Royals on wrong side of back-and-forth battle

Hungry for a win and sensing an opportunity to put a runner on third base with less than two outs, Salvador Perez broke for third base when he saw Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo bobble the ball in the seventh inning Tuesday night.

But Verdugo recovered the ball well and used his cannon of an arm to throw Perez out on the bases, and instead of gaining some momentum, the Royals lost it in the final innings of a back-and-forth 7-6 loss at Fenway Park.

It was the Royals’ seventh straight loss, and perhaps this one hurts even more because of what the offense showed. Seven different lead changes had the Royals in this game, with the offense doing all it could to stay with the Red Sox.

Whit Merrifield started the night with a leadoff home run off Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta to give the Royals a first-inning lead for the second night in a row. But Boston scored two off Brad Keller in the bottom of the first as Keller’s struggles continued. The right-hander allowed six runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings, walking five and striking out none.

Not to be outdone, the Royals tied the game in the top of the second when Hunter Dozier doubled and Michael A. Taylor brought him home on a single. From there, the Royals and Red Sox traded leads in every inning until the seventh. Down 3-2 in the fourth, Dozier doubled and Taylor hit an opposite-field home run to retake the lead. Down 5-4 in the fifth, Ryan O’Hearn crushed a ball to straightaway center for a two-run home run and the lead.

In the bottom of the fifth, Keller got the biggest shutdown inning he could ask for. He walked Rafael Devers to lead off the frame, but retired the next three batters to keep the Royals’ lead intact.

The state of the Royals bullpen during this 20-game stretch is why Keller went back out for the sixth after already allowing five runs and throwing 98 pitches. But Keller allowed a leadoff single to Bobby Dalbec, so Kansas City turned to Jake Brentz with a runner on and no outs. Brentz walked Alex Verdugo and allowed a two-run double to J.D. Martinez for the seventh lead change of the night.