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ROYALS 5, RED SOX 4

Red Sox walked off by Royals as Garrett Whitlock makes a rare mistake

Nick Pratto, the ninth batter Garrett Whitlock faced on Saturday night in Kansas City, was the only one the Sox righty didn't retire. Pratto made it count: The rookie's second career home run walked off Boston.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With Saturday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals tied after six innings, the Red Sox turned to Garrett Whitlock to take them home.

The righthander, who had not pitched the previous five days, was sharp. He retired the first eight batters he faced on only 19 pitches, with nothing coming close to a hit.

Rookie Nick Pratto ended that streak and the game. His stunning home run to center field gave the Royals a 5-4 walk-off victory before a crowd of 19,136 at Kauffman Stadium.

Pratto connected on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, a changeup that stayed high in the strike zone. He fouled off two previous two-strike pitches from Whitlock hoping to get a mistake and did.

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“Made a 3-2 changeup that was a mistake and he hit it out,” said Whitlock, who wanted the ball down. “Just trying to fill up the zone and he made a really good at-bat … it didn’t end the way I’d like. I’ve got to be better than that.”

Whitlock had been dominant since coming off the injured list last month, allowing one run on five hits over 10 innings and striking out 11 with one walk. It was more of the same on Saturday until the 23-year-old Pratto, one of Kansas City’s top prospects, connected.

Whitlock was furious afterward.

“I’m [ticked] off. Not at anyone but myself,” he said. “The guy made a good freaking swing but that’s a terrible pitch by me.”

It was the first home run off a changeup Whitlock has allowed this season and only his second overall in 22⅓ innings pitching in relief.

“He’s rested; he was efficient. We felt like it was good for him to go out there [for the ninth],” manager Alex Cora said. “It just didn’t work out. The stuff was really good. [Pratto] had a good at-bat. He just got beat.”

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On a steamy night, Sox starter Nate Eovaldi had trouble getting a grip on the ball early in the game. His first pitch, a 94-mile-per-hour fastball right over the plate, was driven over the center-field fence by MJ Melendez.

The game got a little better for the righthander after that, but not by much. In a 1-1 game, Eovaldi allowed singles to four of the first five Kansas City hitters in the third inning. That resulted in two runs, both on a single by rookie Bobby Witt Jr.

The Royals scored their fourth run off Eovaldi in the fourth inning on a solo home run by light-hitting Kyle Isbel with two outs. It was his fourth home run in 256 career plate appearances.

Eovaldi dug in from there and retired the final seven he faced, four by strikeout. He allowed four runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

By design, Eovaldi threw more splitters (35) than four-seam fastballs (28), and mixed in 21 curveballs in an attempt to keep the Royals off balance.

It also was a concession to the diminished velocity of his fastball since he returned from a back injury last month. Eovaldi averaged 94.1 m.p.h. with the pitch on Saturday.

“It’s definitely mechanics,” he said. “I was a lot better towards the end. Part of it is trying to do too much early on.”

Kansas City starter Daniel Lynch had the same line as Eovaldi with one fewer strikeout.

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The Sox got a run in the second inning as J.D. Martinez doubled, Christian Arroyo singled, and Bobby Dalbec reached on an error by Witt at shortstop.

With a chance for more, Jaylin Davis popped to center. After a wild pitch, Kevin Plawecki followed with a hard-hit ball up the middle, but Nicky Lopez made a diving stop to save two runs.

Arroyo singled with two outs in the fourth ahead of a home run to center by Dalbec, his 11th. Dalbec was in the lineup for Eric Hosmer against the lefty.

Alex Verdugo’s seventh, nearly to the same spot, tied the game in the sixth. A fan reached over the railing and caught the ball in his cap. That prompted Royals manager Mike Matheny to challenge the home run, but the call stood.

The Sox threatened with two outs in the eighth inning as Verdugo reached on a soft single to center and Martinez walked. But Arroyo swung at the next pitch from Scott Barlow and grounded to shortstop. Martinez was forced at second.

The top three hitters in the lineup — Tommy Pham, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts — were 0 for 12 and struck out six times.

The Sox (54-55) are 3-3 on a road trip that ends Sunday afternoon with Kutter Crawford scheduled to face righthander Brad Keller.



Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.