KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Bruce Chen outdueled Jon Lester as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-1 on Thursday night.

The Royals won for the 16th time in 20 games since the All-Star break. The Red Sox, who have the best record in the American League, lost for the third time in 10 games.

Chen, who was making his fifth start since beginning the season in the bullpen, did not allow a runner past first base until the eighth and retired 11 straight in one stretch. He gave up five singles, walked one and struck out two before leaving with two outs in the eighth inning.

Luke Hochevar got the final four outs for his second career save.

Lester (10-7), who came into the game with a 6-2 record and 1.64 ERA in nine starts against the Royals, needed 41 pitches in the first inning when Kansas City sent eight men to the plate and scored three runs.

“Obviously it was a long first, a lot of pitches,” Lester said. “I knew I had to somehow grind my way through it and get seven, save the bullpen. That’s something you have to learn to do, to find a way in those outings to go six or seven or maybe eight, and I was able to do that.”

Lester, who was roughed up for six runs and 11 hits in 41/3 innings by Arizona in his previous start, shut down the Royals after the first, allowing just two more singles in seven innings.

“I thought he righted himself and did a tremendous job to go seven and give us an opportunity to win,” Manager John Farrell said.

Stephen Drew, who had two hits to extend his hitting streak to a season high nine games, singled home Jonny Gomes in the ninth for the only Red Sox run.

“(Chen) is the star of the game,” said Billy Butler of the Royals. “He absolutely pitched his game. He held down a pretty good offense.”

A Gomes fielding error on Alex Gordon’s fly to left made two of the first-inning runs unearned.

Lorenzo Cain, who opened the inning with a double, scored on Gomes’ misplay.

Mike Moustakas’ two-out single to right with the bases loaded scored Butler and Gordon to make it 3-0.

Rubby De La Rosa replaced Lester in the eighth and Butler hit his first pitch out to center for his 10th home run. Justin Maxwell homered with two outs to make it 5-0.

NOTES: Designated hitter David Ortiz, who had started 95 games, was not in the Red Sox lineup. “It’s not injury related,” Manager John Farrell said. “It’s just a day. Truth be told, we’d expected more off days overall than he has had.” Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, who went on the disabled list June 18 with a neck strain, is scheduled to throw 25 to 30 pitches off the mound Saturday.

 

DANIEL NAVA returned from paternity leave and was in the Red Sox lineup, starting at first base and batting seventh. Nava went 1 for 3.

The Red Sox optioned right-hander Steven Wright, who was 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA in four games, to Triple-A Pawtucket.