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Red Sox 7, Royals 6

Red Sox withstand another starter’s meltdown and drop Royals again

Alex Verdugo sails into home plate as he scores on a sixth-inning double by J.D.Martinez as part of a high-flying game between the Red Sox and Royals inside Fenway Park.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Red Sox found themselves in the midst of another nail-biter with the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday evening at Fenway Park.

But the Sox have been here before — maybe even too much.

They entered the day with 26 come-from-behind wins, a testament to their mettle and ability to move on to the next pitch and next play.

In Tuesday’s back-and-forth contest that featured hot bats on both sides in the midst of a game-time temperature of 95 degrees, it was the Sox who stayed cool when it counted for a 7-6 victory.

Matt Barnes struck out the side for his 18th save as the Red Sox’ bullpen provided 4⅔ innings of shutout relief.

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Matt Barnes (right) needed just 13 pitches to lock up a one-run save on Tuesday.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

For the second night in a row, a Red Sox starter allowed five-plus runs in an outing. On Monday, the starter was Garrett Richards, who allowed five runs over his 5⅔ innings of work. Tuesday, it was Nick Pivetta’s turn.

The Royals battered the Sox starter for six runs in 4⅓ innings, printing Pivetta’s worst start of the season. Pivetta yielded nine hits, three of them homers. Just one run — on a Michael Taylor single to center field in the second — wasn’t scored on a home run.

“I’m definitely not satisfied with it,” Pivetta said afterward. “I think I really have to bounce back from this and go deeper into the ballgame.”

Whit Merrifield took Kansas City’s first trip around the bags in the first inning when his leadoff homer made its way just within the Pesky Pole. Taylor then a two-run shot to right-center in the fourth. In the fifth, Ryan O’Hearn met the batter’s eye in center on his home run.

That was enough for manager Alex Cora to make the call to his bullpen, electing to go with Yacksel Riós.

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In the meantime, though, the Sox were giving Royals starter Brad Keller his share of trouble. Contrary to Kansas City, the Sox’ runs weren’t dictated by the long ball.

J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts had RBI singles in the first, giving the Sox a 2-1 lead.

Hunter Renfroe’s sacrifice fly in the third put the Sox ahead, 3-2, in a game that featured six lead changes through the first six innings.

In the fourth, Kiké Hernández tied the contest with a single to left-center and Martinez’s sacrifice fly later in the inning put the Sox back in front again, 5-4.

Keller finally saw his day come to a close when Bobby Dalbec singled to left in the sixth. Martinez struck again for the Sox, lacing a double to right field that scored two and giving the Sox a 7-6 lead. It was the Sox’ first, and only, extra-base hit of the game.

“I think we’ve been doing a really good job of staying convicted in our approaches,” Martinez said.

Said Cora: “We’re putting together good at-bats,” Cora said. “The line is moving, we’re controlling the strike zone. We’re doing a lot of great things offensively.”

J.D. Martinez watches his sixth-inning, two-RBI double to right field that knocked in the tying and go ahead runs.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Red Sox’ offense, indeed, has done its part. That, and the bullpen, is a huge reason why this team is two games ahead of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

The Sox’ sustainability on the offensive side shouldn’t be brought into question. This team has consistently proven itself to be one of the best offenses in baseball. But is it sustainable for the bullpen to keep bailing the Sox out? That’s certainly a dark cloud that looms over Fenway.

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Consider that in June, leading up to Tuesday’s game, the Sox bullpen had pitched 101 innings, which ranked fourth in the majors during that span. The teams in front of the Red Sox? The Royals (No. 3), Orioles (No. 2), and the Diamondbacks (No. 1), all of whom are well under .500 and are last in their division.

Sox starters have gone fewer than five innings in 10 of the 21 games since June 7.

Barnes says the potential wear and tear on him isn’t a concern.

“I’ve thrown 70 games in a season and another 10 in the postseason,” said Barnes. “So I feel really good right now. I’m not going to speak to anybody else.”

Cora admitted that this should be a concern for the Red Sox.

The Sox survived the night again, but moving forward and with a West Coast trip on the horizon, the rotation will need to eat innings.

“We will show up [Wednesday] and see where we’re at,” Cora said.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.