BOSTON -- Over the years, Tim Wakefield has taken pride not just in his performance, but in subtleties like preserving the bullpen on nights he knows his team needs it. And if his team should build some momentum for him by swinging the bats well early, Wakefield loves to reward them by getting his teammates right back into the dugout.

In other words, Friday night could not have been more upsetting for the veteran knuckleballer, as he was ineffective on all counts as the Red Sox were thumped by the Royals, 12-5, at Fenway Park.

Just five days after Wakefield was at his baffling best in a gem against the Phillies (eight shutout innings), he simply didn't have it this time around. In fact, the venerable right-hander turned in one of the worst starts of his career.

Over 3 2/3 innings, Wakefield gave up 12 hits and nine runs, walking three and striking out one. Everything fell apart in the top of the fourth, when the Royals erupted for seven runs to overturn the Red Sox's 5-2 lead.

"I'm disgusted with my performance, and our offense goes out and scores three runs early and gets the lead," Wakefield said. "They get two runs back and Victor [Martinez] hits a two-run homer to make it 5-2, and I gave the lead right back."

After an impressive 5-1 road trip against the Phillies and Rays, the Sox have dropped the first two games of this four-game set with the Royals at Fenway.

A night after Daisuke Matsuzaka followed up a near no-hitter with a perplexing eight-walk performance, Wakefield's dropoff from one start to the next was just as drastic. Wakefield was troubled that he lost it so quickly.

"I'm disappointed that we had to dip into the bullpen again after [Thursday] night," Wakefield said. "Dice-K doesn't go five and I try to make it a point to go deep into the game to try to preserve the arms down there. Unfortunately, I didn't do my job today. I'm disappointed in that and I feel bad for the guys -- Joe Nelson had to throw three days in a row, and Billy Hall had to come in and throw an inning."

Yes, that Bill Hall, the one who had never pitched an inning in the Majors. But with the game slipping away and manager Terry Francona wanting to keep his bullpen fresh for the rest of the weekend, the utility infielder/outfielder came on for the ninth and made a strong showing, pitching a 1-2-3 inning.

Wakefield, however, was upset that Hall even had to pitch. He vows to do better next time around, which will come on Thursday afternoon against Oakland, assuming ace Josh Beckett isn't activated from the disabled list for that start.

"That's just embarrassing," Wakefield said of his performance. "I'll get it straightened out. It's just a matter of small tweaks here and there, and I'll go get 'em next time."

Early on, the night had promise for Boston. Marco Scutaro led off the bottom of the first with a double to left and David Ortiz beat the shift, belting a single through the vacated shortstop hole for an RBI single. Martinez, who made a strong return after missing three games with a bruised left big toe, hammered a two-run double into the triangle area in right-center and Wakefield had a 3-0 lead.

But there were signs early that Wakefield didn't have his best knuckleball. In the third, David DeJesus hit an RBI double and Mitch Maier came up with a two-out RBI single to make it a 3-2 game.

"Well I don't think his knuckleball had a lot of movement, but the first inning, I think he threw all but one strike," Francona said. "That's great. But as we got into the game, there's a ton of hits."

Martinez took another big swing in the third, belting a two-run shot to right-center.

"He swung the bat great," Francona said. "You can tell by the way he's moving around, he doesn't feel great, but he swung the bat tremendously. The game started out good. He jumps on a high fastball and we're on the board. We feel like we're off to the races and that got turned around."

The Royals belted Wakefield around in the fourth. It started with five singles, a walk and a wild pitch. The big blow in the seven-run inning was a two-out grand slam over the Monster by Yuniesky Betancourt that snapped a 5-5 tie.

"It was a hanger -- and I just put a good swing on it," Betancourt said through interpreter-coach Eddie Rodriguez. "So far, I've been able to see the ball good off Wakefield. I knew I had at least a double, but because of the high wall, I didn't know if it was going to go out."

Wakefield was hoping it would fall short of clearing the 37-foot-high Monster.

"I wasn't sure. I know he hit it pretty good. It was a ball right down the middle with no movement on it," Wakefield said.

From there, it was all Royals.

"Yeah, it's disappointing," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Any time you lose, it doesn't matter how you've been playing or what, we're trying to win every game. It just didn't really work out the last couple of days."