BOSTON -- In a season that's quickly turned sour for Boston, David Ortiz is giving Red Sox fans something to cheer for.
Big Papi now stands two homers shy of tying the single-season franchise record for home runs. Jimmie Foxx set the record with 50 in 1938.
"It seems like it's a big deal here, so let's see if we can get it done," said Ortiz, who went 2-for-3 and scored three runs. "You've just got to take a couple of good swings, right? I've got plenty of time."
The Red Sox avoided being swept at home by the Royals for the first time since April 26-29, 1996. Boston remained 7½ games behind the Minnesota Twins, who beat Detroit 12-1 Sunday, in the wild-card race. The Red Sox trail the New York Yankees by 10 games in the American League East.
Pena, who started in left field and batted cleanup in place of Manny Ramirez, went 3-for-4. Ramirez sat out with a sore right knee and was expected back Tuesday in Baltimore. Boston snapped a five-game losing streak to Kansas City.
Julian Tavarez (3-4) allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings to win his first decision since moving into Boston's starting rotation Aug. 31 after making 52 relief appearances.
"Every time I go out there and I go four or five innings, I'm going to say I had a good outing because what I'm doing right now I wasn't prepared for," Tavarez said. "This is something I'm doing because my team needs it."
Tavarez, who before this season hadn't started a game since Sept. 17, 2002, didn't allow a hit until Emil Brown singled with two outs in the fourth inning. Tavarez allowed one more hit in the fifth before the Royals scored three runs in the sixth to pull within 5-3 and chase him from the game. Bryan Corey relieved Tavarez and got out of the inning by striking out Shane Costa and getting Ryan Shealy to ground out to shortstop.
The Red Sox then scored three runs in the sixth to extend their lead to 8-3.
After Alex Gonzalez flied out to center to lead off the inning, Youkilis reached second when center fielder Joey Gathright dropped a routine pop fly and scored on Mark Loretta's single up the middle. Ortiz then followed with a two-run homer off lefty Andrew Sisco to give Boston an 8-3 lead.
"They don't chant M-V-P just because the guy's an average hitter," Sisco said. "If you make a mistake, inches can mean hundreds of feet, literally. You don't get a lot of second chances against a guy like that."
It was Ortiz's first homer since returning to the lineup Tuesday after missing eight games with heart palpitations. He went hitless in his first two games back before going 6-for-12 in three games against Kansas City.
"Everything was happening kind of fast at the time," said Ortiz, whose previous career high for homers (47) came last year. "I spent 10 days without grabbing a bat or seeing a baseball, so right now it's a totally different situation."
The Royals missed out on the chance to sweep their first road series since July 11-13, 2003, when they won three straight against the Texas Rangers. Kansas City has gone 86 consecutive road series without a sweep, the longest stretch in franchise history and the third-longest in the majors since 1923.
"Sweeping these guys at home would have been nice," Kansas City catcher John Buck said. "But the next step in the learning process is not to be satisfied with two wins and obviously go after that third one."
Brown went 2-for-4 with two RBI for Kansas City.
Mark Redman (9-9) allowed five runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, snapping his two-game winning streak. Redman had allowed one run in 16 innings in his two previous starts -- a 2-0 win over Minnesota on Aug. 29 and a 7-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 3 -- but was touched early by Boston.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Pena's RBI single. Boston then scored three more runs in the third to extend its lead to 4-0.
Mike Lowell went 2-for-4 with two RBI for the Red Sox.
Boston OF Coco Crisp sat out with an injured left index finger. He is expected to return Tuesday in Baltimore following Monday's off day. ... Kansas City DH Mike Sweeney was a last-minute scratch with tightness in his right oblique. Royals manager Buddy Bell said Sweeney is day to day. ... Kansas City and Boston are both 23-34 since the All-Star break. ... Kansas City won the season series with Boston for the first time since 2000. ... Brown had his first multi-RBI game since driving in three against Boston on Aug. 8.