KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Red Sox are seventh in the American League with a .313 on-base percentage, which doesn’t sound so bad until you remember it was .328 last season and only three teams were higher. Manager Alex Cora wants to see a more patient approach at the plate by his hitters.
The Sox took a step in that direction in a 7-4 victory against the Kansas City Royals. They had 13 hits and drew five walks against five pitchers.
“Really good. It was something we talked about before the game,” Cora said. “We have to grind at-bats.”
Eric Hosmer, who joined the team Thursday after being acquired from the San Diego Padres, is 1 for 7 with two walks in two games, but has seen 53 pitches.
Kyle Schwarber’s presence helped Sox hitters better their approach last season and Hosmer could do the same. Another newcomer, Tommy Phan, has a career .358 OBP.
“I told Tommy and I told Hoz, they’re going to help the group,” Cora said. “Keep talking to them. It’s a very talented group but sometimes they get very aggressive at the plate and frustrated, too.”
Xander Bogaerts matched his career high with four hits and scored two runs for the Sox. Alex Verdugo was 3 for 4 and drew a walk.
This was not baseball at its finest. Ten pitchers allowed 22 hits and there were 20 men left on base over three hours and 44 minutes. The teams were 7 of 30 with runners in scoring position.
Rookie righthander Josh Winckowski pitched well for the Sox, holding the Royals to one run over five innings. He took a 4-0 lead into the fifth inning before Salvador Perez hit a long home run to left field. Kansas City left six runners on base against Winckowski and was hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Winckowski’s best work came in the fourth as he loaded the bases with one out and maneuvered his way out of the jam. Kyle Isbel tapped a ball back to the mound that Winckowski calmly shoveled to catcher Reese McGuire for a force and the second out.
“We executed that well,” Winckowski said. “My best option was a groundout. It just happened to be back to me.”
Winckowski then struck out Nick Lopez swinging at a slider after falling behind 3-1. He let out a yell going back to the dugout.
Winckowski (5-5) dropped his earned run average to 4.68. He has worked at least five innings with two or fewer earned runs in six of his 10 starts.
“That’s, in a way, my calling card,” Winckowski said. “I won’t punch out a lot of guys. I’ll deal with some traffic. Eating innings is what I do best.”
Kansas City starter Zack Greinke retired the first four batters he faced on 10 pitches and looked sharp, but his 223rd regular-season win will have to come another time. The 38-year-old righthander allowed four runs on seven hits over 4⅔ innings and left trailing, 4-0.
Doubles by Verdugo and Hosmer gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Hosmer, a former Royals star playing in Kansas City for the first time since 2017, was cheered when he came to the plate and even cheered when he doubled to right field for his first hit and RBI with the Sox.
Johnny Damon coming back to Fenway Park with the Yankees in 2006 this most assuredly was not.
Slumping J.D. Martinez, hitting sixth for the first time since 2017 when he was with the Tigers, had a two-run double in the fourth inning. Bogaerts and Verdugo scored.
Greinke walked Tommy Pham and Devers with two outs in the fifth. Bogaerts followed with a single to left. That knocked Greinke out of the game. He has a 5.33 ERA in 10 regular-season appearances against the Sox.
The Sox went ahead, 5-1, in the sixth inning. Hosmer reached second on an error by Melendez. McGuire’s single drove him in. It was his first RBI with the Sox since being acquired from the White Sox earlier this week. Jarren Duran added a two-run double in Boston’s half of the eighth to make it 7-1.
Austin Davis allowed three runs in the eighth inning as the Royals sent eight men to the plate, but the Sox held on to improve to 3-2 on the road trip with two games remaining.