BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox finally ran out of comebacks against the Kansas City Royals.
After scoring 25 runs in the previous two games, the Red Sox couldn’t overcome an early deficit against Luke Hochevar and the Royals, who held on for a 4-3 win Thursday afternoon.
Dustin Pedroia pulled Boston within one with a solo homer in the eighth, extending his hitting streak to 25 games, but that was all the offense the Red Sox could come up with after beating the Royals 13-9 and 12-5 in the previous two games.
“They were one better than us today,” said Pedroia, who has reached base in 37 straight games.
Billy Butler hit a three-run homer as Kansas City scored four in the fourth and Hochevar pitched seven strong innings to clinch a 2-2 series split for the Royals against the team with the best record in the American League.
Boston, which had to rally after falling behind in the last two games, took a 2-0 lead in the third, but the Royals came right back against starter Josh Beckett (9-4) in the fourth. Beckett walked Alex Gordon and Mitch Maier, then Butler blasted a 1-2 pitch over the wall in straightaway center.
“Your team scores two runs and then you walk the first two guys. That’s pretty frustrating,” Beckett said.
Hochevar (7-8) allowed two runs on six hits and a walk while matching his season high for strikeouts with six. He retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced and gave up just one extra-base hit, a third-inning double by Yamaico Navarro.
Hochevar left with a 4-2 lead, and Pedroia led off the eighth with a high home run over the Green Monster on a 3-2 pitch from Greg Holland. But Holland got Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz on groundouts to end the inning, and Joakim Soria came on to pitch the ninth.
With one out, Drew Sutton lined a hit off Soria’s glove for a single, then pinch-hitter Carl Crawford hit a long fly ball that turned right-fielder Jeff Francoeur around before he made a basket catch on the warning track.
“I was getting up to celebrate,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “I thought he got plenty, then the wind knocked it down.”
Soria struck out Navarro to earn his 19th save.
Beckett lost for the first time in a month, giving up four runs — three earned — on five hits and three walks while striking out eight. The Red Sox had won six of their last seven games to move to a season-high three games ahead of the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East before Thursday’s loss.
Boston took a 2-0 lead in the third when Jason Varitek singled, Navarro doubled and they both scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury. But the Royals went ahead in the fourth when Beckett gave up back-to-back walks to start the inning and Butler followed with his 10th homer of the season. After Francoeur reached on a two-base error, Beckett gave up Mike Moustakas’ RBI double to make it 4-2 .
Pedroia led off the eighth inning with his homer over the Green Monster to cut the lead to one run. Fans knew Pedroia’s hitting streak was on the line when he came up after going hitless in his first three at-bats and cheered him on before the towering homer. The cheers got louder when the ball left the park.
Francona said streaks aren’t a topic that comes up in the dugout often, but credited the Boston fans for knowing what is going on throughout the lineup.
“We don’t need to have president races or mustard racing ketchup. Our fans like our baseball and I actually really think that’s cool,” Francona said. “Nothing against mustard.”
Notes: Pedroia’s hitting streak is the longest in the American league this season, 11th longest in team history and longest ever for a Red Sox second baseman. … Royals rookie Eric Hosmer extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single to lead off the second. … The Red Sox went without a hit from Gonzalez’s single in the third until Drew Sutton led off the seventh with a blooper to center.