East Division.
Hochevar gave up four runs in six innings.
The Royals opened the scoring after Gordon began the first with a double — his career-best 37th double. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Melky Cabrera before scoring on Billy Butler's sacrifice fly to deep center.
Boston drew even in the second after Josh Reddick led off with a double. Hochevar retired the next two hitters, but Jason Varitek sliced an RBI single down the left-field line.
Gordon foiled Varitek's attempt to stretch the single into a double by recording his major-league-leading 19th assist. That also extended Gordon's club-record total.
Mike Aviles opened the Boston third with a single up the middle and went to second on a wild pitch. Hochevar then walked Jacoby Ellsbury before Gordon made a sliding catch on Jed Lowrie's looper to left.
The runners moved to second and third on Adrian Gonzalez's grounder to first before Dustin Pedroia delivered a two-run single up the middle for a 3-1 lead.
Gordon pulled the Royals even later in the inning with a two-run homer to left. It was a slicing line drive that got a boost from the wind, and it came after Alcides Escobar reached on a one-out bunt single
The homer was Gordon's 16th of the season, which matched a previous career best set in 2008. It also extended his career-best RBI total to 64.
Hochevar worked around a jam in the fourth after Carl Crawford stole second and third after a leadoff single. Crawford tried to score on Aviles' one-out fly to short center, but Cabrera made a strong throw for another outfield assist.
But Cabrera couldn't bail out Hochevar in the fifth after Lowrie pulled a one-out double to right. Gonzalez struck out, but Pedroia punched an RBI single into center.
The Red Sox led 4-3.