KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bruce Chen can relax a bit — he’s in the win column.
Chen, the Royals’ opening day starter, picked up his first victory of the season Wednesday night as Kansas City held off the Boston Red Sox 4-3.
Alcides Escobar drove in the go-ahead run as the Royals solved Jon Lester for the first time in a while. Jonathan Broxton worked around a leadoff single and walk in the ninth inning for his seventh save in eight opportunities.
The Royals were winless in Chen’s first six starts this year, although he had been pitching deep into games.
“You try not to think about it,” Chen said. “You try not to let it bother you, but at the end of the day you have no wins and it’s almost the middle of May.
“I know I’ve been pitching well. I didn’t worry. I didn’t try to do too much. I trust my stuff, my teammates. Today was a huge win. Even though it’s in the win column for me, but I feel like the whole team contributed.”
The Royals finished 4-3 on their homestand against Boston and the New York Yankees. The Red Sox have lost seven of eight.
Chen (1-4) gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings while striking out five and walking none.
“That’s the first time in a long time I felt like we were firing on all cylinders, facing a guy that’s been extremely tough on us,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
“Clutch hitting, clutch pitching. I thought Bruce threw a tremendous game. They had seven hits and five were off the end of the bat or jam shots that just found holes or hit the line. And to get four runs off Jon Lester was huge. It was good to finally beat him. He’s a guy who has handled us for a long time,” he said.
The Royals beat Lester (1-3) for the first time since Aug. 8, 2006. The left-hander came into the game with a 5-1 record and 1.30 ERA in seven career starts against Kansas City, including a no-hitter in 2008.
Escobar’s double in the fourth Irving Falu, who led off the inning with a double, to put the Royals ahead 4-3.
Lester’s pitch count rose early with a 38-pitch first inning, but 12 of those were after center fielder Marlon Byrd’s error led to three unearned runs.
Lester was pulled after 108 pitches and five innings, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk.
In the first inning, Byrd misjudged Johnny Giavotella’s two-out liner and the ball ricocheted off his glove as he jumped for it. The misplay allowed Billy Butler, who had walked, to score.
Brayan Pena then hit a two-run double to left-center that Cody Ross nearly caught. Ross had his glove on the ball, but it came loose and hit the wall. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine debated Ross held onto the ball long enough — the umpires held a conference on the field, but did not change the ruling.
“It hit his glove, then popped out and bounced off the wall,” Valentine said. “It’s not a catch unless you get it out of the glove voluntarily.”
“The ball on Marlon really took off on him. It was tough on Jon — they scored three runs. Cody went a long way, caught it and popped out of his glove. He’s frustrated. He battled. He wanted to go out and pitch the sixth.”
Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run double in the Boston third, driving in Byrd, Ryan Sweeney and Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia’s single extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games.
NOTES: Chen had not beaten the Red Sox since July 9, 2005, while with Baltimore. … The Royals called up Giavotella, who was hitting .483 in May and .331 in 31 games with Triple-A Omaha. They placed LHP Jonathan Sanchez on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. … 1B Eric Hosmer, who is hitting .111 in the past 11 games, was not in the Royals’ lineup for the first time this season. … Boston 3B Kevin Youkilis, who is on the disabled list with a lower back strain, is penciled in for some baseball activity Thursday when the Red Sox return home. … OF Jeff Francoeur, who has no home runs and five RBIs, batted cleanup for the Royals for the first time this season.