Chen, Royals halt Red Sox, 5-1

It’s doubtful that anyone remembers, but Bruce Chen was a member of the Red Sox for the briefest period in 2003 (5 appearances, 2 starts) so there is some symmetry to the fact that the journeyman pitched one of the best games of his forgettable career against one of his (count ‘em) eight former clubs. In the series opener, Kansas City (59-53) beat Boston (70-47), 5-1, Thursday at Kaufmann Stadium.

Chen (5-0) went 7.2 scoreless innings, he allowed only five hits with two strikeouts and a walk. On the other side, Jon Lester (10-7) struggled through a lengthy first inning (41 pitches) as the Royals scored three runs on Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly and a two-run single by Mike Moustakas (2 hits). Lester helped the bullpen out by lasting seven innings but it didn’t really matter since Rubby De La Rosa gave up solo homers to Billy Butler and Justin Maxwell in the eighth, extinguishing any chance of a comeback.

The Red Sox had just seven hits as a team, two apiece for Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew. It looked like Boston would be shut out but Jonny Gomes doubled in the ninth and Drew drove him in with an RBI single. Any would-be rally ended there though as Mike Napoli (still stuck in a huge slump) grounded into a double play to end it. Friday night (8:10, NESN) Jake Peavy (9-4) makes his second start for the Red Sox, the first on the road, as he faces Ervin Santana (8-6).

What they’ll be saying: Lester lowered his ERA to 4.37 but that’s little solace after another loss in his up and down season. He can’t seem to find any consistency and at some point, the Red Sox will really need Clay Buchholz back on the mound for some semblance of an ace. Manager John Farrell said before this road trip that he would be giving various guys games off (Napoli had one in Houston) but it was curious timing to sit David Ortiz when he put together back-to-back four hit games coming into this series. Apparently Farrell wanted to avoid him altogether as Ortiz wasn’t getting ready to pinch hit in the eighth or ninth inning. Not having a legitimate third baseman is starting to catch up with Boston as well, Brock Holt has lost his magic touch. With Mark Reynolds and Michael Young both clearing waivers earlier today, those are two names to keep an eye on. Of course, Will Middlebrooks is also waiting by the phone in Pawtucket for his return.

Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter >@RichSlate


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