BOSTON -- The only thing keeping Leo Nunez from earning a victory in his first major league start was his pitch count.
The Kansas City righty took a shutout into the fifth inning, outpitching 15-year veteran Tim Wakefield on Tuesday night to help the Kansas City Royals beat the Boston Red Sox 9-3. Jimmy Gobble (4-1) and three other relievers finished up.
"His pitch count isn't up to where a starter normally is, but I thought he did a nice job against a good lineup," Royals manager Buddy Bell said after Nunez threw 74 pitches in four-plus innings. "If we can get to our bullpen and we can line them up the way they need to be lined up, then we're pretty good."
Nunez, who broke his right wrist in spring training, was called up from Triple-A Omaha before the game for his first big league appearance since Aug. 5. He scattered six hits and a walk while striking out three, leaving with a 3-0 lead after Julio Lugo doubled to lead off the fifth.
"He felt good. He just couldn't make the decision," said reliever Octavio Dotel, who was serving as a temporary translator for his fellow Dominican. "If they give him another chance, he'll be happy to do it. Relieving, starting -- it doesn't matter."
Tony Pena Jr., who hadn't gotten a hit since the All-Star break, and Alex Gordon each had three of Kansas City's 13 hits. The Royals, who have beaten the first-place Red Sox in seven of their last 11 meetings, have a 3.40 ERA since June 24 -- the best in the majors.
Gobble faced three batters: a fly ball to right that allowed Lugo to move to third, a run-scoring grounder that was bobbled by second baseman Mark Grudzielanek for an error, and then a strikeout of slugger David Ortiz.
"We didn't think (Nunez) would be able to go real deep, just because that's the way he's been used. But he got them to where they were comfortable," Boston manager Terry Francona said.
"And then Gobble comes in and makes a big pitch on David and they spread the game out. By then the game turns around and you don't need a hit, you need a bunch of hits."
Wakefield (10-9) gave up six runs on nine hits and a wild pitch, striking out one in 6 1/3 innings. Most of the damage came in the Royals' five-run seventh, when Reggie Sanders led off with a double, Gordon singled and then John Buck doubled them both home; Wakefield left one out later.
Wakefield has a decision in all 19 starts this season. The Red Sox have scored just 19 runs in his 20 losses since the start of the 2006 season.
Boston threatened against Zack Greinke when Lugo led off the seventh with a single and, one out later, Dustin Pedroia walked. But Emil Brown made a jumping catch of Ortiz's deep fly to left-center and easily doubled off Pedroia, who was halfway to third when he had to turn around and head back to first.
Boston cut the deficit to 9-3 off Joel Peralta in the eighth when Coco Crisp tripled in one run and scored on Doug Mirabelli's single. Lugo followed with his second double of the night, but Joakim Soria struck out J.D. Drew to end the inning.
Mike Lowell had three hits, and Lugo also had three to raise his batting average to .217 from a low of .189 on July 7.
- Nunez came into the game with an 11.48 ERA in 23 career road appearances. It dropped to 6.59. Kansas City optioned LHP Neal Musser to Omaha.
- Red Sox RHP Brendan Donnelly was examined on Tuesday in California by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who agreed with the previous diagnosis of a strained right forearm. Donnelly was to return to Boston and resume strengthening exercises. He was scratched from a rehab start with soreness in the forearm on Friday.
- Ortiz and Drew each stranded five baserunners.
- Mark Teahen, who threw out Lowell at third base in the second, ranks second in the AL with 12 outfield assists.