KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City's September stalwarts are at it again.
A year ago, after flopping around all season, the Royals rolled through September on an 18-8 tear. Monday night they wiped out leads of 6-0 and 8-2 and emerged 12-9 winners over the powerful Boston Red Sox and improved to 11-3 since Sept. 7.
On that date, they were 34 games under .500.
" We're just playing better baseball," said Billy Butler, who had two doubles and two RBI and helped key a six-run sixth inning. "We can play with anybody. We showed that tonight."
The Red Sox, with the second-best record in the major leagues, had won 10 of 11 overall and beaten the Royals nine of 11 times. Boston probably looked nearly invincible to the small, rain-soaked crowd when it took a 6-0 lead in the third with the help of Jason Bay's three-run homer.
But Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield, struggling to control his knuckleball in a steady and sometimes heavy rain, went just five innings and left with a tenuous 8-5 lead after giving up Mike Jacobs' three-run shot. Making his third start since July 8 after missing 36 games with a lower back strain, Wakefield gave up five runs on five hits and seven of Boston's season-high 11 walks.
He refused to blame the weather, his lack of activity or the bullpen.
"No excuses. I made a bad pitch to Jacobs and got them back in the game," Wakefield said. "It's brutal. We gave the game away, bottom line."
Boston manager Terry Francona indicated he might not pitch Wakefield every fifth day.
"We'll see. I don't think it's realistic that he would go every five days like everybody else," Francona said. "We'll see how he bounces back tomorrow and we'll kind of go from there."
The veteran knuckleballer wants to remain in the rotation.
"Absolutely, yeah. I don't know what they've got planned for me. Find out tomorrow," he said.
The Royals seized an 11-9 lead with their six-run sixth, the most they've scored in one inning since Sept. 24, 2008.
Butler had another RBI double in the seventh, giving him 49 doubles this season.
"We could have cashed it in when they got the [six-run] lead," Jacobs said. "But we didn't."
"The weather was a challenge," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I was amazed we got it in."
The defensive play of the night belonged to Royals right fielder Willie Bloomquist, who smashed into a bullpen post catching a drive by Kevin Youkilis. Bloomquist stayed on his feet and went right back to his position.
Alex Gordon also had two RBI for the Royals, whose surge has pulled them out of last place in the AL Central.
DiNardo gave up 10 hits and eight runs in five innings. After Bay's three-run shot, Ellsbury had a two-run single and Dustin Pedroia an RBI single in his second at-bat of the inning.
Martinez, stretching his hitting streak to a career-best 20 games, had a two-run single in the fifth.
"No lead is safe," Bay said. "You want to get some runs and sort of coast to a win. But obviously, through no particular fault of anybody, we just didn't get it done.
"We'd been playing so well, it's one of those games that just middle of the season, hey, it kind of got away. But we've been playing so well, it's magnified."
- Bay also had a homer and three RBI the day before on his birthday. His 113 RBI are also a career high.
- DiNardo threw the Royals' 85th wild pitch in the fifth, tying the team record. Then Yabuta's wild pitch in the sixth, allowing Bay to score Boston's ninth run, broke it.
- Butler is five doubles shy of Hal McRae's team record.