BALTIMORE — Kevin Youkilis wasted no time getting back into a groove at the plate in his first game off the disabled list.
Sidelined since April 29 with a strained lower back, Youkilis marked his return by hitting a towering drive over the center-field fence.
Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, that fourth-inning shot was the extent of their offense in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
Brian Matusz and three relievers combined on a two-hitter, and the Orioles got two-run homers from Steve Tolleson and Wilson Betemit in improving to 4-1 against Boston this season.
Red Sox starter Felix Doubront (4-2) gave up two runs and four hits in six innings and had a career-high nine strikeouts.
But Matusz was even better, yielding only two hits and a walk in 6 1-3 innings. He also had nine strikeouts, tying a career high.
“Felix Doubront had his good stuff,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “He was battling the whole way. He just picked a night when the opposing pitcher had good stuff and shut us down.”
Doubront could only shrug his shoulders after a performance that usually results in a victory.
“He was good,” Doubront said of Matusz. “I was talking to one of our guys. His stuff was working today. We got a pretty good duel, but he won the game.”
The Red Sox were seeking to climb over .500 for the first time this season. Instead, Boston reclaimed sole possession of last place in the AL East.
“Both pitchers did a good job,” Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez said. “We just came out on the wrong end of it.”
Matusz (4-4) was just too good.
The left-hander was 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 2011 and started 0-3 this season. Since then, however, he’s won three straight starts and four of his last five.
“He didn’t miss much,” Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Kept the ball down. He did a pretty great job.”
The lone glaring flaw in Matusz’s effort was a fastball that Youkilis sent flying over the center-field wall. It was his third homer of the season, the first since April 26.
“That’s as good a swing as I’ve seen Youk have,” Valentine said. “Center field power. That was a good sight.”
After Matusz left to standing ovation in the seventh, Darren O’Day struck out the final two batters in the inning. Pedro Strop worked a hitless eighth and Jim Johnson got three straight outs to complete the two-hitter and earn his 16th save in as many tries.
The difference was Tolleson, who came to the plate in the second inning with one home run in 62 career at-bats. With a runner on first, Tolleson sent a drive over the center-field wall.
“When I hit it, I said if that doesn’t go out then I’m probably not going to hit one out,” Tolleson said.
It was the first homer allowed by Doubront in five starts.
Betemit connected off former Oriole Matt Albers in the eighth.
NOTES: Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia had his 20-game hitting streak against the Orioles come to an end. … The Red Sox put OF Cody Ross (broken foot) on the 15-day DL, purchased the contract of OF Scott Podsednik and moved RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka from the 15- to the 60-day DL. … Orioles 2B Brian Roberts, who’s been sidelined for more than a year with a concussion, will begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment Wednesday with Double-A Bowie.
YANKEES 3, ROYALS 2: Robinson Cano homered, Phil Hughes beat Kansas City for the second time this month and the New York Yankees — still looking to bust out with the bats — eked out a 3-2 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night.
Derek Jeter delivered a bases-loaded single that tied the score in the fifth inning and New York rallied from an early two-run deficit to snap a three-game skid. Shut out Monday in the series opener, the Yankees (22-21) went 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position, one night after they finished 0 for 13 in those situations for their worst performance with RISP since 1990.
New York, which had lost six of seven to drop into a last-place tie with Boston in the AL East, now has eight hits in its last 79 at-bats (.101) with runners in scoring position.
Hughes (4-5) gave up five hits in six innings while striking out seven, beating Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar (3-5) for the second time in 17 days.
The Yankees caught a break when Mike Moustakas lined into a double play to end the eighth. Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his third save, retiring Alcides Escobar with a runner on third to end Kansas City’s five-game winning streak away from home.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez fielded Escobar’s grounder behind the bag and made a high throw across the diamond, but Mark Teixeira stretched out his 6-foot-3 frame and kept his toe on the bag at first as New York got the call on a bang-bang play.
Cano put the Yankees on the scoreboard with a long solo homer in the fourth, making him 6 for 12 with three home runs and nine RBIs against Hochevar — including a grand slam May 6 in Kansas City.
New York tagged Hochevar for seven runs and seven hits over 2 1-3 innings in that outing and he entered Tuesday night 0-2 with an 8.83 ERA in four career games against the Yankees.
He hung tough this time, coughing up a 2-0 lead but keeping Kansas City in it when the Yankees appeared poised to finally break loose.
Teixeira, batting seventh for the second consecutive game, singled through the shift to start the fifth and went to second when Jeff Francoeur bobbled the ball in right for an error. Russell Martin was hit by a pitch and Dewayne Wise reached safely on a perfectly placed bunt single even though the Royals were expecting a sacrifice.
Once again, the Yankees had the bases loaded and none out with big hitters coming up. They came up empty in that situation during Monday night’s 6-0 defeat, but not this time.
Jeter dumped an RBI single into right and Curtis Granderson drove in a run with a groundout, giving New York a 3-2 lead.
Cano was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rodriguez, and the Yankees had a chance to really bust it open. But then Rodriguez struck out, drawing boos from the crowd of 37,674, and Raul Ibanez went down swinging as well.
Kansas City grabbed an early lead when No. 9 batter Humberto Quintero went the other way on Hughes’ hanging curve for an RBI double in the second.
Francoeur added a solo shot in the fourth to make it 2-0, his third homer this season and second in two nights at Yankee Stadium.
Hughes has served up 11 home runs in 47 1-3 innings this year. He has allowed at least one in all nine starts, the longest streak by a Yankees pitcher since Jack McDowell in 1995.
NOTES: Kansas City put 2B Chris Getz on the 15-day disabled list with a ribcage injury and called up LHP Will Smith from Triple-A Omaha. Irving Falu started at 2B and likely will platoon there with Johnny Giavotella while Getz is sidelined, manager Ned Yost said. … Hall of Fame 3B George Brett, Bo Jackson and Mike Sweeney are among the former Royals players on the roster for the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game during All-Star festivities at Kauffman Stadium in July. … Yankees closer Mariano Rivera walked through the clubhouse without crutches but said surgery for his torn knee ligament has not been scheduled yet. Rivera said the last time he had a checkup, the blood clot in his calf was still there. He is taking medication for the clot and doing exercises to strengthen the knee for surgery. … LHP Andy Pettitte starts the series finale Wednesday night for New York against RHP Luis Mendoza. Pettitte pitched eight shutout innings Friday night against Cincinnati in his second start since coming out of retirement.