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Sox bullpen's no help to Wakefield

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tim Wakefield stood in the middle of Boston's clubhouse, arms folded across his chest, stone-faced as a statue.

Frustrated?

"I'm not," Wakefield said.

And that sixth inning? Everything feel OK?

"Felt fine," he said.

The Red Sox did their best to downplay Wakefield's career win total, which still stands at 199 after Boston's bullpen imploded in Saturday's 9-4 loss to Kansas City. For a 45-year-old guy who has pitched 19 years in the majors, struck out more than 2,000 batters and thrown roughly 40,000 knuckleballs, 200 is just another number.

Still, this one had to sting.

"I'm trying to take it like it's a normal start, try to go out there and give us quality innings, quality starts," said Wakefield, now 0-for-5 in his attempts at win No. 200. "I had a bad sixth inning."

He wasn't the only one. Three Boston pitchers combined to yield eight runs in that disastrous sixth inning, smashing Wakefield's chances of achieving the milestone win.

"We didn't stop the bleeding that inning," manager Terry Francona said.

Wakefield's knuckleball had the Royals guessing for five innings, allowing Boston to take a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth. Wakefield struck out Billy Butler to open the inning, then yielded a hot shot to rookie Eric Hosmer that zipped past the glove of Marco Scutaro at short. OK, no big deal.

Then came Jeff Francoeur's RBI double to the left-center gap, Mike Moustakas' RBI double to right and Francona's slow walk to the mound.

At 97 pitches, did Wakefield have gas in the tank?

"It is what it is," he shrugged. "We're trying to win the game. We're not trying to do a favor for me. We're trying to win the game for the team."

Clinging to a 4-3 lead, the Red Sox put Wakefield's 200th win in the hands of reliever Matt Albers. The suspense evaporated quickly, as Albers dealt a walk to Salvador Perez and an RBI single to Chris Getz that tied the game.

"You try not to think about that," Albers said, when asked about Wakefield's missed milestone. "Every game is important in the scheme of things. It doesn't really cross my mind."

Once Boston surrendered the lead, there was no looking back. Albers retired Alcides Escobar on a fly ball for the second out, but Alex Gordon laced a 3-1 pitch into the gap to score two more runs, followed by Melky Cabrera's RBI single.

Albers finally exited after an intentional walk to Butler, with Franklin Morales allowing the exclamation point in the form of a two-run triple for Hosmer. Albers' final line -- five runs in one-third of an inning -- gives him 10 earned runs in his past five appearances, but Francona said Albers will continue to pitch in high-leverage situations.

"He had a little stretch like that early in the year, but he's done some really good things for us," Francona said. "We're certainly not going to run away from him."

Saturday's loss leaves Wakefield winless in five starts after reaching win No. 199. His ERA is a respectable 4.50 in that stretch, but Boston is still searching for the right combination of run support and relief pitching.

"I feel like I've pitched well," Wakefield said. "Three quality starts out of the five, a complete game that wasn't a quality start. Tonight was just one bad inning."

Royals starter Felipe Paulino (2-5) was less than dominant, yielding four runs in six innings. Boston touched Paulino for a run in the third, then two more in the fourth on RBIs from Carl Crawford and Darnell McDonald.

Ryan Lavarnway's RBI single gave Boston a 4-1 lead in the sixth, but three Royals relievers combined to hold the Red Sox scoreless over the final three innings.

Meanwhile, the Royals pounded five doubles and 14 hits, including three for Gordon and two each for Butler, Francoeur, Hosmer and Moustakas.

"They put good at-bats together," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "Sometimes you've got to tip your hat. They've got a good bunch of young hitters."

Still trailing the Yankees by a half-game in the AL East, Boston will try to win the series Sunday without center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is expected to miss a second straight game after being hit in the back by a pitch Friday night.

"I don't think we'll play him [Sunday]," Francona said. "We'll give him another day for sure."

Meanwhile, the Red Sox will have to wait five more days to give Wakefield another crack at No. 200. Maybe the sixth time is the charm.

"It'll come," Pedroia said. "It's just a matter of time."