Boston Luke Hochevar pitched well enough to save the bullpen. The problem was the Kansas City Royals couldn’t do much against Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Hochevar pitched his second complete game of the season, holding down a Boston offense that collected 34 hits in the previous two games, but the Royals lost to the Red Sox, 5-1, Monday in the series finale.
After using seven relievers in a win Saturday and five in Sunday’s loss, Hochevar needed to give his team a long start heading into a 10-game homestand that begins tonight against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
“Hoch did a great job of getting us through eight innings,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Our ‘pen had really been worked the last two nights and he gave (us) a chance — and in this park a four-run lead, I mean, you can get it. He did a nice job of keeping us in the game.”
Matsuzaka returned from the disabled list with his best start of the season and Cody Ross drove in three runs to help the Japanese right-hander get his first win since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June of last year.
“He was throwing (the slider) inside to righties and he’s actually mixed in more of a cutter now,” Kansas City’s Billy Butler said. “He used to be just fastball, sinker and that slurvy slider and not so many cutters, but today I saw more cutters than I had in the past.”
Hochevar (7-12) gave up five runs and eight hits.
The Red Sox took three of four in the wraparound series and won for the second time in three games since trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers on Saturday in a salary-dumping, nine-player deal.
Jacoby Ellsbury had a solo homer and double for Boston, which opens a nine-game West Coast trip tonight against the Los Angles Angels.
Matsuzaka (1-3), on the DL since early July with a strained neck muscle, gave up an unearned run and five hits, walking two and striking out six over seven innings in just his sixth start of the season.
“We couldn’t get anything going against him,” Yost said.
It was the first time Matsuzaka’s pitched more than six innings.
The Red Sox won for just the seventh time in 19 games.
Boston broke a 1-1 tie on Ross’ two-run single in the third. Scott Podsednik and Dustin Pedroia each singled before Ross hit a drive high off the Green Monster, but he was thrown out trying to stretch it on Alex Gordon’s throw.
In the sixth, the Red Sox added two runs off Hochevar. Ross had an RBI double off the left-field wall.
He beat Gordon’s throw, sliding into second before scoring when newly acquired James Loney singled to make it 5-1.
Loney went 1 for 4 in his second game after coming in the trade with Los Angeles.
Matsuzaka, in the final year of a six-year, $52 million contract, mostly spotted his fastball with a slider and cutter to keep the Royals hitters off balance.