KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Red Sox had a day off Thursday, a chance to regroup mentally and physically after playing 16 days in a row and falling out of realistic postseason contention.
Even better, Friday night they were playing the second-worst team in baseball in the Royals.
“We’re not waving a white flag here,” manager Alex Cora said before the game.
Maybe it’s time to find one. In one of the ugliest losses in franchise history, the Sox absorbed a 13-2 beating before a crowd of 15,470 at Kauffman Stadium.
Salvador Perez homered twice and drove in four runs, part of a 17-hit attack for Kansas City.
Understand: This was not just one of those nights in a long season. The Royals had lost six straight, 10 of 11, and 19 of their last 24 games. They’re a terrible team that made the Sox look worse.
The Sox have dropped five straight and eight of 11. At 69-66, the only race they’re running at this point is to stay ahead of the last-place Yankees, who are 66-69.
“We’re getting punched. We have to bounce back [Saturday],” Cora said. “It hasn’t been easy … we have to play better baseball.”
James Paxton allowed six runs over 1⅓ innings. The Royals scored five runs their first time through the lineup as six batters reached base.
Kansas City starter Jordan Lyles, who leads the majors with 15 losses, carried a shutout for 7⅔ innings, not allowing a runner past first base until Alex Verdugo hit a two-run homer.
“To only put up two runs, it’s awful from an offensive standpoint,” Verdugo said. “We could have had better at-bats. We could have really seen what Lyles was doing out there and how he was pitching a lot of the guys and made a couple of adjustments.”
Little has gone right for the Sox of late but the pitching has been especially awful. The Sox have allowed 45 earned runs on 70 hits in the last five games and 44 innings.
Bobby Witt Jr. and Perez hit back-to-back home runs to left field in the first inning. Nick Massey followed with a single but Paxton got Freddy Fermin to ground into a double play.
That proved to be the highlight of Paxton’s outing.
Nelson Velazquez led off the second inning with a double to left. Drew Waters and Nick Loftin walked to load the bases. Kyle Isbel drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. Maikel Garcia followed with an RBI single to left and Paxton (7-5) was done after only 36 pitches.
Facing Mauricio Llovera, Witt drove in a run with a slow grounder to third. Perez followed with an RBI single.
It was the worst start of Paxton’s career, the first time he had lasted fewer than two innings while allowing so many earned runs.
The lefthander is 1-3 with a 7.62 ERA in his last six starts. He has lost command of his curveball and changeup, leaving hitters to ignore those pitches and wait on the fastball.
“Not a lot of feel for the breaking ball and the fastball feels kind of lifeless, too,” Paxton said. “Trying to figure some things out mechanically. Just not feeling good right now.”
Paxton is not injured, but clearly has hit a wall physically after pitching only 21⅔ innings from 2020-22 while recovering from injuries.
“The life has just gone out of my stuff right now and I’m trying to find it right now,” he said.
Rookie lefthander Brandon Walter, recalled from Triple A Worcester earlier in the day, wasn’t much better and may have been worse depending on your view. He allowed seven runs on 10 hits over four innings.
Loftin, who was making his major league debut, doubled in a run in the third.
The Royals then scored six runs in the sixth. Perez had a two-run homer to center as Walter left a changeup on the outer corner. The ball was on a tee and Perez hit it 420 feet. Velazquez belted a two-run homer later in the inning.
As the Royals piled up hits, Lyles shut down the Red Sox. He threw 76 of 114 pitches for strikes and used six different pitches.
“A kitchen-sink guy,” Verdugo said.
Lyles retired the first eight batters in order, striking out four. Connor Wong singled with two outs in the third before Verdugo fouled out.
Triston Casas had a two-out single in the fourth before Adam Duvall fouled out. Rafael Devers had a two-out single in the sixth then Justin Turner grounded into a force out.
Lyles lost his shutout when Luis Urías was hit by a pitch and Verdugo homered to right field with two outs in the eigthth. The homer was Verdugo’s 13th.
The Sox are 2-6 at Kauffman Stadium the last three seasons.